The Story of Samuel | The Ark is Taken | 1 Samuel 4.17-22 |

by | Jul 14, 2020

“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.” 18 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 he was heavy. He had led[b]Israel forty years. 19 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.20 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. 21 She named the boy Ichabod,[c] 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. 22 She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4.17-22

To best understand this passage, please read the entire chapter of 1 Samuel 4. In it you will find the the Israelites going out to war, 30k strong, against their mortal enemies the Philistines. They have decided to take the Ark of the Lord with them so that “he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies,” v.3.

Typically this would do the trick. The Philippines were terrified when they heard the Ark was coming out with the Israelites but they mustered all their soldiers and absolutely slaughtered the Israelites and they stole the Ark of the Covenant. It was a total route of Israel. During the battle the prophetic words that God spoke to Samuel came true – Eli’s sons both died, Eli himself died and the wife of Eli’s son Phinehas died. But before she died she gave birth to a son she named, “Ichabod” meaning, “the Glory has departed from Israel.” God’s favor was not upon his these people but it was still upon Israel. The Lord allowed a great tragedy to take place in order to rid the nation of the evil and sin of Eli and his sons who had ministered before the Lord. The sins of a few impacted so many poeople.

To us reading this- we might say to ourselves, “How can a loving God allow his people to get wiped out by pagan people who don’t even follow him?” Well in truth, these Israelites did not follow God either. Not that there weren’t some righteous people, but the priests misled the people and their sin was great. They were put to death as Samuel foretold and the Ark of the Covenant was stolen. It was indeed a horrific day in the life of Israel.

But in the midst of the tragedy, God is working. He was working through Samuel and those who were faithful to his name. He was rebuilding a nation that would be holy and would honor him. He rid the nation of evil and was rebuilding with those who loved Him. And he wants to do the same with us, with our nation, our families and our lives. God wants to rid the evil and rebuild our hearts. Thank goodness that Jesus stands in the gap and that he takes away our sins. We are no longer judged by what we do alone, but Jesus paid the price. Not that we can live anyway we want, he desires holiness and obedience above all else.

The lesson of the Israelites on that fateful day is a tough reminder of what happens when a nation chooses to follow leaders that stray from the Lord. He is God and he is good. I don’t know about you but I am going to place my hope and trust in the Lord of the Universe, the God who is unseen, but meets with us everyday.

Let’s repent, turn from our wicked ways and seek his face. Ask him to fill us with his Holy Spirit and cleanse us by the blood of Jesus and the washing of the Word of God.

“O Lord God, my heart hurts for those people who were not reconciled to you in this story of Samuel. Thank you Lord for the lessons of the past that we might learn to walk with you with an upright and holy heart. Help us obey! Help us love you! Help us give you time and attention when the world tries to entice us to walk away. I love you Lord and trust your holy name. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen