I Samuel 4 – Why Didn’t I Just Ask?

Losing is not fun!

Samuel is growing into a young man and moving closer to assuming leadership in Israel as a Judge, (Israel was led by “Judges” during this era before the era of Kings. See book of Judges). Eli is the current Judge and his wicked two sons are the priests. The Philistines are introduced to the narrative in I Samuel 4 and Israel (somewhat arrogantly) goes into battle with them. They are handily defeated in battle losing 4000 men. The elders gather and ask themselves “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines?” V3. This is what is called a “high view of God’s Sovereignty.” To attribute to God the effect of the outcome of a situation rather than to general circumstances that God simply allows.  An interesting topic but not the main lesson in this passage.

The lucky charm

The more important lesson for me is ‘why didn’t they seek God and ask HIM rather than reason about it among themselves?’ This was a time when intimacy with God was absent. Remember in 3:1 it says, “and the word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were infrequent.” This was a time when they believed in God, His power and His Sovereignty but they were not close to God and God was not close to them. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to Him” – this was absent. Eli was old and disconnected and his sons, the priests, were evil, indulgent and immoral. As the leaders go, so go the nation (or the church). So, defeat has happened and they reason among themselves rather than seeking God. Unfortunately, I can relate. Embarrassing to say but sometimes true. Often, I fret rather than pray. I reason rather than seek. I determine my plan without surrendering all to God. The Israelites, on their own, decided to take the Ark of the covenant with them to battle. It represented the presence of God. Vs 3b says, “Let us take to ourselves…the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.” They considered the Ark a kind of lucky charm. It’s in our nature to attach the presence of God to an earthly object – such as a cross, or holy water or a prayer cloth or a cathedral, etc. These pseudo representations of God’s presence can often serve as a distraction for us to really seek the presence of God through pouring over His Word and deep soul searching prayer and meditation….. Seeking the blessings and guidance of God with all your heart!!!


So, the Israelites take their lucky charm and go back into battle and experience a massacre. The sons of Eli are killed, the Ark is stolen and Eli falls over dead when he hears the news. Shortly after, one of Eli’s daughters-in-law gave birth to a son. Considering her husband and father-in-law were dead, and the ark was captured, she named her son “Ichabod” meaning “the glory has departed. The glory of God has departed Israel. Perhaps the people have hit rock bottom and are ready to follow a new leader and renew their relationship with God? Lord, may I NOT take the grace and blessings You give me for granted. May I seek You prayerfully always throughout the day and never depend on my own confidence or my own reasoning. May I “humble myself under your mighty hand and allow You to exalt me when You see fit.” Amen!