When it Looks Like God is Defeated
1 Samuel 5:1–2
1st & 2nd Samuel Lesson #027
September 29, 2015
“Our Father, it is a tremendous privilege we have to come before Your throne of grace, because the Lord Jesus Christ rent the veil in two and opened the pathway. And because He is our High Priest, we have access to Your throne of grace.
Father, we come before You as citizens of this nation and as believers. We recognize that we are clearly in the crosshairs of satanic attack in the grand scheme of the angelic conflict. We recognize that his aim is to destroy nations that are the bulwark of truth, the bulwark of gospel presentation, the work of evangelism and missionary activity. For the last 100 years we have seen the corrosive effects of epistemological liberalism, rebellion against the authority of Your Word, epistemological liberalism, which produces both social and religious liberalism that has destroyed the very core of what was founded in this nation through the Puritans and through the original settlers who came here, and our founding fathers.
Father, the only thing that will ultimately provide a change is a change of heart. That comes only by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. But there are many other things we can do that come short of that ultimate goal. We need to have the courage and the intelligence and knowledge to be able to affect those changes one day at a time. Give us the courage of our convictions to be involved.
Father, we pray that You would challenge us with the teaching of Your Word this evening, recognizing that all of Your Word is breathed out by You and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness. We pray that we might be responsive to Your Word tonight. We pray in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
We are in 1 Samuel 5.
In 1 Samuel 4, the Ark of God, the Ark of the Lord of Hosts, Who dwells between the cherubim, has been captured by the enemy. He has been captured by the Philistines and taken off.
Israel is devastated! They have counted on victory in the past. Bringing the Ark into battle has always given them victory, but now that has failed. They have failed. They have been unsuccessful in defeating their enemy. God has been defeated it appears.
We always have to remember that when we are looking at a lot of these Old Testament events and stories, that they are historical events. But as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:11, they are for our benefit. They are recorded as an example for us.
There are a lot of analogies that we can draw between what happens to the nation and what happens to us as individuals. The nation is in spiritual rebellion. God has stepped back and removed His restraint on their spiritual life so that they are going to reap the consequences of their rebellion. He is going to allow the Ark to be captured, not because God is defeated, but because He is going to teach Israel a lesson.
A lot of times the same thing can happen in our own lives because we do not learn how to really trust in God. We end up going through the motions. We are not really walking with the Lord. That is what happened to Israel.
We are about to go into 1 Samuel 5, which in my opinion is one of the most humorous chapters in all of the Bible. It is a chapter that is not politically correct.
It is a chapter that if you were to be here for the first time tonight as a new believer, fresh out of the culture of the world around us, you might even be offended at what God does in this chapter, because the human viewpoint thinking that dominates our world today emphasizes the fact that we need to treat every religion as if it has equal value, every belief system as if it is equally beneficial, whether it is a belief system that is extremely primitive, involving animism and spiritism, or whether it is a more elevated ethical religious system.
But see, God does not operate that way. That does not justify us in being somewhat cavalier or disrespectful or just downright snotty with somebody’s religious system, because we are not God. But God can poke fun at them because well, God is God.
He knows everything. He knows exactly what is going on. He is not going to allow His reputation to be treated cavalierly. He is not going to allow Himself to be dishonored. He is going to allow Himself to be captured, but not defeated.
I have entitled this lesson When it Looks Like God is Defeated because many times in our life we reach places where we are struggling with something in our life. It looks like our trust in God is somewhat misplaced.
As we look at this particular chapter I am reminded of what Peter says in Acts 10:34. This is when Peter first wakes up to the fact that God is going to work in the Gentiles as He has been working inside with the Jews. Peter makes this statement. He says, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” I like the King James translation even though the New American Standard or New King James is more accurate. The King James says, “is no respecter of persons”. That also captures the idea there. God is not elevating one person over another.
That is often what happens in human viewpoint systems—that we elevate ourselves more highly than we ought to. We elevate human religions more highly than we ought to. We do not want to offend somebody by saying that what they believe is wrong. But there are certain times in life when we need to tell people the truth. We need to do it in a manner of generosity, grace, kindness. But they are wrong.
If you saw somebody that was on the path to some accident, or they were going to become burned, or they were going to create some trauma in their life, then it would be our responsibility to stop them, to tell them the truth.
