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cover of 5-12-2024 | The Glory Departs | 1 Samuel 4
5-12-2024 | The Glory Departs | 1 Samuel 4

5-12-2024 | The Glory Departs | 1 Samuel 4

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Sermon by Mark Evans

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In 1st Samuel 4, Israel goes to battle against the Philistines and is defeated. The elders of Israel wonder why God allowed this to happen and decide to bring out the Ark of the Covenant, believing it will save them. However, their attempt to manipulate God fails and they are defeated again. The main point is that instead of trying to control God, our goal should be to glorify and enjoy Him. have your Bibles do make your way to the book of 1st Samuel so we continue our sermon series through this book and today we will be in all of chapter 4 of 1st Samuel and to get us going on we'll read the first 11 verses of 1st Samuel 4 and these are the words of the God who sits enthroned above the chair of them and the word of Samuel came to all Israel now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines they encamped at Ebenezer and the Philistines encamped at Aphek the Philistines drew up in line against Israel and when the battle spread Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about 4,000 men on the field of battle and when the people came to the camp the elders of Israel said why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines let us bring out the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies so the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the chair of them and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were there with the Ark of the Covenant of God as soon as the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord came to the camp all Israel gave a mighty shout so that the earth resounded and when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting they said what does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean and when they learned that the Ark of the Lord had come to the camp the Philistines were afraid for they said a God has come into the camp and they said woe to us for nothing like this has happened before woe to us who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods these are the gods who struck down the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness take courage and be men oh Philistines lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you be men and fight so the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated and they fled every man to his home and there was a very great slaughter for 30,000 foot soldiers of Israel fell and the Ark of God was captured and the two sons of Eli Hophni and Phinehas died of the grass withers and the flower fades let us pray our gracious God in Heavenly Father indeed you are the God who sits enthroned above the cherubim you are the God of whom heaven and not even the highest of heavens can contain you and so here we are to humble ourselves before you asking that you would once again give us eyes to see that you would enlighten the very eyes of our heart to behold the wondrous things of your law that we might truly live to glorify you and enjoy you forever in Jesus name we pray amen well many of you may know the name Charles Finney if you don't know Charles Finney it's fair to say that he was one of if not the most important church revivalist in all of American history he's rightly called the father of American revivalism he garnered even international fame his impact on Christianity is with us still to this present day and what makes Phinney unique among other things it's not just his revivals but his teaching his philosophy on revivals because many taught that we the church we can have a revival a spiritual awakening whenever we want one all we have to do is control the right powers at the right time in the right way and sure enough we'll have ourselves a revival just follow the formula and then comes success in fact an opening statement from Finney's lectures on revival makes this astounding claim that quote religion is the work of man it is something for man to do even goes as far as to say the revival is not a miracle of God it occurs only because of man's right use of the right means well not everyone loved Finney as I'm sure you can guess many a churchman rebuked him that he was falsely teaching that man can manipulate God that man can control God and friends it is that very manipulation that we come to this morning in 1st Samuel 4 will see religion as the work of man will see what happens when man seeks to control God for his own purposes and will get to see just what kind of glory comes from this man-made approach at the question for you to consider it even now have you ever sought to control God to manipulate God now I'm sure out loud we'd all agree God cannot be controlled and yet it does not always stop us from attempting to manipulate God as a walk through this chapter in just two parts look at the defeat of Israel and secondly the departure of God's glory all with a very simple main point that rather than man manipulating God man's chief in your chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever so look firstly at the defeat of Israel starting in verse 1 it reads and the word of Samuel came to all Israel if you remember from last week God established Samuel as his prophet his mouthpiece who's going to reveal the will of God to the people during these days when the lamp of Israel has nearly extinguished and you see this progression of how the word works like leaven making