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1 Samuel 4:1-11, The Ark of God Captured

Monday, October 16

Not a Weapon

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

The Israelites were regularly under attack from enemies that surrounded them. The Philistines proved to be powerful enemies that haunted Israel for years. The people thought they could defeat the Philistines by bringing God (the ark of the covenant, where God's presence dwelt) onto the battlefield. But God is not a magic token, nor can God be manipulated. The Philistines saw through the noise and commotion, and they fought even harder to avoid becoming Israel's slaves. Israel was defeated.

If there's one thing God can't stand, it's when people use God as a weapon. It's true, God often fought for Israel (at the very least, Israel was content to give God the credit whenever they were victorious). But God is a God of love, justice, and peace. When necessary, God fought for justice. But God would much rather people live in peace. 

It makes me squirm when people today try to use God as a weapon. Usually, God is used as a weapon of propaganda, touting (individuals' interpretation of) God's word as the authority over all people -- encouraging and coercing the individual's beliefs over another's. Using God's word like a hammer is rarely, if ever, effective. Yet we see it over and over again on TV, on billboards, online.

What is effective (if coming to know God is the affect we're looking for) is the sharing of story. Our story. Our stories. When we open our hearts and share the stories of how God has been alive and active in our lives -- that is when the magic happens! There's no aggression, no threat -- just vulnerability and a willingness to share. It's in those moments God is the most powerful. Not a weapon, just pure love.

Narrative Lectionary Text: 1 Samuel 4:1-11

And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. In those days the Philistines mustered for war against Israel, and Israel went out to battle against them; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle was joined, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. When the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord put us to rout today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, so that he may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” 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. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. When the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. When the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” When they learned that the ark of the Lord had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said, “Gods have come into the camp.” They also said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 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. Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, in order not to become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.”

So the Philistines fought; Israel was defeated, and they fled, everyone to his home. There was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

Earlier Event: October 15
1 Samuel 3:1-21, God Calls Samuel