“Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, ‘What’s all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?’ When they learned that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid.” (1 Samuel 4:6-7a NIV)
It’s sad when unbelievers show a fear of God greater than that of His own people. In the scenario above, God had allowed the Philistines to oppress Israel because Israel had turned away from Him. After an initial defeat, Israel decides to bring in the big gun—the Ark of the Covenant. Like target practice, this scene is filled with hits and misses.
Miss #1: Israel’s Unconfessed Sin
Judges 21:25 tells us, “In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” God’s Law had been tossed aside. Idol worship was the rage. Israel traded the real thing for cheap imitations. The result? The enemy invaded. We open the door to invasion too when we lose a holy fear of God and trade Him for the temporal.
Miss #2: Lucky Charms
God became a good luck charm. A rabbit’s foot. A blessing machine. Just haul the ark to battle, and winning is a sure thing because God is with us, right? Relationship was abandoned for ritual. Then, even ritual was dropped. No fear, no respect.
Miss #3: No Turning Back
Warnings and initial discipline had no effect. Israel skipped repentance to the tune of defeat that day. Thirty thousand men died, and the ark was captured. Disobedience has consequences. Israel missed early opportunities to return to God.
The Philistines, however, knew how to treat a deity.
Hit #1: Recognition
Scripture tells us, when the Philistines learned the ark had entered the Israelite camp, they were afraid. They understood a power was present beyond their human ability to combat. The God of the Hebrews was to be taken seriously. We should take Him seriously too.
Hit #2: Reputation
The Philistines knew God’s reputation. “They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the desert.” (1 Samuel 4:8) Though their knowledge of God was incomplete and a bit shaky as well, they knew of His past and expected more of the same. We should too.
Hit #3: Respect
“We’re in trouble.” (1 Samuel 4:7) The Philistines had it right even though God chose to use Philistia to discipline and judge His own people. However, their fears were not unfounded. Though the Philistines defeated Israel and captured the ark, they experienced God in a unique way for the next seven months. 1 Samuel 5-6 gives a comical account of God’s presence and power among the pagan Philistines. Don’t miss it. It’s a fun read.
So, how’s our target practice? Hits or misses? Let’s check our fear of God and stay on target.
When you think of God, do you think OT or NT?
Has God changed?
Do you expect mighty things from Him?
What kind of relationship are you cultivating?
Have you put Him in a box? Ready to grab Him if you need Him?
What qualities did the Philistines show that we as believers should have?
How does this look?
How can we avoid Israel’s mistakes?
We open the door to invasion when we lose a holy fear of God and trade Him for the temporal. Click to tweet.
The Philistines knew to take the Hebrew God seriously. We should take Him seriously too. Click to tweet.
The Philistines knew of God’s past and expected more of the same. We should too. Click to tweet.