its way into the loaf the word goes from God to Samuel and then spreads outward to all Israel and of course the same is true today only now God's Word is filling up not just Israel but the entire world as Colossians says God's Word is bearing fruit and increasing in the whole world to the four corners of the earth so we're off to a great start yet you'll notice from this point onward all the way to chapter 7 that Samuel is conspicuously absent he drops out so far it's been all Samuel all the time but now he drops out as if to show Israel as if to show us this is what it looks like this is how it goes when God's Word is cast off when there is no prophetic vision here is what happens and nowhere are those stakes higher than in a war and war is exactly what you get in verse 2 Israel went out to battle against the Philistines the Philistines were the main army the main enemies of God in 1st Samuel and when Israel went out to battle she had a very encouraging word from God so for instance Deuteronomy 20 reads like a battle cry for Israel as the priest would come and he would encourage the army with these words now just listen to these words and you tell me what your reaction would be if this is your pre-battle pep talk hero Israel today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies let not your heart faint do not fear or panic or be in dread of them for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you the victory I don't know about you but I hear that I think okay let's strap on our shield and grab our sword and let's go to war by what soldier would not have his heart filled to the brim with courage when hearing those words you know forget every locker room speech you've ever heard God is on your side and because he fights for you you have no reason to fear whatsoever in fact elsewhere in the law it says that if a soldier does show fear he must leave the army because his cowardice would be contagious to the rest of the soldiers okay so with that in mind let's see how well Israel fights first one continues Israel camps at Ebeneezer Philistine at a fact the Philistines drew up in line against Israel and when the battle spread Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about 4,000 men to go back to the Pentateuch one of the clear blessings of God's Covenant was not just victory in battle but dominant victory in black in battle even the blessing that just five men could chase away a hundred a hundred men could chase away 10,000 again what general would not be salivating at these ratios when strategizing war saying okay I know for every five soldiers I have those five are going to take down 100 enemy soldiers you are nearly breaking out the victory cigars before the battle begins however however the flip side was also the case as far as the curses for disobedience that should Israel walk contrary to God's commandments the God revealed the Lord will cause you Israel to be defeated before your enemies you shall go out one way but you will flee seven ways from your enemies exactly what you have here in Chapter 4 the Philistines come and they defeated Israel to the tune of 4,000 casualties and so out comes the inevitable question verse 3 they come into the camp and the elders say why has the Lord not the Philistines why has the Lord defeated us today now what is the answer to that question that question is posed almost like an open question a question left to interpretation I wonder why has God defeated us today but as we've just covered Israel would well know the reason for her defeat God had already revealed to them the simple reason if you do not obey the voice of the Lord and be careful to do all his commandments you will be defeated and they know their military history they would have remembered Israel's defeat at I that city spelled AI from the book of Joshua when Israel broke faith there was that secret sin of a can hiding the idols and God calls them to be defeated and it here Israel's reflect a failed to reflect upon their defeat the elders fail to bring to bear the word of the Lord a conviction of sin a repentance unto life but it gets worse or still one of the funny things about sins is it sins like company sins tend to come in clusters and groups and that's the elders don't stop there next they answer their own question of why has God defeated us with their own solution which is always dangerous when man trusted in his own heart and leans on his own understanding and you see that in verse 3 here's the proposed solution let us bring out the ark of the covenant of the Lord that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies so Israel's reaction to her defeat goes like this ah here's what we can do let's bring out the heavy artillery let's bring out our secret weapon which is the ark of the covenant and the ark shall save us the ark will deliver us from our enemies now where did they get this notion that the ark wields that kind of power a kid you probably remember the battle of Jericho when Israel marched seven times around Jericho blowing those trumpets kids you remember what special objects did they carry as they marched around that city it was the ark of the covenant even as Moses said when the ark set out Moses would proclaim arise O Lord and let your enemies be scattered so in one sense it makes sense to call for the ark because the ark represented God's presence God's power the ark you'll remember it housed the Ten Commandments it was the very meeting place of God with man God sat enthroned above the cherubim that was the lid of the ark of the covenant you see all that mentioned in verse 4 and yet your eyebrows