When we live in a culture where truth has been rejected and people believe that there is no truth, then it becomes difficult for people to operate on an absolute of right and wrong and tell somebody, “Well, I am sorry, but what you believe is wrong. I will be glad to help you think it through. The truth is that there is a God. He loves you. He has provided a perfect solution to your problems, which is Jesus Christ in His death on the Cross.”
Working through that is not as quick as I said, because often there is much more to it than that.
We have looked at this outline in 1 Samuel 1–7, which is the preparation. This is really the introductory section to Samuel, the full books of Samuel, which, in the English Bible, is 1st and 2nd Samuel. In the Hebrew Bible it is just one book.
It is preparing the nation for this change. Yahweh is going to prepare the nation for change, but in order to prepare them for the change He has got to straighten out a lot of the problems in the nation.
They have rejected Him and His provision. They are living in idolatry. They are living in gross immorality. They have adopted a system of moral relativism. They have rejected God. God is going to first have to bring some discipline, some judgment, into their lives in order to get their attention so that they will begin to look toward Him. This is part of the preparation.
In 1 Samuel 1–7 there are basically two events that take place:
- The first event is the provision of a prophet who will be the instrumental man of God who brings about the change. That is the provision of Samuel. That is covered in 1 Samuel 1–3. In 1 Samuel 1 God provides:
- a miraculous pregnancy for Samuel’s mother Hanna,
- her vow to give her child, her son, to the service of Yahweh,
- and the magnificent prayer that she prayed at the beginning of 1 Samuel 2:1–10, where she recognizes that there is this connection between the birth of her son and the coming of the Messianic King.
- Then we see a shift in the next part of 1 Samuel 2. There is the contrast between Samuel and the sons of Eli, Samuel and the family of Hanna and the sons of Eli. This ends, it culminates, with two prophetic announcements:
- one by an unnamed man of God at the end of 1 Samuel 2, saying that the whole house of Eli is going to be destroyed,
- then it is confirmed as God gives a prophetic revelation to Samuel in 1 Samuel 2.
Samuel becomes a central person here. As we saw in this outline, God (Yahweh) is orchestrating the collapse of the old order. We looked at 1 Samuel 4, where Yahweh causes Israel to be defeated and allows the Ark to be captured—to demonstrate His sovereignty over the enemies of Israel and their gods.
So that is part of what He is going to do. God multitasks. He does not just do one thing. And the same thing is true in our lives. He will let us go through some situation. He is going to accomplish five things:
- He is going to both straighten out a problem.
- He is going to enable us to grow and come to a greater understanding of His grace.
- He is going to demonstrate that He is more powerful than the enemies of Israel and their gods.
- In turn He will cleanse the corruption of the priesthood.
- He is teaching Israel to trust in Him alone.
This has got to be the hardest lesson for Christians to understand. I have been teaching this and referring to this in 1 Peter on Thursday nights, teaching it some as we are going through Samuel. We will be hitting it in some ways this coming Sunday. It is interesting how this week everything complements each other.
I am coming to understand that we are to trust God exclusively. What that means is that God is sufficient. His grace is sufficient. His power is sufficient. The Word is sufficient. The Cross is sufficient.
Everybody nods their heads and says “amen” when you say those phrases, but when you start talking about what that actually means in facing day-to-day traumas, challenges, and issues, people then go, “Well, wait a minute. I do not agree with that.” That is why you are not being very effective in your Christian life.
That is exactly what we are going to see on Sunday morning when the apostles fail after many successful times of casting demons out. They fail, and they fail miserably. We will discover the problem is that they have quit thinking in terms of the sufficiency of Christ’s power and trusting in Him. This is what happens in people’s lives.
In 1 Samuel 4 we saw the capture of the Ark. In this next section in 1 Samuel 5, we are going to see how God is establishing the means for delivering Israel. That takes us down through the end of 1 Samuel 6.
As we look at this, just a reminder of Samuel. Samuel is such a pivotal person. He is critical to understand what is taking place in this transition period in Israel.
He is the first real national prophet to show up on the scene since Moses.
We had Deborah, who is classified as a prophetess. I really think that that refers to something else. You have several women mentioned as prophetesses in the Old Testament, and with the exception of one, it is always followed by a hymn that they wrote.
That word “prophet” we will study more when we get into 1 Samuel 9–10, but in 1 Chronicles it talks about those who prophesied with the lyre and the harp and the musical instruments. The word “prophet” is used in some unusual situations where it refers to singing hymns. It refers to what we might normally refer to as worship.
