1 Samuel 4-7

1 Samuel 4-7

SERIES: Leadership in Hard Times

A Boy Named Ichabod, A Stone Named Ebenezer

SPEAKER: Michael P. Andrus

DATE:  May 23, 2004                       

Introduction:  Have you ever met a boy named Ichabod?  I doubt it.  The fictional character, Ichabod Crane, in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, is the last one I ever heard of, and he was such a despicable character that I suppose all parents since the time of Washington Irving have studiously avoided “Ichabod” when trying to find the right name for their child.  But did you know that it was not Irving who gave the name Ichabod a bad reputation?  A dying mother did that some 3,000 years ago!  Hang on and I’ll tell you “the rest of the story.”    

Last Lord’s Day we launched a new series on 1 Samuel, a book full of leaders and their stories, to inspire and challenge us in hard times.  In the first three chapters we saw a remarkable contrast between two homes–one godly and one only pretending to be.  Great encouragement is available from the fact that a home like Samuel’s, which had very little going for it but the faith of one godly parent, could produce a child who was able to lead a nation with integrity.  On the other hand, a strong warning is to be taken from the fact that a home like Eli’s, which had everything going for it except godly parenting, produced children whose leadership shattered and destroyed the faith of many.

Today’s text, chapters 4-7, finds us some years down the road at a time when Samuel is a young man ready to assume the leadership to which God appointed him.  Israel is facing hard times–economically, militarily, and spiritually–and these chapters affirm four principles worthy of study for such times. 

When God’s people place their faith in religious symbols rather than in Him, spiritual decline inevitably results.  (4:1-22)

Let’s read the fourth chapter:

Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines.  The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek.  The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield.  When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked,” Why did the LORD bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines?  Let us bring the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.”

So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim.  And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the LORD’s covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook.  Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, “What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?”

When they learned that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid.  “A god has come into the camp,” they said.  “We’re in trouble!  Nothing like this has happened before.  Woe to us!  Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods?  They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the desert.  Be strong, Philistines!  Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you.  Be men, and fight!”

So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent.  The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.  The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh, his clothes torn and dust on his head.  When he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair by the side of the road, watching, because his heart feared for the ark of God.  When the man entered the town and told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry.

Eli heard the outcry and asked, “What is the meaning of this uproar?”

The man hurried over to Eli, who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes were set so that he could not see.  He told Eli, “I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day.”

Eli asked, “What happened, my son?”

The man who brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses.  Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.”

When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate.  His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy.  He had led Israel forty years.  

His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains.  As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.”  But she did not respond or pay any attention.

She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel”–because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband.  She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 

Chapter 4 opens with the observation that Israel is camped near the Philistines, their principal enemy, preparing for battle.  The Philistines were a seafaring people who came to Canaan in two migrations and located in five main towns near what is today known as the Gaza strip.  Isn’t it ironic that Gaza is still the principal thorn in Israel’s side?  The Philistines pioneered the use of iron for weapons and for agricultural instruments (1 Samuel 13:19-20) and worshiped a god named Dagon, represented as having a human torso and upper body and a fish’s tail.  

The story begins with a devastating attack on Israel near Aphek, about 25 miles west of Shiloh, where the Tabernacle was located, with the loss of about 4,000 Israelite soldiers.  The Elders of Israel correctly conclude that the defeat represents a spiritual problem more than a military one, for they ask, “Why did the LORD bring defeat upon us today before the Philistines?”  Israel’s forces were superior, so the defeat could not be explained by natural causes.  Unfortunately…,

The Israelites try a natural solution to deal with a spiritual problem.  They urge the soldiers to take the Ark of the Covenant from the sanctuary at Shiloh so that it might save them from their enemies.  Now the Ark was a small gold-plated wooden box, less than 4 feet long and just over 2 feet wide, which housed the Tablets of Stone upon which the Ten Commandments were written, plus Aaron’s rod, plus a golden jar of manna.  The Israelites carried the Ark before them throughout their 40 years in the wilderness and as they walked around the city of Jericho until the walls came down.  It was the most holy symbol of God’s presence among His people.

