Daily Devotional

“Let us bring the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Shiloh,
so that he may go with us and save us from the
hand of our enemies.”
1 Samuel 4:3

I wonder if you’re going through a battle right now?  According to Ephesians 6:12, we’re always facing some form of invisible warfare or another, some form of spiritual attack from our enemy.  And the secret to victory is fighting our battles in God’s strength: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Eph 6:10).  

But sometimes it’s helpful to know what not to do in battle.  If you want to know how not to lose your battle, read 1 Samuel 4:1-11.  It’s a guaranteed formula for disaster.

In that passage, the Israelites march out to war against the Philistines, and there are two catastrophic sins that they commit.

First is the sin of presumption: assuming that God is going to bless your plans without bothering to stop and ask him first.  In this story, it’s striking that the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines.  In other words, they went on the offensive.  They decided to attack their enemies.  But what is even more striking is the fact that they never stopped to pray.  They never inquired of the Lord or asked for his guidance and direction.  They made the mistake of assuming that their plans must be God’s plans, and they automatically presumed that God would bless them.

The second sin the Israelites commit is the sin of superstition: ascribing power and glory to an object, when in reality that power and glory belong to God alone.  

After the Israelites lost their first battle, they decided to bring the ark of the covenant from Shiloh, thinking its presence would ensure their victory.  

When the Philistines heard about this, they said: “Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. We’re doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods?” (v. 7-8).  

But the crazy thing is the Israelites were just as superstitious as the Philistines!  They treated the ark like a good-luck charm, like a talisman… like an idol.  They had become more devoted to the object than God himself, and treated the ark like it was interchangeable with God.  

When we read stories like this in the Old Testament, we’re tempted to snicker with disdain at the Israelites.  But we don’t recognize that we do the same thing.  When was the last time you made a decision without first stopping to ask God?  When was the last time you put a plan into motion without praying?  When we do that, we wrongly assume that God will automatically bless us.  But we’re demonstrating the level of our pride and self-sufficiency.  

The other thing we do is trust in some object other than God for our safety, security and provision.  The ark of the covenant isn’t around anymore, but we still have plenty of idols to lean on – things we are tempted to trust in rather than God.  Things like our job, our bank account, our cleverly crafted plans and preparations, our hard work, our reputation in the community, even our spiritual disciplines.  When we are tempted to trust in anything other than God for victory in the daily battles of life, we’re guilty of bringing the ark out of Shiloh just like the Israelites.  

That’s why it’s important to know what not to do in battle.  Don’t make plans without consulting God first.  And don’t trust in anything for your success except the Lord of Hosts.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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