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A Heart for God

Only God Can Save You

May 30, 2021

Scripture: 1 Samuel 4:1b-11

I. You need to put your trust in God, not in religious good-luck charms. A. 1 Samuel 4:1 we read about how the Israelites go out to fight the Philistines. And who won according to vs. 2? “Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle.” How could this be? Isn’t Israel God’s chosen people? Who do the elders hold responsible for Israel’s defeat (vs. 3)? The LORD. The real reason for their defeat is found in Leviticus 26:17 where God promises to punish Israel if the nation disobeyed Him: “I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.

B. Notice, however, what the elders expected to save them. It is not God who will save them. Verse 3 says that “IT may come among us and save us.” And what is it? The gold box of the Ark of the Covenant. This good-luck charm would save the nation in the next battle with the Philistines. Can you see what Israel is assuming here? “If we bring the ark into battle, God will be forced to save us in order to protect His honor. If something were to happen to the ark, that would make God look like a loser. God’s not going to let that happen. He has to save us now!”

C. We see what happens when you try to use God for your own purposes in vs. 10-11. Israel was defeated in battle. Again. They went into battle without the ark the first time, and they lost. Now, they go into battle with the ark, and they still lose. God would rather suffer shame than allow you to carry on a fake relationship with Him that is built on using Him for your own purposes. And God will allow you to be disappointed with Him if it will wake you up to who He truly is.

II. You need to remember that God always acts for the glory of His name.

A. In everything God does, He acts with two purposes in mind. He acts for the glory of His name. And He acts for the good of His people. How was God acting for His glory in the lives of the Philistines in this story? What I find interesting in verses 7-8 is that the Philistines know God better than the Israelites do! The Israelites think the Philistines should be afraid because of their box. But what are the Philistines actually afraid of? God! The Philistines were afraid that God was about to perform a repeat of His mighty deeds on the Egyptians. The Philistines then gave glory to God for His power and love for Israel. Meanwhile, Israel was giving glory to a box.

B. We see another way that God was acting for the glory of His name in vs. 4. Israel’s main focus was on getting the ark to the battle to save them. But God’s main focus was to get Hophni and Phinehas to the battle to judge them and put them to death (see 1 Samuel 2:25). On this day when Hophni and Phinehas died God was protecting His own glory and beginning to restore it. He had by His grace removed these two false shepherds who had mocked His name and led His people astray. And now God was raising up a leader Samuel who had a heart for God.

Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore… by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”     

The book of 1 Samuel
Commentaries on 1 Samuel by Robert Bergen, Dale Davis and Tim Chester    

Sermon Discussion Questions

1) How seriously are you taking God? Does God hold more weight to you than other things in this life?

2) Israel tried to twist God’s arm by bringing the ark to the battle. Can you think of other biblical examples of trying to put pressure on God? Have you ever tried to twist God’s arm in some way?

3) How did God act in both judgment and grace in putting Hophni and Phinehas to death? How did God act in both judgment and grace in putting Jesus to death?