So why do I call this proposal by the Elders a natural solution?  Because instead of revering the Ark as the symbol of God’s presence, they now turn it into a religious rabbit’s foot and superstitiously assume that its presence alone would deliver them!  (Notice in v. 3: “So that … it may save them.”).  But what good is the Ark of God when the people have abandoned the God of the Ark?  Could not God overpower His enemies no matter where the Ark was located?  Besides, the Elders had no authority to take the Ark anywhere; it was not supposed to be under their control but under the priests’ control.  In fact, v. 13 hints that it was taken despite the protest of Eli, the High Priest, probably by his reprobate sons, Hophni and Phinehas, for they are specifically mentioned in verse 4 as being with the Ark when it was taken from the Tabernacle at Shiloh. 

Frankly, we can scorn Israel’s actions here, but they are not terribly different from some of the superstitions that Christians have continued to practice down through the years.  When I was a kid many Catholics placed a statue of St. Christopher on their dashboards for protection from accidents.  Some of my friends treated it as the original fuzz buster (surely St. Christopher wouldn’t let a cop stop you for speeding!).  But then Christopher was exposed as a phony saint and de-canonized by Vatican II, so all the little statues disappeared.  However, millions still employ crosses, signs of the fish, icons, the prayer of Jabez, and other religious symbols in much the same way Israel treated their “God in the Box.”  Whenever such objects or behaviors become the focus of our faith, rather than God being the focus, we are in trouble, for it is God who delivers His people, not these symbols. 

Returning to the story, we find that at first this solution seems to hold promise.  All Israel rallies to the battle when they see the Ark, and their intense celebration serves to strike fear in the hearts of the Philistines.  They had heard about the Ark, and they assumed it related to very powerful gods.  But they vow to fight to the death, and much to their surprise, to say nothing of Israel’s, they defeat God’s people with greater devastation than before.  

The Israelites experience a resounding defeat and judgment from God.  We read that 30,000 Israelite soldiers die that day.  Can you imagine how devastating that would be to a small country of perhaps 2 million people?  Perhaps one out of every 15 families lost a father or a son.  In the Iraq war we’ve lost fewer than a thousand men and women out of a population of nearly 300 million, and the daily increase in fatalities deeply saddens us.  We can only imagine the grief in Israel.  Yet more tragically, the Ark of the Covenant, symbol of their nation’s God, is taken by the Philistines, and the judgment which God had predicted on the house of Eli comes true–his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas both die in the battle.  

When the report of the battle comes to Shiloh, Eli is sitting by the road eagerly waiting for word of the Ark.  He is 98 years old, blind, and obese.  There is considerable pathos in verse 18, where we are told that when the man who brought the news of the battle “mentioned the ark of God (notice it doesn’t say when he mentioned the defeat, or the heavy loss of troops, or even the death of Eli’s two sons, but when he mentioned the Ark…), Eli fell backward off his chair, broke his neck and died.” 

One final item in the story concerns Eli’s grandson.

A boy named Ichabod is born.  Phinehas’ wife, pregnant and nearly ready to deliver, soon hears the news, too.  The deaths of her husband, her brother-in-law, and her father-in-law–all on the same day–causes labor pains to begin, and she herself dies in childbirth.  The last thing she does is to name the little boy “Ichabod,” meaning, “The glory has departed.”  She was a prophetess without knowing it.

The glory had departed from the nation–the same nation which for 1,000 years, since the time of Abraham, had been God’s chosen people.  He had faithfully cared for them through their centuries of captivity, had led them out of Egypt with astounding miracles, had brought them to a land flowing with milk and honey, and had protected them from their enemies.  But they had abandoned the Lord and pursued corrupt leaders.  Now indeed, the glory has departed.  And I would say to you that whenever God’s people place their faith in religious symbols or actions rather than in Him, spiritual decline is inevitable.

