1 Samuel 4:1 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. 2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring 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.”

I had been reading through 1 Samuel recently and this particular passage stuck out to me. I spent some time contemplating it and made some observations:

The first is that Israel understood that the Lord had defeated them before the Philistines. Such was a confession of judgment against them. Second, despite asking the question why the Lord defeated them they did not seriously pursue the answer. They knew of Samuel, yet they did not seek his guidance before going into battle and they did not seek his guidance after their defeat. Third, despite the defeat and despite the availability of God’s Word to them, they nonetheless ignored their spiritual state and attempted a desperate act: they brought out the Ark of the Covenant. It is clear from the passage what they hoped would happen. By bringing out the sacred Ark, God would be forced to display His power and defeat the Philistines. Yet, God did nothing and the final defeat was greater than the first. And the Ark was captured.

As I read the passage, I contemplated the bald contempt for the power of God displayed by the Israelites — as if it was something they could control and beckon at their whim. God had previously demonstrated his power both in the Jordan River and in Jericho. The Jordan River had an altar built to remind future generations “the hand of the Lord is mighty”. It was never the ark, but the ark had become an idol to Israel. In their delusion, it was not God’s pleasure that brought forth victory, nor was it for His own glory that victories occurred. They believed that they could manufacture the power of God.

Fast forward to today where very little has changed:

I present to you today’s blasphemy, the “Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey”.

Lord, have mercy. Please.

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