should raise because you see who is beside that ark the two worthless and wicked sons of Eli are right there so the ark was in every way this great gift of God to Israel which is why the abuse of the ark comes with great consequences to make of this move by Israel how do you analyze this manipulation of the ark in a word this is a pagan move to think and act like a pagan paganistic in the sense that man thinks he can control and manipulate God this is a common feature in paganism we need rain let's make a sacrifice we need a good harvest let's make a sacrifice we need success in battle what divine levers can we pull to pressure God to be on our side that's why paganism comes with a flurry of charms and incantations and magic and spells to control spiritual forces to your advantage and make no mistake many notice that paganism is on the rise as Christianity wanes in America I was in a mainstream bookstore just recently and proudly on the display were four books on the basics of witchcraft for the young reader one book entitled spells and charms the other book entitled divination and many have commented how a and chat GPT wield a kind of God like power and control and of course all that makes sense as our culture is giving up on the old naturalism of secularism they are turning to spirituality but not a biblical spirituality a spirituality that seeks control and power with man at the helm and got his version of that here with Israel treating the ark like a kind of good luck charm and they separated the ark from the God who sits enthroned above the ark you see the same thing in the New Testament you might remember Simon the Magician from Acts he witnesses the power of the Holy Spirit and he thinks to himself I'll buy the power of the Holy Spirit isn't so much want the spirit he wants the Spirit's power right now we can do by the Spirit but what the Spirit can do for him and Peter soundly rebukes him you think you could obtain the gift of God with money and the same rebuke would go to Israel you think you could win a battle by the ark alone you think God is your errand boy this is of course a moment for Israel and we're right to not think of ourselves as above this sin for we can be tempted in the very same way that we might think well as long as I check all the right boxes as long as I have some religion in my bank account as long as I have some reformed orthodoxy stored in my brain then it will go well for me still worse I could look out on my works my external external performance and say just as they did that is what will save me in the day of deliverance on a national level we are certainly guilty of this if we say well so long as we have a Christian founding a Christian heritage then God is with us even though we walk against him now we still have in God we trust printed on our money as a church we are certainly guilty of this if we say well as long as our liturgy is neat and tidy as long as the confession rolls off our lips it will go well for us but as Christ warned the church of in Revelation if you have abandoned your first love if you have abandoned me I shall remove my lampstand from your presence and so let's see how it goes in verses 5-7 they bring the ark into the camp and you see there's with this deafening I mean literally earth shaking roar which is a lesson in itself that our enthusiasm is no indicator that God is on our side what a word in itself for today how often we mistake our own excitement and passion and feelings to mean God's favor what works but for a moment the Philistines hear the war shouts and they are terrified and there's more behind their terror than just the noise you see in verse 7 through their polytheistic lenses they say oh no a god has come into the camp oh no not just any god these are the gods we've heard about who defeated it mighty pharaoh who destroyed Egypt because the defeat of Egypt in exodus was big news in the ancient Near East right just as today if a world super power was suddenly reduced to nothing in the matter of mere days that's big news far and wide they remember how Rahab says to the spies in Joshua oh yeah we've heard about your God what he did to Egypt that's why every man's heart is melting before you and that of course is entirely by God's design that God works his awesome might as the psalmist says so that even his enemies come cringing before him God shows himself to be the supreme divine warrior such that every knee will bow and every tongue confess and for us as new covenant dare not look backwards and think oh if only we had some awesome news go before us like they did in first Samuel no no no because you stand on this side of the greatest most decisive victory in history the triumph of Jesus Christ because Christ has defeated not just some local tribe not just some nation he has defeated every principality and power and put them to open shame by triumphing over them well to the credit of the Philistines they do a better job at being Israel than does Israel in verse 9 because through the deafening roars they gird up their loins they say you see it there take courage be men lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you be men and fight because this is the language that every man understands men want to be courageous and will do nearly anything to be courageous sometimes that means faking and pretending that you're courageous when you're really not sometimes that means finding a cause to take courage such as this in this case the fear of being a slave but those words be men and fight our words that men immediately embrace as one author said sometimes men go to war because