I worry sometimes about the enthusiasm with which some Christian people will fight to keep prayer in the public schools when the same people never show up for prayer meetings in their own churches.  That sure looks to me like an empty symbol.  Others will fight to keep “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, but their neighbors of 20 years have never heard them share their faith.  Friends, it is so easy to focus on symbols of our faith in a demonstration of fervent crusading, yet to neglect the reality that we worship a risen Savior who cannot be tamed, manipulated, or bullied.  He is the Lord.

Now I see a second important principle in chapter 5 and the first part of 6:  

When God’s people are immobilized, God is not immobilized.  (5:1-6:12)

Instead of reading this portion I think I will just tell the story about what happened to the Ark while the Israelites are in disarray from their defeat and the Ark lies in the hands of the Philistines for seven months.  The Philistines get the Ark, but they also get more than they bargain for.  They learn three facts which eventually convince them that one can defeat God’s people but not God Himself. 

God scorns the “faith” of His enemies.  (Psalm 2:4-6) When the Philistines capture the Ark, they take it to one of their five cities, the city of Ashdod, and they set it up in the temple there next to their god Dagon.  The decision is a dreadful one for Dagon.  When the Philistines enter their temple the next day, Dagon is lying on his face on the ground before the Ark.  Confused, they put the idol back in its place.  But the following morning he is on the floor again, and this time his head and hands are broken off.  I’m reminded of Psalm 2, which describes the efforts of God’s enemies to wiggle out from under His authority.  Verses 4-6 read, “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.  Then He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath, saying, ‘I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.”  

I suspect the Lord does a lot of laughing and a lot of scoffing at the false religions that hold millions in their grip, and also at the skepticism of scientists and humanists who have relegated Him to the ash heap of history.  At times these critics seem to have defeated the Church and to have made a laughingstock of God’s people and their simple faith, but in the end, it will be God who will have the last laugh.  I think of Voltaire, the renowned French atheist, who predicted that before the end of the 18th century the Bible would be eradicated and Christianity with it.  Well, two centuries later Voltaire’s works are out of print and he himself is unknown by most people on the face of the earth, but the Bible continues to be the world’s best-seller and Christianity is stronger than when Voltaire leveled his vicious attacks.

Today our nation is facing an implacable enemy in radical Islam.  It’s an enemy we hardly know how to deal with, because they turn their young people into human bombs, they target civilians more than soldiers, and they hate with a demonic hatred.  There is a temptation for us to throw up our hands in despair, but I remind you that “the One enthroned in heaven laughs; the LORD scoffs at them.”   It’s only by His permission that they have any power at all; He can crush them in an instant.  Then why doesn’t He?  The second fact the Philistines learn gives us a hint.

He brings judgment on those He uses to bring judgment on His people.  (Hab. 1, 2)Shortly after the Ark finds a home in their temple, the Philistines of Ashdod begin to suffer a plague of rats in their neighborhoods and tumors on their bodies.  They call a meeting of their leaders and decide to move the Ark to Gath, another of their five cities.  But the same thing happens there.  They send it to a third city, Ekron.  (These guys aren’t real sharp–talk about slow learners!).  Finally public panic mandates that the Ark be returned to Israel.

There’s a principle operating here, namely that God may use the wicked to bring discipline upon His people, but that doesn’t mean He holds the wicked blameless.  Habakkuk wrestles with this same issue in the OT book that bears his name.  Habakkuk is so upset with the sinfulness of the Israelites that he calls for God’s judgment on them, but when God agrees and tells Habakkuk that He is going to bring the Babylonians against them, Habakkuk has a hissy fit, pouring his heart out in unbridled frustration: “Lord, You can’t do that!  The Babylonians are more wicked than the Israelites.”  

The prophet has a lesson to learn: When God disciplines His people, He can use any means He wants; but if He uses someone wicked, that one will eventually face judgment also.  I have often wondered whether God is using Al Qaeda to bring judgment on America.  I don’t know for sure, but frankly there is much in our country that deserves the judgment of God.  