Often we take words and we pigeonhole them into one area or another. We think a prophet is someone who foretells the future. That was only a secondary aspect of the gift of a nabi, a prophet.
The nevi’im were really the prosecuting attorneys for God to address the nation’s failures to obey the Law. Since the consequences of that failure would come in the future, they would foretell the future judgments. That is how we come to think of prophets as those who were telling the future.
But their primary function was to challenge the people in light of the Law of God. There seems to be another use of that word. We will get into that later.
There is Merriam. There is Hanna. There are a couple of other women whom it seems their gift of being a prophetess had to do more with music and the writing of divinely inspired hymns, than it had to do with functioning in the same way that Moses and Samuel did.
There were others like Joshua, who perhaps had a gift of prophecy. You had the unnamed man of God in 1 Samuel 2, who is clearly a prophet.
But someone who has a national stage, a leader of the nation as a prophet? Samuel is the first one on the scene since Moses.
If you remember, we have studied this on Sunday mornings the past couple of weeks. In Deuteronomy 18:15 Moses predicted that there would come “a prophet like me”. That is taken by New Testament writers to be a messianic prophecy.
When you think about who Moses was, he was the Law giver. That would be part of it. He served as a prophet. He served as a Law giver. He is also from the tribe of Levi. He was a priest.
But the other thing that distinguished Moses from all of the other prophets is that Moses spoke with God face to face. No one else spoke with God face to face. This is what makes him distinct.
Samuel is not a prophet like Moses. He does not give the Law. He does not interpret the Law. We do not see that fulfilled until Jesus comes along. He is Prophet, Priest, and King, Matthew 5–7. He interprets the Law for the people, which is in the role of Moses. He, of course, has a face-to-face relationship with the Father, which distinguishes Him. He is going to be the future King. He is the Son of David, the future King. His role as prophet is important.
As I pointed out, Samuel is a judge also. He has a political leadership role. He is a priest, but he is not at the same level as Moses, but he is the most significant one to come along. He is going to establish a new role for the prophet. I pointed this out Sunday morning—that he is going to be the predecessor to a king. From now on, before any king is anointed, he will always be anointed by a prophet.
This is important because it shows that the king is not a law unto himself. The king is under the Law. The king represented the highest form of civil authority in the land. He is under the Law, and the Law is given by God. He is under the authority of God. He is not a law unto himself. He is put in his position as civil authority in order to serve God.
As we get into the next few chapters, we are going to see the development in these chapters of a biblical view of leadership, of political leadership, of civil leadership. This culminates in a great indictment of a strong federal head type of government in 1 Samuel 8.
The understanding of these chapters, as well as certain other chapters in the Torah, was fundamental in the development of English political theory in the period following the Reformation. It took a while to develop things, but by the end of the 1500s as you move into the 1600s, a group developed within the English ecclesiastical system that was running counter to the Anglican Church.
They wanted a more pure form of biblical teaching and less of an emphasis on the rituals of Roman Catholicism because they wanted to purify the worship in the church and get rid of the various manifestations of Roman Catholicism, like Christ [still] on the Cross, the paintings, all of these other things, and just have a more simplified service. They were called Puritans.
The Puritans were a fun-loving people. They loved games. They brewed beer. They had a great time. They had a zest for living because that came from the Word of God.
Most people today in Western civilization have a wrong view of the Puritans. What they think of as a Puritan was really a Victorian. This was what characterized British evangelicalism in the 19th century—how they redefined Christianity in different groups. It involved a lot more legalism. But the Puritans were not that way.
The Puritans were struggling with a group of leaders, James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England, and his son Charles I, and their assertion of a doctrine called the Divine Right of Monarchy. Of course this led to a tremendous conflict between parliament and the king because the vast majority in parliament were Puritans.
They believed that the power, the authority of the king, was not infinite. It was not absolute. It was to be restrained by the law. This led to the writing of a book by Samuel Rutherford in 1644 called Lex Rex. That is Latin for The Law is King. This developed from their understanding of the Scripture. The king is under the law.
This is exactly what we are seeing with Samuel. He is the prophet of God. When the king shows up, which will be Saul, Saul will be under the authority of the prophet, under the authority of the Law.
This is what developed into British understanding of law and the rule of law. You will hear a lot of that today. We talk about how it seems like the Supreme Court, the Congress, the President, have all lost their understanding of the rule of law—that the Constitution is the law of the land and everyone is under the authority of the law.