they want to sometimes men go to war because they have to but men always go to war because they feel they are supposed to and you're well aware that men acting like men has fallen on hard times today we have things like so called toxic masculinity on gender confusion and effeminate even the call for just manly virtue has a lost meeting what a profound witness for the church to recover today it's lamentable that young men today are not looking to the church for their courageous role models that they far quicker look to someone like a Jocko Willink or a Jordan Peterson as men worthy of imitation well so it is for the Philistines and that they outclassed Israel in terms of their courage and so here's the outcome in verse 10 they fight back Israel's defeated for a second time in a row and they flee there's a very great slaughter for 30,000 soldiers fell the ark the ark that was supposed to save them was actually captured and the two sons of Eli Hoffman and Phineas died so we've gone from bad to worse 4,000 now ramped up to 30,000 casualties and just as God pronounced Hoffman and Phineas die the very same day what is our God doing well he's just using the Philistines as his instrument of judgment it's like when God said to Cyrus king of Persia Cyrus you are my war club you are my battleaxe you are my weapon of war that's a pattern all throughout scripture that God uses the Assyrians to judge Israel God uses Babylon to judge Judah God uses a Roman army to destroy the temple these are just instruments of God's righteous wrath doing his bidding according to his plan as we've got the Philistines is just one more tool in God's toolbox to accomplish his judgment of which every ear will quake when they hear the sound of it so there is a somber sad defeat of Israel but it gets worse let's look now at the departure of glory and many of you know the history of the marathon at least the legend that soldier runs 26.2 miles to deliver the news of Greek victory and then collapses dies well father celebratory and verse 12 maybe we'll call it a Shiloh run this Benjamite runs 22 miles but only to deliver the sad news of Israel's devastating devastating defeat to the trembling Eli in verse 13 now why is Eli trembling it says he trembles over the ark probably meaning that as a priest he knows full well that the ark is not supposed to be carted around like some kind of trinket or charm but if Eli could not restrain his own sons he certainly is not going to restrain the elders of Israel from taking an art in the battle and he knows that judgment particularly his judgment is on the horizon as a verse 14 this Benjamite continues with the debrief and he says from bad to worse Eli we had to flee we were defeated both your sons are dead and the cap it off the ark has been captured and maybe he doesn't even finish his sentence because verse 18 says as soon as he mentioned the ark Eli falls over backwards his neck was broken and he died so we got this sad ending to the sad story of Eli we've already mentioned that he was likely compromised in his son's wickedness and you see that implied at the end of the verse notice it reads the man was old and heavy implying that Eli consumed the fact that belonged to the Lord and now you need to see there is a very purposeful painful double meaning in that word heavy that word heavy in verse 18 is just a form of the Hebrew word kavod which means glory as if to say Eli was old and glorious old and heavy and that dual meaning is entirely deliberate because it shows us this is how glory works man has two options he can either take glory for himself or he can give glory to God at the end of it all these are the two ways to live man can grab for glory or he can glorify and Eli shows us what happens when man attempts to hoard glory for himself he swells with self-glory to his own destruction and this is our default setting we are gluttonous for our own glory for Eli that was literally his lust for the fat of the food but we know it comes in all shapes and sizes the man seeks for his own glory in the pride of life a quietly wanting recognition accumulating wealth and prestige worshipping a career a status a social media presence it comes by puffed up knowledge and arrogance even by man's glorying in his shameful lust and passions that are public today and Eli shows us so clearly this is the outcome of man's pursuit of his own glory we're right to read this that it was Eli's very heaviness his weight his glory that snapped his neck when he fell you remember King Herod from the book of Acts the crowds praised him as a God and what does Herod do Herod receives the glory he does not give glory to God he accepts it as his own and what happens he is struck dead and turned to worm food so we're right to check your appetite am I glory hungry am I vain glorious literally seeking glory in vain but friends question one of the shorter catechism that we confessed earlier gives us the great antidote to self-glory and the solution is not what you might expect because the solution is not to turn off the glory faucet the solution is not to lessen your hunger for glory or eliminate glory the solution is to make sure the glory is going in the right direction because we are made for glory Roman says it well it's not glory is not the problem the problem is we have fallen short of the glory of God Eli's problem was not glory his problem was self-glory as a question one rightly situates our relationship to glory it's not only that glory is not a problem glory is actually your chief end your highest purpose your most ultimate end it's why you have a pulse it's why you have