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An Unfaithful People

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God's people place their faith on Him and His word in order that His will be done, not theirs. (This is a sermon based on the Gospel Project's "God Rescues his Ark" teaching plan for students)

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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 before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people 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.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before.

Introduction

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 before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people 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.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

1-7
1 Samuel 4:1–8 NASB95
1 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.

Test

I’ve had such a blast this whole week reading, interpreting, and learning from 1 Samuel, specifically the parts that we’ll be learning from today. But as I was studying these passages, I started to remember being in your shoes and listening to sermons from the Old Testament. If the pastor who was preaching delivered a message that evoked my mind and penetrated my heart, I would sometimes sit back and think, “how the heck did he get all that from that old book? Whenever I try reading and learning from the Old Testament, I’m left with nothing but confusion and questions.” So, I would then choose to flip to some random page in the New Testament and read parts of books that would give me clear instructions on what to do and what not to do as a follower of Jesus. Maybe some of you can relate.
I’d like to begin the lesson by asking a rhetorical question: “What is faith?”

Now, thinking back to all the things I’ve learned and continue to learn about the Bible and what it says, I’ve thought about a good piece of advice to give to you all when it comes to reading Old Testament stories. Here’s the advice: read it like you would any other story, beginning to end. Simple, right? The reason why I say that (and why I’m beginning with this) is because to many times when we come to our Bibles to learn from its stories, we forget that a part of learning from them is enjoying them. This is also helpful for those of you who are not so sure about this whole “Christian” thing. With that said, I hope all of you can enjoy this story with me.
1 Samuel 4:2–7 ESV
2 The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people 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.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before.
1 Samuel 4:1b–7 ESV
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 before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people 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.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before.
1 Samuel 4:1–11 ESV
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 before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people 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.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.” 10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
1 Samuel
1 Samuel 4:1–7 ESV
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 before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people 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.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before.

The Story so Far

Today we’re going to be reading and 7:2-4. Before we begin though, here’s a quick overview of the story so far. The book of 1 Samuel begins with a woman named Hannah who was not able to have a child. She prayed passionately to God that she may have a son and promised that she would give him up to His service. God answers Hannah’s prayer and has a boy whom she names Samuel. When Samuel is older, he’s sent to be instructed by a priest named Eli. We learn that Eli has two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who are also priests, but that they are committing terrible sins before God by only allowing the the finest portions of meat from the people to be used as an offering. Moreover, they were sleeping around with many woman. Afterwards, God speaks to Samuel and tells him that he will judge Eli and his sons, Eli for not restraining his sons, and his sons for doing great evil.

1 Samuel 4:1-11

Now that you’re up to date, lets read
1 Samuel 4:1–4 ESV
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 before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people 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.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
1 Samuel 4:1–4 ESV
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 before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people 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.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.
1 Samuel 4:1–11 ESV
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 before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people 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.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.” 10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
1 Samuel 4:1–3 ESV
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 before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. 3 And when the people 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.”
We read a couple of interesting things in these first four verses.
1 Samuel
We read a couple of interesting things in these first three verses.
We read a couple of interesting things in these first three verses.
First, the first two sentences in verse one. Our English translations don’t do a good job sometimes at communicating the intended meaning of the original Hebrew. A better translation would be something like this: “Though the word of Samuel was recognized throughout Israel, the people went out for battle without asking the will of the Lord through his prophet [who is Samuel].”
Second, out of sheer panic, the elders of Israel call for the ark of the covenant (the box in which God’s spirit resided) in order that God may grant them victory in their next battle. Now, the lesson plan is calling this a spiritual superstition, but I don’t think that’s exactly right because the Israelites did bring the ark of the covenant with them into battle many times in the past. What this is is the elders attempting to twist God’s arm in order that He may fulfill their will, not His.
Third, Hophni and Phinehas, the two wicked priests that we learned about from earlier, are included with the group of those who bring the ark of the covenant to the Israeli camp. That does not sound good.
Lets continue the story.
1 Samuel 4:5–11 ESV
5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.” 10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
1 Samuel 4:5–11 ESV
5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.” 10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
1 Samuel 4:5–11 ESV
5 As soon as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, 7 the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8 Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. 9 Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.” 10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
So, the Israelites are all pumped up because they believe God is with them by merely having the ark of the covenant with them, and the Philistines are all nervous because they believe the Israelites have many gods and one of them has come to their aid! Yet, Israel ends up defeated, the ark of the covenant is taken from them, and Hophni and Phinehas are killed.
1 Samuel 4:
1 Samuel 4:5-11
So, the Israelites are all pumped up because they believe God is with them by merely having the ark of the covenant with them, and the Philistines are all nervous because they believe the Israelites have many gods and one of them has come to their aid! Yet, Israel ends up defeated, the ark of the covenant is taken from them, and Hophni and Phinehas are killed.