I just spent two weeks in an Arab country.  I didn’t see one piece of pornography or even suggestive behavior on TV, there was no alcohol on their planes, there was no evidence of prostitution, and there was no homosexual lobby–all of which one encounters virtually every day in every major city in the U.S.  Maybe God has raised up the radical Muslim Arabs to bring judgment on America in these very areas where their moral standards are actually superior to ours.  But does that mean God is on their side?  Does that mean they are going to win?  Not on your life!  Their moral superiority is only on the surface; underneath they worship a false god and their culture is totally corrupt.  God will eventually turn his wrath on them, too, as He did on Babylon. 

I think there may also be a personal application of this principle for some.  Perhaps you have been plagued by someone at work who is almost impossible to get along with.  Maybe you should consider whether God is using that person to discipline you or to teach you to lean more on Him.  Is that person going to get by with his or her evil treatment of you?  Yes, very likely, for a while, but only for a while.  When God uses the wicked, He later abuses them.  Count on it.

A third lesson that both the Philistines and Israel need to learn is this:

He is able to accomplish His purposes with devastating simplicity.  Once the Philistines decide to send the Ark back to Israel, the problem becomes, “How?”  They consult their priests and diviners and are told that they must send a guilt offering with it if they want to bring a halt to the plagues.  And the decision is made to make five gold replicas of the tumors and five replicas of the rats, one of each for each of the five Philistine cities.  The philosophy behind this is similar to the voodoo practice of sticking pins into wax models of their enemies.  The Philistines believed that by sending golden models of the tumors and rats out of the country, they could send the originals out too.

But even at this point the Philistines aren’t absolutely convinced that the plagues aren’t just a coincidence.  They decide to put the Ark on a cart, along with the gold replicas, and hitch two cows to the cart, having penned up their new calves.  The natural tendency of the cows would be to turn toward their calves.  But if the cows head for the Israelite town of Beth Shemesh, they would know that it was the God of Israel who brought the disaster on them.  Well, they learn the truth quickly, for the cows make a beeline for Beth-Shemesh, and the plague ends.

Now suppose you are one of the Israelites and are concerned about the fact that the Ark of the Covenant is in enemy hands.  You get together with a group of your countrymen and brainstorm about how you can help God out by recovering the Ark from this pagan enemy.  You consider a sneak attack, a bribe, or any number of other schemes to retrieve the sacred symbol.  But who would ever imagine that the Ark would come home by itself on a driver-less cart, without a single Israelite even lifting a finger to accomplish it!

Now I don’t want to read too much into this, because sometimes God chooses to accomplish His purposes through people.  But let us not forget that He doesn’t have to; He is quite able to accomplish His purposes without any human intervention at all.  He doesn’t need us; therefore, let us never view ourselves as indispensable to His plan for the universe.  At the same time let us rejoice that He delights to use such an undeserving lot as we to spread the joys and wonders of His kingdom!

Now the third principle I find in today’s text is this:

When God’s people are disobedient, they are subject to His discipline.  (6:13-7:2)

Verse 13 of chapter 6 indicates the people of Beth Shemesh are harvesting their wheat when they look up and see the Ark headed their way.  And they rejoice at the sight of it.  In fact, they celebrate by chopping up the cart and sacrificing the cows.  But in verse 19 we read that God struck some of the men of Beth Shemesh dead.  The Hebrew manuscripts are confusing at this point, with some reading 50,070 and some reading 70.  In the Hebrew language letters are used for numbers, and it is not difficult for a letter to be miscopied or misread.  Since Beth Shemesh was a very small town, it is likely that the number of men killed was 70, but even that was a great tragedy for a small town. 

Our focus, however, should be on the cause of their death, not the number who died, for the text indicates that they “looked into the ark of the Lord.”  So what?  Well, the ‘so what’ is that God had laid down the law in the book of Numbers that only the Levites could handle the ark and not even they could touch it directly, to say nothing of looking within it.  Disobedience of this commandment would bring death.

