1 Sam 4:1-11 Why Israel Lost CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
After all the victories Israel had in its history up to now, it might surprise you that they lost to the Philistines so convincingly and particularly since they had the ark with them when they lost. But there are some excellent practical and spiritual reasons why they lost this fight. And we need to see them because they provide us with great instruction in our spiritual life and warfare.
Israel lost because:
They attacked from the south – v.1 – Ebenezer is south of Aphek. When you examine the battles and wars in the Bible, the enemy that attacks from the north wins. This was true in the American Civil War. As a practical matter, if the Lord had led Israel in this fight, he would have repositioned the army before the battle. In truth, the Lord wouldn’t lose no matter
from which direction he was attacking.
They questioned the Lord but didn’t wait on his answer – v.3 – They knew that if the Lord had not smitten them before the Philistines, they wouldn’t have been smitten. However, they didn’t try to find out what the Lord was doing or what he wanted them to do. Compare how David handled this kind of thing, 1 Sam 23:4, 2 Sam 5:19-25. He wouldn’t attack until he knew what the Lord wanted him to do.
They fought following their own plan – v.3 – The Bible tells us that safety is of the Lord. The elders of Israel figured that if they brought the ark into the battle, they would somehow gain a supernatural advantage. They were dead wrong. Contrast how Jehoshaphat handled his battle plans in 2 Chr 20:12-17. He put the whole plan in the Lord’s hand.
Their God was an “it” – v.3 – They had relegated God to an object, like a good luck charm. This is the same thing religious people do with rosaries, statues, medals and icons. They attribute their supernatural favor to the power of the object. The ark couldn’t help them; only the Lord could, 2 Chr 13:8-18.
They put their faith in “Super Hired Holy Men” – v.4 – Hophni and Phinehas were jokes for priests. They were thieving, fornicating, drunken priests. They were worthless. Israel could not have expected them to intercede for them anymore than you could expect a similar kind of priest today to hear your sins in the confessional and provide you with absolution.
They fought against an army resolved to win – v.9 The Philistines were ready to “quit like men.” That’s not an expression that meant they were ready to quit. It meant that like men they would fight to the finish. Israel wasn’t that resolved; they were counting on their good luck charm and fornicating priests to “fix” the battle for them.
Their defeat was prophesied – v.11 – 1 Sam 2:34 said that Hophni and Phinehas were going to die in one day. They went down into that battle without regard to the prophecy and fell right into the trap.
So, next time you prepare to do something for the Lord or the next time that you find yourself in a spiritual battle, consider these truths. Wait on the Lord, inquire of him in prayer, don’t trust some good luck object, consider God’s prophecies in the words of God, don’t put your faith in men, and whatever you do, don’t trust your own plan!