No Substitute!

1 Samuel 4:3 – When the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Why has Yahweh struck us today before the Philistines? Let us get the ark of the covenant of Yahweh out of Shiloh to us, that it may come among us, and save us out of the hand of our enemies.

In the time of Eli’s high priesthood and the early ministry of Samuel, Israel was at war with the Philistines.  As this verse shows, they had gone out to fight against Philistia and the Lord had struck them before their enemies. 

Yet rather than seek the Lord as to why he had struck them, they decided to fetch the Ark of the Covenant and take it into battle with them.  Eli, the high priest, should never have allowed the Ark to go out under such conditions.  Not only this, but it was Eli’s two wicked priestly sons, Phinehas and Hophni, who accompanied the ark as it went into battle.  Yet again Israel was struck, but this time the ark was taken by the Philistines and the priests were slaughtered. 

There is a message for us in this story.  The Lord made it clear to Israel that if they disobeyed his commands and walked away from His paths, then they would not be able to stand against their enemies.  Israel tried to use the Ark of the Covenant as some kind of magic device that would win the battle for them, without them having to address or think about why the Lord struck them in the first place. 

There is blessing in living a holy life before God.  There are also consequences for Christians if we should stray from the path.  Unrighteous living will produce fruit that we will have to deal with. The ark of God is comparable to the Spirit of God that lives inside each Christian.  We may pray into our situations and ask God to move on our behalf, but if we persist in unrighteous living, our prayers will be to no avail. 

Today, ask the Lord to show you if there is any wayward way within your heart.  Ask for His forgiveness and resolve to do what is right.  When we confess our sin to the Lord, he is faithful to forgive and cleanse us, and it is in that place that our prayers become powerful and effective.

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