What lessons can we learn from this incident? 

Neither emotion nor reason justifies disobedience.  I am certain that the men of Beth Shemesh felt justified looking into the Ark.  After all, they just wanted to make sure it was undamaged.  It had been in Philistine territory for seven months; how did they know the Philistines hadn’t removed the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments?  Well, they couldn’t know, but they didn’t need to know.  Their job was not to help God out in protecting the contents of the Ark; their job was to obey.[i]

This is a lesson all of us need to learn, for there is a strong temptation to violate God’s Word when emotions or reason take over.  Most of the mainline denominations in our country have fallen in line with the whole gay marriage thing.  They appeal to our sense of fairness, to the need for equality, to the value of tolerance, but of course they cannot appeal to Scripture, because Scripture has nothing to say to justify what they are doing.  

I am particularly irritated by their comparison of gay marriage with civil rights.  They remind us that many Christians were also opposed to integration 50 years ago.  Sadly, that’s true, but while some misguided Christians defended segregation, the Scriptures never did, but the Scriptures clearly defend marriage as between a man and a woman and clearly condemn homosexual behavior.  Friends, nothing ever justifies disobedience to God’s Word. 

The holiness of God is never something with which to trifle.  The men of Beth Shemesh learn a very painful but important lesson through this situation.  Verse 19 continues, “The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them, and the men of Beth Shemesh asked, ‘Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?  To whom will the ark go up from here?’”

Our greatest need is to learn how to balance reverence and intimacy in our dealings with God.  We are not to view Him as the Wholly Other who cannot be touched with our individual concerns.  But by the same token we are not to speak of Him as “the man upstairs” or treat Him as a genie in a box who can be released to meet our every whim.

The final principle we want to look at today comes from chapter 7. 

When God’s people repent, revival and victory result.  (7:3-17)

Revival is never spontaneous.  As far as I can tell there has never been a great revival break out among God’s people without some individual or small group seeking God’s face and praying earnestly for it to happen.  Chapter 7 of 1 Samuel is no exception.  I wish we had time to read chapter 7:2-11, but let me just mention some of the instruments of revival I find there:

The instruments of revival: 

Godly leadership.  What is the difference between chapter 4 and chapter 7, between a stunning defeat and a glorious victory?  Hophni and Phinehas are the leaders of God’s people in chapter 4, while Samuel is their leader in chapter 7.

Proclamation of truth.  Samuel didn’t fudge on how to get right with God.  He didn’t sell them some “easy-believism,” some song and dance about just making a profession and you’re home free for eternity.  He told them the truth–if they want to return to the Lord then they must rid themselves of their idols, commit themselves to the Lord, and serve Him only.  

We may think we are gaining followers for Christ today by preaching a Pollyanna Gospel, but all we are gaining is false disciples.  Most converts worth their salt want to know the truth, and they are not frightened away by the drastic demands of discipleship.  They are frightened away by the insipid, lackluster lives of so many who call themselves Christians.

Prayer and fasting.  Samuel interceded for the people, and then they fasted and confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.”  Friends, there is simply no substitute for getting on our knees before God when we have wandered away from Him.  There can be no revival without it. 

Spiritual discipline.  The end of verse 6 (ch. 7) should probably be translated, “And Samuel judgedthe sons of Israel at Mizpah.”  Judging them meant disciplining them.  When sin is discovered among God’s people, it must be dealt with; it cannot be ignored if revival is to occur.

Sacrifice.  Samuel offered sacrifices to the Lord, along with his prayers.  Now obviously, burnt offerings are no longer demanded of God’s people, but friends, sacrifice is always appropriate.  God no longer asks for the sacrifice of animals, but He still asks for the sacrifice of a contrite heart, and of our time, our effort, our resources, our gifts.  Revival that begins and ends with words is not real revival.  

As we noted, repentance brings revival, and revival is usually accompanied by victory.  Certainly, that was the case in this instance, as the battle that Samuel had already fought on his knees is now fought against the Philistines, with Israel winning a great victory. 

