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Tag: Philistines

Ritual or Relationship

Over these past months, we have been reading through the book of 1 Samuel and last week we finally completed the transition from the era of the judges to the era of the kings. For many years after conquering the Promised Land, Israel had been led by judges – men and women whom God raised up at just the right time to rescue Israel from its enemies. But in recent days, the people of Israel had asked God for a king to lead them. They wanted to be like all the nations around them and have their king lead them into battle. Of course, this was really a rejection of God as their King, but God graciously decided to honour their request and to give them the king that they so desired.

And so God instructed Samuel, the final judge of Israel, to anoint Saul as Israel’s King. And last week we saw how Samuel then passed the baton of leadership to King Saul – firmly establishing Saul as Israel’s new leader. 

However, in his final address to the nation, Samuel solemnly warned Saul and all the people, that their obedience to God would determine their future fate. We read his words in 1 Samuel 12:24….

24 But be sure to fear the Lord and faithfully serve him. Think of all the wonderful things he has done for you. 25 But if you continue to sin, you and your king will be swept away.” 1 Samuel 12:34-25

Samuel makes it very clear that the success of Israel and its new King would depend solely on their decision obey the Lord or not.

And as we turn to chapter 13 today, that’s exactly the decision that will be put to the test. Will Saul and the people of Israel fear the Lord and faithfully serve Him? Or will they continue to sin – choosing instead to follow their own way? Let’s find out!

1 Samuel chapter 13 begins like this:

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Getting Right With God

For the past couple of months we have been looking at the book of 1 Samuel. And even though the book is named after Samuel, so far, much of the story has focused on other characters. First, the story revolved around Hannah (Samuel’s mother) as she prayed and pleaded with God to give her a son – which God did! And in response, Hannah dedicated her little boy Samuel to live in the service of God for the rest of his life.

Then the story focused in on the priest Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas – as they lived in blatant disregard for God and his commands – prompting God to warn them of impending judgement. Sadly, they chose not to heed God’s warning, and God carried out that judgement shortly thereafter when Hophni and Phinehas were killed in a battle with the Philistines. 

At this point, the story shifts it’s focus onto the Ark of the Covenant, as, in the same battle, the Israelite army foolishly tried to manipulate God by bringing the Ark of the Covenant with them onto the battlefield. But God would not be manipulated and as a result, the Israelites were soundly defeated and the Ark was captured by the Philistines.

The next few chapters of the book follow the Ark into Philistine territory and we see God displaying his might and his sovereignty over the Philistine god, Dagon, and even over nature as the Philistines struggle to contain and control the God of the Israelites. In the end, they want nothing to do with the Ark of of the Lord, and they send it back to the Israelites on cart pulled by a couple of cows.

And so by now, we’ve seen a very strong theme emerging from this book and I think 1 Samuel chapter 2 verse 30 says it best. In that verse God says:

“I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me.” 1 Samuel 2:30b

This has been a clear theme through this book so far. We see God honouring Hannah as she humbles herself before God in prayer – and as she keeps a difficult promise and sends her young son Samuel to live at the Tabernacle to serve God. God honours that and blesses both Hannah and Samuel.

But God certainly does not honor the pride and arrogance of Eli’s sons – as they dishonour Him and steal from the temple sacrifices. God executes judgment on Eli and all his family because of their sin. God despises those who think lightly of Him.

And God does not honor the Israelite army as they treat him like a vending machine – living for years in disobedience to Him with no desire to please and honor God, but yet expecting God to save them from their enemies just because they bring out the Ark of the Covenant. God certainly doesn’t honor that and the Israelites are soundly defeated.

And God doesn’t honor the Philistines either – as He strikes the them with tumours and plagues.  They were treating God as if he was just another idol – just another god conquered by their god Dagon! But they quickly learned that wasn’t the case! In fact, they seemed to learn a little quicker than the Israelites that God honours those who honor Him, but He despises those who think lightly of Him.

And that’s the same lesson that we’re going to see in today’s passage too. The Israelites seem to be a little slow to learn the lesson, but they do seem to get it in the end! So perhaps there’s hope for us too!

As I mentioned, the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Lord in battle, but because of the plagues that God sent upon them, they returned the Ark to the Israelites by sending it along with some gifts on a cart pulled by a couple of cows. The cows took it straight to the nearby Israelite town of Beth-shemesh. We read last week in 1 Samuel 6:13…

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What To Do With An Uncontrollable God

Last Sunday we read about the first of many battles recorded in the book of 1 Samuel. And at this time in Israel’s history – their main enemy was the Philistines! The Philistines had been a thorn in Israel’s side throughout their early history – battling first with Shamgar and then Samson – later on they would battle against King Saul and against David…. but at this time there was no judge or king to lead the Israelites into battle against the Philistines. Although Samuel was widely recognized as the prophet of God by this time – He had not yet become Isreal’s judge – that would happen shortly, but at this time, Israel was led primarily by the elders – the older, supposedly wiser leaders of the different clans and tribes of Israel.

But these elders didn’t seem to be particularly in-tune with God. And as we’ve noted over the past few weeks, the nation of Israel as a whole had kinda drifted away from following God. Their relationship with God had become a religion rather than a relationship, even though they were God’s specially choose people. Out of all the people on earth, God had specifically chosen them to be His holy nation – and they would be His people and He would be their God! He even promised to dwell among them… We saw last week how the Ark of the Covenant would identify God’s presence among his people. It was from the Ark that God promised meet his people and speak to them from above the cover of the Ark.

But as we’ve noted, the people of Israel weren’t all that interested in hearing from God at this point. They chose to ignore God’s commands – and everyone did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. They had no interest in serving and pleasing God – they really just kept God around because of what God could do for them!