That is what has happened. When we slip into more relativism, you lose a sense of any kind of ultimate rule book. How would that look if you lost the rule book in the NFL, or in major league baseball? People want the rules followed stringently when it comes to their sports. But when it comes to the law of the land, they want to make all kinds of exceptions. They want to change everything. They do not even want to read the rule book, and most of the time they do not.
This political theory is laid down in the Scripture. This is what impacted, especially the British Empire. They exported this kind of thinking through their armies in their conquest of the colonies of America, Canada, Australia, India, Africa, China, and that was responsible for taking the gospel to millions and millions of people.
There are a lot of things that did not go right in their empire. There were things where they made mistakes, but the greatest thing about the British Empire was that it took the gospel throughout the world. Millions were saved because of that. That does not mean everything they did was right, but that was how God used the British Empire.
The reason I am making all of these different points is that we have to understand the nature of slavery and the nature of freedom.
What we see in Israel is that they really had a great system of freedom under the Mosaic Law, but they rejected it. As a result of rejecting it and getting involved in idolatry, God allowed them to succumb to the defeat of foreign powers. That is the whole story of the book of Judges under the authority of the Philistines.
The core problem is a spiritual problem. The core problem that we face today is a spiritual problem. It does not mean that we ignore political involvement. Sometimes you have people like John Nelson Darby, who is the founder of dispensational theology. He thought that it was a sin for anybody to even vote.
But see, we have to think a little bit more precisely about politics. Politics basically develops when you get a group of 10–20 families together and they establish a village. Then they have to think about things like:
- Who is going to take care of the sanitation?
- Who is go to pick up the garbage?
- Who is going to provide the utilities?
- Who is going to take care of policing things?
- Who is going to pick up the trash and keep the streets clean?
All these kind of things the 15–20 families have to chose somebody or a group of people who are going to take care of those things. That is politics at the basic level. To eschew that as being somehow wrong is to plunge a society into basic disorder and confusion. God is not a god of confusion or a god of disorder.
But once you get away from the Scripture, which provides the ultimate framework, and you reject that, the only solution is to look to yourselves as the ultimate source of any kind of criteria. This is what happened during the period of the judges.
What happens now at the end of this period, is that God is going to really bring this judgment upon them. They are going to be defeated militarily. They have been defeated many times. That is what the book of Judges covers. But at this point, they are going to be defeated at the Battle of Aphek, and the Ark of the Covenant was captured.
This is critical because the Ark of the Covenant is the visible representation of the Presence of God among the people. It is the sign of the fact that God has entered into a personal covenant with Israel.
What is inside the box? What is inside the box is a record of the covenant that God made with Moses, the tablets of the Ten Commandments. That is why it is called the Ark of the Testimony. This is the legal repository.
If you go buy a house you are going to buy it and sign a deed. What happens to that deed? A copy gets put on file down at City Hall, and you get a copy. What happened in the ancient world when you had a covenant with God, one copy goes into the temple and the other copy is available to the people. That is what has happened here. God’s copy of the covenant is inside the Ark. The Ark has been captured. God’s been defeated.
We cannot imagine the psychological and spiritual level of defeat and despair that ran through Israel at this time. I think that it is a lot like we find with some Christians today. They are not really trusting God. They do not know the Bible. They do not know how God works in people’s lives. They do not give enough attention to prayer.
I ran across a story the other day of a man who was being given a tour. A visitor from America went over to England. He met Charles Spurgeon, who is considered the prince of British preachers in the Victorian period. Spurgeon is taking him around the church and showing him everything. He took him down in the basement and said, “well, I am going to show you the boiler room.” The man said, “the boiler room? Why do I need to see the boiler room?”
Spurgeon said, “the boiler room is what keeps everything in the church working.” He opened the door to the boiler room, and there were 300 people there who were in prayer and prayed around the clock. There was always a prayer meeting going. Spurgeon said this is a heart of what keeps this church going. It is those who are in prayer, those who are trusting God for everything.
What has happened is that God has been removed. The Ark of the Covenant has been captured. It has now been taken into possession by the Philistines. The Israelites are in tremendous shock. They go into about a 20-year “Dark Ages” at this point.
They are almost at the very bottom of the Old Testament experience except for the time when they are defeated by the Assyrians and the Babylonians later.