Samuel names a stone “Ebenezer.”  Let’s read chapter 7, verses 12-17:

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen.  He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the LORD helped us.’  So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again.

Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines.  The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to her, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the power of the Philistines.  And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.

Samuel continued as judge over Israel all the days of his life.  From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places.  But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also judged Israel.  And he built an altar there to the LORD. 

Following the great victory Samuel moves to commemorate God’s gracious intervention on their behalf.  He takes a stone, sets it between Mizpah and Shen and names it Ebenezer, meaning “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”  The phrase “thus far” denotes a series of events, a succession of divine interventions linking the present deliverance to past deliverances and memorializing a testimony to the enduring faithfulness and mercy of a covenant-keeping God.  

But what about the awful defeats they had already suffered at the hands of the Philistines at Shiloh and Aphek?  God was helping them to come to the end of themselves and thus learn the awful consequences of sin.  Someone has said that the higher the destination of a silver vessel, the greater is the need for purity and therefore the hotter the furnace.  Israel had definitely been in the crucible; it remained to be seen whether the result was a hardening of the heart or the purity God was after.  

Conclusion:  Buried in our text today have been two strange names.  In chapter 4 we met a boy named Ichabod.  In chapter 7 we find a stone named Ebenezer.  The contrast between these names is stunning.  The boy’s name means, “The glory has departed.”  The stone’s name means, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”  

I would like to ask you this morning:  “What name is written over Christendom today?”  Whether we care to admit it or not, “Ichabod” is written across the marquees of countless churches, seminaries, colleges, and institutions which were once founded upon the principles of God’s Word, but which have abandoned any semblance of their foundation.  Consider Harvard and Princeton, the YMCA, most of the mainline denominations.  Today they have only a form of godliness, and perhaps not even that, but they certainly lack the power of godliness.  

More importantly, what name is written over our church?  Is it Ichabod or is it Ebenezer?  Has the glory departed? Are our best days in the past?  That doesn’t have to be true.  Maybe it would help us if we asked, “What made our best days the best?”  Was it rapid growth?  I doubt it–growth is almost always a result of health, not the cause of it.  Was it programs?  I doubt that, too.  We have as many fine programs today as we ever had.  Was it that we used to sing the old hymns of the faith and had Sunday night services.  Again, I doubt that’s the key.  I suggest to you that what made our best days the best is probably the excitement we once had to know God and to make Him known.  That’s contagious, and when the Word comes alive in our own lives, we can’t help but think, “My friends need to know this; they need to come to know the Savior.”  

Let me ask another question: What name is written over our homes or over our lives?  Is it Ichabod or is it Ebenezer?  I take great encouragement from the fact that the name Ichabod was applied to the same people over whom Samuel later pronounced the name Ebenezer.  That tells me that Ichabod is not a name any nation or church or person is stuck with.  

I pray that someone in this room today may seek a name change this morning.  By that I mean I hope someone who has seen the glory depart from your life might see and believe today that God is able and willing to restore to you the joy of your salvation and to bring you back into fellowship with Himself and with His people.   I pray that all of us might be able to look back at God’s fingerprints in our lives and say, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”  

DATE:  May 23, 2004


Religious symbols

Ark of the Covenant




Holiness of God


[i] I’m reminded of an incident in 1 Samuel 13 which we will study in some detail in a few weeks, where King Saul waited seven days for Samuel to show up, but when he didn’t come, Saul offered the sacrifice that was only to be offered by a priest.  When Samuel finally arrived, he rebuked Saul and told him God was going to take away his kingdom because of his disobedience.  Then two chapters later Saul defeated Agag, king of the Amalekites, but spared Agag and the best of his sheep and cattle, despite the fact that God had specifically ordered him to kill everything.  That didn’t sound very reasonable to Saul, so he disobeyed.  And once again he was confronted by the prophet and was told that “to obey is better than sacrifice.”

1 Samuel 8