And last week’s battle with the Philistines was a prime example of that. After being defeated in the first battle against the Philistines, the elders of Israelites decide to go get the Ark of the Lord and carry it into battle with them. We read in 1 Samuel 4 verse 3…

Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:3b

And I think it’s very telling that they say “IT will save us from our enemies” – Not, “GOD” will save us from our enemies – but “IT” – the Ark of the Covenant – will save us from our enemies.

Their faith was in a gold box, rather than in the God who spoke to them from the gold box. They had been disobedient to God for years and really had no interest in changing their ways, but yet, they thought they could harness and manipulate the power of God by trotting out the Ark of the Covenant and carrying it into battle with them.

But one of the main themes that comes out of the book of Samuel – and we’ve seen this several times already – is that God will honor those who honor Him, but he will despise those who think lightly of Him. And we see that playing out clearly in this story.

The Israelites carry the Ark of the Covenant with them into battle – hoping to manipulate the power of God in their favour, but God does not honor those who refuse to honor Him and the Israelites are soundly defeated. 30,000 men are killed and the Ark of the Covenant is captured by the Philistines!

And that leads us into our passage today. As I mentioned last week, the story of 1 Samuel doesn’t revolve around Samuel – it doesn’t even revolve around the Israelites – it revolves around God! This is His story, and so the camera pans away from the defeated Israelites and it follows the Ark of the Covenant carried by the victorious Philistines into the nearby Philistine town of Ashdod.

We pick up the story in 1 Samuel chapter 5, verse 1.

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God’s Not Your Lucky Charm

This morning we are continuing on in our study of First Samuel. For the first 3 chapters of this book, the author has focused mainly on the birth and early life of Samuel, but for the next three chapters, the focus shifts and the story revolves mainly around the Ark of the Covenant (or the Ark of the Lord.) Samuel isn’t even mentioned again until chapter 7.

And in some ways, this next part about the Ark of the Lord might seem like a bit of a rabbit trail from the story of Samuel – but it’s not a rabbit trail at all. It actually reminds us who this story is really about – this is not a story about Samuel – this is a story about God!

And that’s important to remember when we read through any of these great old testament stories! These stories are not about Daniel and the lions or David & Goliath or Moses or Jonah or any of those guys – the entire Bible is the story of God. He is the main character. These fantastic stories are only in the Bible because they teach us about God – Who He is, what’s He’s like, what He’s done, and what He’s going to do! 

So today’s passage about the Ark of the Lord is most certainly not a rabbit trail from the story of Samuel – but rather it conveys to us some very important information about who God is and how we are to interact with Him! As we go through it, we’ll see that it fits very much within the themes of the book of First Samuel!

First Samuel chapter 3 ends on the note of little Samuel growing up to a confirmed prophet of the Lord. His messages proved to be true and reliable as He faithfully delivered the Word of God to all the people of Israel.

But after saying that, the scene totally changes and we are told in chapter 4 verse 1…

At that time Israel was at war with the Philistines. The Israelite army was camped near Ebenezer, and the Philistines were at Aphek. The Philistines attacked and defeated the army of Israel, killing 4,000 men. 3 After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:1b-3

Now just for a little bit of background here, the Philistines are probably the most well-known enemies of the Israelites. We first hear about the Philistines way back in Genesis – during the the time of Abraham. But of course, there was no nation of Israel to fight with at that time – there was just Abraham’s family!

But the real fighting between the Philistines and the Israelites began during the time of the judges. We’re told that one of the first Judges, Shamgar, once killed 600 Philistines with an oxgoad! The strongman, Samson, fought his many battles against the Philistines – burning down their crops, killing them with a jawbone of a donkey, pulling down their temple on top of them! Most of Saul’s battles, as the first king of Israel, were fought against the Philistines. David’s first battle was against the Philistine giant, Goliath. And so its not unusual to see Israel at war with the Philistines! But this particular war was going to be unusual.

As we read in the passage, the first battle in this war was a total loss for the Israelites. They were soundly defeated and 4,000 men were killed. So they go back to their camp and regroup. It’s at this point that the elders of Israel ask a very important question. They say “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?”

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Samson Finally Finding Faith

Today we’re going to wrap up our series on the Unlikely Heroes in the book of Judges. And it’s certainly been an interesting journey. We’ve looked at Ehud, Deborah, Barak, Jael, Gideon, and for the past several weeks now, we’ve been looking at Samson.

And of all the unlikely heroes that we’ve looked at, I think Samson started with the most potential – and has so far proven to be the most disappointing. Instead of being the leader that he could have been, Samson has shown himself to be selfish and arrogant. And as a result, he’s destroyed his marriage, his foolishness has cost the life of his wife and her family, and his own countrymen (the ones that he was suppose to rescue) don’t want to have anything to do with him.

And yet, despite Samson’s flawed character, God has still used him to begin to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines – just has He promised even before Samson was born. And while Samson certainly hasn’t pushed the Philistines out of Israelite territory, he has dealt them some serious blows. To this point in our story, he has severely crippled their economy by burning down all their crops, their vineyards, and their olive groves. As well, he has personally wiped out huge groups of Philistine soldiers.

So Samson is certainly public enemy #1 for the Philistines – but they can’t touch him. He’s got this incredible God-given strength and after their last attempt to capture Samson (which ended with Samson killing 1000 of them) no one dares to attack him. And so that kinda sets the stage for our final chapter today.

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Jonathan, His Armour-bearer, Six Hundred Men with Pitchforks…And God.

Last week we began a new sermon series – Great Battles of the Bible – because the Bible is just chucked-full of battle stories. We started off with a Sunday school favorite – Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. But this week, we’re going to get off the beaten trail a little bit and tackle a story that you’ve probably heard, but it’s not one of those Sunday School classics.

It all starts just a short while after King Saul is made the first king of Israel.

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