13 January 2022
So the Philistines fought; Israel was defeated, and they fled, everyone to his home. There was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot-soldiers. The ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
From 1 Samuel 4:1-11, NRSV
Today’s reading speaks of a time when the people of Israel were at risk of attack from several of their neighbours. The Philistines presented a particular threat since they had superior weaponry. Having lost around four thousand of their army in one battle, the Israelites regrouped and the elders decided that they needed additional help before returning to battle. It was decided that in the next battle, they would take with them the Ark of the Covenant. Perhaps they were mindful of the times when the people of Israel were led by the Ark during their time in the wilderness and of how this represented God’s saving presence among them. However, on this occasion, they seem to have viewed the presence of the Ark as a sort of good luck charm rather than turning directly to God for help. In the subsequent battle, not only did they suffer a much greater loss but the Ark was also captured. This act was seen as a judgement on Israel for their misdeeds. Having put their trust in the Ark of the Covenant, now they needed to return to trust and loyalty in the God of the Ark.
- Why do you suppose the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant?
- How can we know if God is with us during times of challenge or difficulty?
Pray for God’s guidance in dealing with any difficulties you or those close to you are experiencing.