1 Samuel 3:19-4:11 The Prophet And His Word
1 Samuel 3:19-4:11
Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail. 20 All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. 21 And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, because the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord. Thus the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped beside Ebenezer while the Philistines camped in Aphek. 2 The Philistines drew up in battle array to meet Israel. When the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield. 3 When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh, and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts who sits above the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 As the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 When the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the Lord had come into the camp. 7 The Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who shall deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9 Take courage and be men, O Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews, as they have been slaves to you; therefore, be men and fight.” 10 So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the slaughter was very great, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
God removed the Ark from Israel so that they could turn their trust from an object back to God and His word. Israel, instead of putting their trust in God is used to trusting in what they could see and touch. By raising up Samuel as the prophet, God is redirecting Israel back to the word of faith. Although Israel suffered great losses, it spells the beginning of a new era of God’s word and faith in Him.
Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail – Here, we see the rise of a prophet of Israel. “Let none of his words fail” connotes the distinctive mark of a true prophet; that all that Samuel said has come to pass. Through the prophetic ministry, God redirects the people’s faith from the Ark to His word. As a prophet, Samuel has personal and direct access to God: the Lord appeared again at Shiloh. God has thus established Samuel as His spokesman for Israel and judges Israel through Samuel. When it was understood by Israel that Samuel’s credentials as a prophet were established, a new era was under way. Revelation through priest and ephod was passing away, and revelation through prophets was beginning.
Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? – Israel went into battle against the Philistines and lost four thousand men on the battlefield. The elders of Israel were shaken and asked, “Why has the Lord defeated us today…?” What was really surprising is their strategy of using the Ark of God as a weapon against the Philistines. On one hand, they knew that God did not approve of them; on the other hand, they tried to force the hand of God against their enemies by pushing the Ark to the frontline. It is clear that the Israelites is using the Ark of the Covenant as an idol through which they hope to manipulate God into doing what they desire; in doing so, God has ceased to be their Lord and Master.
And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas died – God’s presence as represented by the Ark has always been a mark of God’s presence that sealed Israel’s victory in all their battles. However, Israel on that day sustained the loss of 30,000 soldiers, the priestly family, three whole cities and the Ark of the Covenant that spelled the near demise of Israel.
- A man’s success must be supported by the foundations of godly character and wisdom. Therefore, the growth of a man cannot be hurried; he must first build the rudiments of character and competence and having proven himself over a period of time before his ministry can be established; through challenges and failures he learns wisdom, discernment and perseverance. A man can never enjoy enduring success unless he has developed the necessary mettle for it. Samuel became prophet of Israel not overnight, but over a span of time where his predictive words have consistently come to pass. Hence, all who aspires to success must be patient with their progress and be focused on what God has given to do and not to follow after the patterns of those who are successful.
- It is not about the frequency of our prayers or the knowledge of God’s promises that makes our prayers effective, but the posture of our hearts. Many churchgoers behave like the Israelites carrying their personal ark into their battles. Though they are aware of their backslidden condition, yet they insist on God granting them success in all their endeavors. Their prayers are likened to the Israelites who carried the ark as a war machine to crush whatever opposition that stand in their way. They stake their claims on the promises of God and declare them aloud but yet their hearts are far away from Him. As a result many could not prosper in their endeavors and suffered great losses. This episode teaches us that our prayers are only as effective as the piety of our hearts that carried them.
- At all times, our hearts must be assured solely by God and His word and not by what we could see or touch. God some times allows us to lose the things that are most precious to us so that we learn to depend only on Him. The Ark of God had been the source of security for Israel for they have misplaced their trust from God to an object. By removing the Ark from Israel and by establishing the prophetic ministry, God rectifies their misplaced trust and turn them back to His word. At all times, our trust must be directed at God who is all-loving, all-wise, and all-powerful. We must never let our hearts rest on what our eyes could see, or what our hands could touch. Psalm 124:8 say, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
- Concerning your work and ministry, understand the stage of progress you are currently at. List down your strengths as well as the character traits that needed strengthening. Hold yourself accountable to someone that you can trust and who could help you in the areas that you have listed.
- Consider the physical things and resources that you take comfort in. Rectify your faith by redirecting your trust back to God and His word.
Dear Lord, I redirect my trust back to your word and put your Kingdom’s work above all priorities. I believe you are faithful to provide for my needs and to enable me to fulfill your calling for my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.