As I pointed out last time, what we see with the Ark of the Covenant is that it is basically a box.
The word for “ark” means a box. It is a box that is made of acacia wood, which is one of the hardest woods, and it is least destroyed. It is not going to rot. It is not going to be penetrated by termites and bugs and other things. It is going to firm up the hardness. The impermeability of the acacia wood is used to symbolize the perfection of the humanity of Jesus Christ. The pure gold represents His undiminished deity. The whole of the Ark of the Covenant is the picture of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Inside of the Ark are the Ten Commandments, the sin of man that has broken the Law of God. The solid gold lid that is placed on the top represents the Mercy Seat.
That is what this is called—the Mercy Seat. Paul refers to this in Romans 3:24–26 when he says that we have been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood.”
The Greek word there, HILASTERION, refers to the Mercy Seat. That is where propitiation took place.
Last week when I taught on this, it was the eve of Yom Kippur. We are now in Succoth, which pictures the Millennium. But what would happen on Yom Kippur is the high priest would take the blood from one of the goats that had been sacrificed. The scapegoat was taken out into the wilderness. The high priest would put the blood on the Mercy Seat and the cherubim, the two angels, would look at the blood.
These cherubs are always associated with the holiness and righteousness of God. It is a picture of God’s holiness and righteousness being satisfied. That is what happened on the Cross.
The Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant is a picture of how God will be satisfied through the death of Christ on the Cross, the payment for sin. The Ark is extremely significant because it is through the death of Christ that something happens.
Galatians 5:1. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Real freedom starts at the Cross. There can be other levels of freedom, other types of freedom, but I am always reminded, when I speak of this, of the confrontation in John 8 between the Pharisees and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ says if they would listen to Him that they would know the truth. That is the truth about Him, the truth of God’s Word. And then the truth would set them free. They are all offended because they say, “Well, we are free.” He said no you are not. You are not free for a number of reasons. You are not free because you are under a legalistic system that has perverted the Law of Moses. You have become enslaved to religion. Religion in the Old Testament is the source of evil.
Read through Kings and Chronicles sometime. What you will get is this drumbeat over and over and over and over again about some king did evil in the sight of Yahweh. They worship the Baalim and the Asherim. They worshiped in the high places. They worshiped the idols. Evil in the Old Testament is defined again and again as idolatry. That is evil.
Evil is being involved in a religious system that may have high morals. It may be involved with wonderful people that may do all kinds of wonderful things, but because it denies the truth of the gospel it is evil because it is not giving people the truth—that by faith alone in Christ alone you can have eternal life.
It is evil because it is allowing people to go to the Lake of Fire. It is not giving them the solution. It is like those on the Titanic going down. Nobody would throw any life jackets to anybody, or launch any lifeboats to save anybody. That is real evil. That is the Bible’s view of religion.
Christianity and the Old Testament Judaism, biblical Judaism, was a relationship with God based upon His grace. Jesus Christ gives us freedom. Once we understand freedom spiritually, then we can begin to understand freedom socially and politically.
Ultimately, it has got to be grounded in that understanding of what happens, that transaction on the Cross, when the certificate of our debt was nailed on the Cross, and we are set free from sin. That is the foundation.
When we live in a system of moral relativism, there is no sin. This is what happened in Israel. There was no sin. We saw that when there is no sin, when there are no absolutes, there is no sin. What you have is a perverted priesthood, a corrupt priesthood, where the priests are perverting the women who are serving in the temple. These women are now being forced into religious prostitution. Women were abused in that system.
- Women were abused at that time.
- You see a breakdown of the family.
- You see a breakdown of economics.
- You see a breakdown of the priesthood.
- You see a breakdown of leadership.
- Then the country is overrun and oppressed by the Philistines.
The bottom line is: If you do not get right spiritually, you are never going to be able to recover.
When God is defeated at Aphek, He is not really defeated. This is part of God’s strategy—to wake the nation up to the fact that they need to get right with Him first before they can go forward. That is a message that resonates with many of us individually and with this nation specifically. If we are ever going to recover to where God blesses this nation, there is going to have to be a spiritual renewal at the very heart of it, a return to the truth of the Word of God, and a return to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is what God is doing through this defeat. It is to go through a process that is horrible if you were a Jew when you were experiencing it, but God is going to use that eventually to turn them back to Himself.
In 1 Samuel 5:1, we read that the Philistines took the Ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. When the Philistines took the Ark of God they brought it into the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon.