Undervaluing God and His Holiness

What happened to Israel? They undervalued God and his holiness. Instead of listening to his prophet, Samuel, they went to battle in order to fulfill their will. When they lost the first battle, they called upon God’s ark believing he would grant them victory, but they lost even more.
What happens when we undervalue God and his holiness? Our “faith” becomes a “fake faith”.

Fake Faith

There are three things that I’ve noted that drive a “fake faith”.
We do not know what God’s word says (Head)
We do not value what God’s word says (Heart)
We do nothing with what God’s word says (Hands)
Instead, we attempt to twist God’s arm in order that he may fulfill our will.
Here are some silly photos that some of my friends from Facebook and Instagram shared That explain exactly what I mean.
SHOW THE CHEESY MOTIVATIONAL SLIDES

Questions (5 min)

How do you think the Israelites felt seeing the ark captured and taken from them?
What are some common examples today of people treasuring a symbol of God’s glory rather than in God Himself?
What are some examples of practicing a “fake faith”?

Main Point

This leads me to the main point: God’s people place their faith on Him and His word in order that His will be done, not theirs.

1

For the sake of time, we won’t go through the rest of the story together, but I’ll give you a quick summary.
While
While the ark is captive, God sends down many plagues upon the Philistines and they ultimately return the ark of the covenant back to the Israelites. Yet, even when the Israelites receive the ark, it takes them about twenty years for them to realize that they need to repent and come back to God.
Lets read
1 Samuel 7:2–4 ESV
2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
1 samuel
1 Samuel 7:2–4 ESV
2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.

Exalting God and His Holiness

Exalting God and His Holiness

Samuel patiently waited for about twenty years for his people to realize that what they needed was to come back to God.
What then happens when we exalt God and his holiness? Our faith becomes a “real faith”.

Real Faith

The three things that drive a “real faith” are the opposite of what drives a “fake faith”.
We know what God’s word says (Head)
We value what God’s word says (Heart)
We do something with what God’s word says (Hands)
Yet, the reality is that these three things are insufficient and are considered no more than mere “works” if we do not give our lives to Jesus. Why? Because you’re a sinner and you will always fall short of God’s standard. Only Jesus knew the full reality of God’s word. Only Jesus valued God’s word above all things. And only Jesus fulfilled the entirety of the law that our Jewish brothers and sisters were once held to. Jesus died on the cross for you and was raised up on the third day to be glorified with the Father in order that you may be given saving grace through his Spirit.

Questions (5 min)

What did the Israelites need to do in order to return to God? (3 things found in )
How can we do the same?
Why is Jesus essential to practice “real faith”?
ALLOW STUDENTS TO ANSWER THE HEAD, HEART, AND HANDS QUESTIONS
A woman named Hannah who cannot have children prays for a son and God answers her prayer. She gives birth to Samuel and gives Samuel up when he’s of age to be instructed by the priest Eli.
1 Samuel 4:10–11 ESV
10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. 11 And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
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