breath in your lungs it's why you have a beating heart so that you might glorify and make much of God in all of life and it's this that Eli failed to do he judged Israel for 40 years he closes out the period of judges and you see next the consequences of Eli's self-glorification you look at his descendants now his daughter-in-law in verse 19 the wife of Phineas upon hearing the news that her husband is dead her father-in-law is dead the arch-captured Israel defeated she then gives birth in the fullest sense of the term these are birth pains this is the Genesis curse and some women try and comfort her saying good news you've born a son cheer up that's exactly how Rachel was comforted when she gave birth but you see this huge reversal of fortune that Hannah gives birth and she breaks out into song Phineas his wife gives birth and instead you see she names her child Ichabod Ichabod now remember our Hebrew lesson the word kavod means glory when you put this it in front of kavod it means something like no glory or where is the glory or long gone is the glory that's a verse 21 sums up the saddest truth of this entire passage the glory departed from Israel sadder than 4,000 men losing their lives sadder than 30,000 men losing their lives sadder than the death of the high priest and his sons sadder even than the captured art is this the glory of Israel's God departed so what are we to make of this chapter this is indeed a somber sad sober chapter you probably are not turning to 1st Samuel chapter 4 for your daily pick-me-up and inspiration but you actually learn a most precious truth here man's chief end is to glorify God and you see the deadly path of self-glorification and man's attempt to control and manipulate God as we close let's throw up just two simple but awesome truth from this passage firstly the need for courage and secondly man's quest for glory first thing they need for courage we've seen today Christianity does not have the market cornered on courage to Israel's great shame the Philistines actually outcouraged the Israelites and bested them instead Israel chose man-made enthusiasm over courage Israel chose superstition over courage Israel hid behind dead religion rather than take true courage friends God's word tells us not only to take courage but how to do so righteously because if you're going to take courage you have to take courage in something there's got to be some kind of reservoir some kind of source to draw upon and what keeps Christian courage from being a moralistic what keeps it from being just chest-beating machismo is that Christian courage is firmly and humbly rooted in the Triune God and his promises to us because the command is take courage because I am with you do not look inward look upward to the risen Christ do not believe in yourself believe in the one who says I'm always with you I will never leave you I will never forsake you see the call to courage is simply a call to faith and courage of course is always in demand but if ever a time we need courage in our day as is rightly said sometimes just standing against evil is more important than defeating evil are you ready are you courageous enough to stand against evil so there's the need for courage lastly the quest for glory Ichabod Ichabod is the right question to ask where is the glory where has the glory gone we are made and meant to ask that question that is one of the most human questions you could possibly ask because you are made to reflect the glory of God now the kind of sanctimonious instinct this as well I want all the glory to go to God and no glory for me I want no part no participation no share in the glory whatsoever no really truly I want all glory to go to God but if you say I don't want any glory scripture says too bad for you because if you are in Christ then you are glorified you are glorified already right now and you will be fully glorified in the new heavens and new earth when Christ returns because our God has so determined to glorify himself by glorifying his creatures and we've seen the wrench in the problem this morning that man simply steals glory he robs glory and then it decays into no glory at all even into shameful departed glory and so where is the glory we leave here with God's glory departed and left exiled and that happens to Israel again and again and again until that day when glory would come down when the Apostle John would say we have seen his glory the glory of the only son from the father Jesus Christ is the glory of God with us and he took our shame upon him so that you might be glorified taking upon himself the very judgments the wrath of God that we see this morning taking God forsaken is upon himself and in exchange you Christian are glorified and if you say that seems nearly too scandalous that is the glory of the cross that God made him who knew no sin to be sent so that in him we might become the righteousness of God and so that you might glorify God both now and forever let us pray gracious God in heavenly father we do praise you for not even heaven in the highest of heavens can contain you your most glorious worthy of all worship both now and forever and we praise you that you have glorified your son for he has done all the work you have given him to do and you have resurrected him and seated him at your very right hand and we praise you even more and all the more that you would glorify us as sinners and rebels taking us to be your very children and so we pray help us to live the very thing that we confess that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy

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