What we see here in 1 Samuel 5 is that the scene now shifts from Shiloh. It went to Shiloh, then to Aphek, and now to enemy territory. God has now been captured by the enemy. He is inside enemy territory. He is inside the pagan temple.
Remember, the Old Testament in Deuteronomy (and Paul does the same thing in 1 Corinthians 10), says that the idols of the Gentiles are demons—that Satan is behind all of the false religions. You can think about them. We saw one all last week on television. There are many others.
Behind every false religion, anything other than biblical Christianity, there is demonism. We live in a world that is not restricted to what we experience with our senses. But there is a spiritual conflict, an angelic conflict, that takes place behind the scenes. That is going to be part of what we look at when we come to our passage Sunday in Matthew.
There is going to be a spiritual battle take place here in the temple of Dagon. The Philistines have now captured God, thinking they have defeated Him and thinking they can control the God of Israel. Instead, God is going to bring them under severe judgment. It is going to be a little amusing from our perspective, but from their perspective, it would have been quite miserable.
As we look at the Philistines, just to remind you, they were originally the group that came out of Kaftor and Crete:
- They were called the sea peoples.
- They established fortress cities along the coastal plan of Canaan.
- The five main cities were: Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza.
Some of those names sound very familiar because there are cities in those locations still. The Gaza Strip, Gaza City is in the Gaza Strip. Ashdod is in Israel just north of the Gaza Strip. Frequently, when Hamas fires rockets into Israel, they will fire them at Ashdod. It is within 10 miles or less than that of the border with Gaza. Ashkelon is very close there as well. We are not sure where Gath was located. We think we do. Ekron would be in what is now Israel’s territory.
The Philistines in their initial approach to colonize this area are mentioned during the time of Abraham. We remember the episodes with Abimelech—Abraham going to stay with Abimelech and lying about Sarah his wife, saying she is his sister, which is a half truth because she was his half-sister.
Abimelech is warned by God, and then Abimelech comes down on Abraham. Abraham also entered into a covenant with Abimelech. It had to do with the water wells at a place called Beersheba, which is the place of the seven wells. Some of you have been there with me in Israel.
That was the early incursion. There was a later incursion in Judges. We hear of Shamgar defeating the Philistines in Judges 3:31.
But the real troublemaker with the Philistines was Samson. Just a reminder—Samson is mentioned in Hebrews 11. We know that at some point Samson trusted God because it says so “by faith.” Hebrews 11 lists Gideon, Jephthah, Deborah, Barak, and Samson. But Samson probably trusted God only at the very end of his life. But for most of his life, when you read Judges, he is not in obedience to God. He is a rabble rouser.
I do not know about you, but I grew up listening to my mother read me stories from Hurlbut’s Stories of the Bible by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut. It was a big book and it had nice pictures in it. It told a story and you think, oh, this Samson is just really great! The reason Samson lost his power was he broke his Nazarite vow because he got a haircut.
The trouble is he had broken his vow again and again and again. Samson was not supposed to touch anything related to grapes. He was not supposed to go near a grape or a grapevine or wine. Yet, he does that on a couple of occasions. He is not supposed to touch a dead body.
We all know the story about how he singlehandedly killed a lion. But Samson went back to the carcass of the lion, a dead thing, which he is not supposed to touch. The bees have developed a honeycomb inside that carcass. He reaches inside that carcass to get the honey. Samson defiled himself there.
He marries a Philistine in violation of the Law. He deserts her. She gets turned back and married to somebody else. It is just a mess. He is a womanizer. He is rebellious against his parents. He violates his Nazarite vow every time he can turn around.
Finally God says this is it. I am going to end this whole travesty here. But God is going to use it. God is multitasking. When Samson gives up that his secret is his hair to Delilah, they cut his hair.
God finally judges him. He has been extending grace all through this time. God is going to discipline Samson. He is going to lose his power. He gets arrested by the Philistines and thrown in jail. They put out his eyes, and at the end he is going to pray to God to give him the strength one more time to bring Dagon’s house down.
The Philistines still do not get the message that the God of Israel is greater than their god Dagon. The Philistines are going to come back and place the Ark of God in another Dagon temple in Ashdod to indicate that God is a servant of Dagon, that Dagon has defeated Him and now God is his personal slave.
The Philistines ultimately will not be defeated until David defeats them in 2 Samuel 21. With this defeat at Aphek, what we now see is Israel has reached a place where they have become slaves to this pagan power.
The analogy there in terms of the Christian life is that often when we reject God, and we make idols out of the details of life, the world around us, and the lust of our flesh, then what happens is God gives us over to the power of our sin nature. We re-enslave ourselves to the power of the sin nature. There are some lessons we have to learn. One is that if we are going to recover, we are going to have to get right with the Lord again. That begins with confession of sin.
What happens with the Philistines is they mirror a technique that is used by tyrants down through the ages in order to keep people under control and to keep them subservient. They practice an early form of disarmament.
This is seen in 1 Samuel 13:19. We have seen other examples of disarmament. You have Adonibezek back in Judges 1:1–7. After they defeated him, what did they do to disarm him? They cut off his fingers, thumb, and big toe. That was disarmament.
It is hard to throw a spear or hold a sword when you do not have a thumb. It is hard to run after your enemy if you cannot keep your balance because you do not have big toes. This was one practiced in the ancient world.
It is practiced today. This is why there is such a battle. It has been going on for the last 50–60 years against the Second Amendment. Once you disarm a citizenry, then the tyrants can do whatever they wish.
In fact, what we learn from this example in Scripture is citizens need to be able to defend themselves against government. The government should not have weapons that the citizens do not have or be able to defend. Now we have all types of helicopters, missiles, and all kinds of things. It is difficult to let every citizen have whatever they can to defend themselves against the government. We are greatly outnumbered if the tyrants want to defeat us.
You will hear a lot of conservatives and other pro-Second Amendment types beat their chest and say, “well we are going to fight back.” No, you will not. I do not think we will because the government has got us greatly outnumbered and out armed. People will be quickly herded into camps or whatever.
The idea that we are in the old west and we can fight back is just a fantasy. We do not have the kind of weapons the military has. We do not have fully automatic weapons. We do not have hand grenades. We do not have all these other things that the military has. It is going to be easy to dominate the citizenry.
The Philistines come along. They take the Ark. They are bringing it back to Ashdod. What God is doing at this point is saying to Israel, you have succumbed to pagan thought for the last 20–30 years in this recent cycle. You have been succumbing to pagan thought again and again since the time of Deborah and Barak. You have constantly been compromising. Now that you have compromised with the fertility gods and goddesses of the Philistines, I am going to let you be defeated by them, and let you attempt to assimilate to their culture. You are going to get a real taste of what it is to be a slave and to be dominated by a foreign power. God is using these unbelievers as a tool to discipline Israel.
In doing so, it appears that God has been defeated. The people are in despair. They wonder how in the world they are ever going to have victory. There are a lot of people that wonder that today even in our own political system.
What we have to remember is that whatever the problems are that we face, whether they are personal problems, we have a lot of problems, because we are corrupt fallen sinners. We have problems with our emotions. Our sin nature frequently influences us in the direction of anger, bitterness, resentment, worry, anxiety, depression. And all of these things flow out of our sin nature. We struggle with those things. We are supposed to struggle with them.
It is not easy in the Christian way of life, but we do have victory because we have the Holy Spirit. We have the Word of God and the promise of victory. We can actually see things change even though it is difficult, even though it is a battle.
Too often today people opt out for quick-fix solutions. What that does is short circuit God’s grace and His power. God is trying to do the same thing with them as He does with us to teach us to rely upon Him and not on something else.
We also have people who struggle with other problems, such as sexual identity. You talk to somebody who has problems because they are attracted to someone of the same sex. They feel like this is an irreversible condition. You talk to them and they say “I was born this way. I have always been this way.” But God says that this is not the case. This is a result of volition and if you get right with God, if you walk with Him, this can change. He changes it.
There are hundreds and thousands of Christians who have seen God work in miraculous ways in changing them because they fall in love with the Savior. They fall in love with the Word of God. They walk by the Spirit. God changes the desires of their heart.
We have problems with addictions, which we used to just call bad habits. We have bad habits of thinking. We have bad habits of doing. God says He can replace those bad habits with the good habits and the discipline that comes as self-mastery that is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
We are always reminded that it does not matter how badly we fail. It does not matter how badly Israel failed. God’s grace was always there to help them recover. God always met them where they were.
He meets us where we are. He is not saying, “Well, you have to fix all these things you just screwed up. Then I will give you a little more grace.” He meets us where we are. That is what God’s grace is. It is always sufficient. The Word of God is always sufficient. The Cross of Christ is always sufficient because Christ paid the penalty for every sin at the Cross. We see these lessons emphasized here.
In these next five verses, what we see is that God is superior to all religious and political systems, 1 Samuel 5:1–5.
First we see an emphasis here on the faithfulness of God. That is foundational. The sufficiency of God’s grace and His power and the faithfulness are foundational to everything else that we believe in the Christian life. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
The God who delivered Israel at the Exodus is the same God that can deliver you and me from whatever is oppressing us. The Jesus who cast demons out during the incarnation is the same Christ that has the same power to give us victory over whatever we are struggling with today. That has not changed. We have to understand the faithfulness of God. We see an example of this here in four ways:
- God shows that He is faithful to the Abrahamic Covenant in what happens in this next section. He is going to curse those who curse Israel. He is going to bring judgment. Even though He used the Philistines to bring judgment on Israel because they do it in a hostile way, they do it the wrong way. They think that it is their power that has done it, their god that has done it, rather than God. He is going to curse them.
- He, Yahweh, is superior to the Philistines’ gods. The Philistines’ gods had nothing to do with the victory of the Philistines at Aphek. The problem is that Israel has turned her back on the God of the Bible. The problem always comes down to sin. It is not chemistry. It is not electrons that do not fire. It is not nerves that are not working. It is sin. We live in a culture today that wants to blame everything in the world other than the sin nature. If you are not starting with that problem, then you are never going to have freedom with whatever the issues are.
- God is going to show that He is superior to the Philistines themselves. He is going to really run rampant through their culture.
- God is in complete control of history. Israel does not think that God is in control. They think that God has been defeated and that God is ignoring them, but He is showing that He is in great control of history.
The Israelites were defeated by the Philistines because of their spiritual condition. We are going to see that the Apostles are not able to cast the demon out of this epileptic boy, who is not really epileptic. That is the translation. He is really being oppressed by a demon, if not indwelt by a demon. The Apostles fail miserably because they do not trust God. That is the bottom line. We have to trust God.
The Israelites were trying to win the battle through their own efforts, through human viewpoint thinking and human viewpoint methodology. But God is going to give them a lesson that it does not matter how powerful they are, how skilled they are. It does not matter what their technology is. That is not why they lost.
They did not lose because they had bad technology. They did not lose because they had bad military leadership. They did not lose because they were not in good enough shape. They lost because they trusted the wrong thing. God has to make that point.
That is the same thing we have to learn. When we feel that God has let us down at certain times, and that the Word of God just does not work. I have heard people say, “Well, doctrine just does not work for me.”
I told a story a few weeks ago about a deacon’s wife who finally made it really clear. The reason she could deal with the problems in her life is that she went through psychotherapy. Oh, so Bible doctrine does not work. Light bulbs went off. Everybody realized what the issue was.
You are not really in love with the God of grace, the God of the Bible.
That is because you have made God some sort of academic exercise. There is no problem that we face that is too great for the power of God and the Word of God. We need to quit looking for solutions somewhere else.
This brings us to the fact that God is superior to all these religious and political systems.
We will start with 1 Samuel 5:1 next time. It is one of the more humorous studies. Think about this. You ought to read this. You ought to be reading ahead as we go through this to get a good grasp of what is happening.
This is one of the most significant sections of Scripture dealing with political theory. Since we are in the political season leading up to the election next year, we are going to learn some important lessons.
We are going to learn how bad “bad leadership” can be. Saul demonstrates that. We are going to see what the essence of good leadership is when we come to David toward the end of the study of 1 Samuel.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study Your Word, to be reminded even when we appear too defeated in our Christian life, you are never defeated. Your power is never diminished. The only thing that causes problems for us is our own sin nature, our own volition, our own failure to trust You, our own failure to rely upon Your Word and make it the center of peace and the center focus of our lives.
That as Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Paul has been in situations where he has absolutely nothing, in times when he has a tremendous amount. What he was saying was that he could face any and every circumstance because his stability, his hope, his happiness, his joy was not dependent upon the details of life or circumstances. It was dependent upon his relationship with the God of the universe, the God who created the heavens and the earth and the seas and all that is in them. Only because of that he could have this great joy that he talks about in Philippians.
Father, we pray that You would challenge us in our own spiritual lives to focus upon You and focus upon Your Word, to make it a greater reality in our lives. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”