Is there something in your life that’s keeping you from being everything God designed you to be? Something holding you back from being part of everything He built you for? And how do you know? How do you identify those things that are tripping you up and holding you back? Join us this weekend as we explore the answer to that so-important question in the book of 1 Samuel.
1 Samuel 4:1-11
We’re starting a short, two-week series on a powerful story from the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. It’s powerful because it can help us identify those things that are holding us back from really becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission. And our prayer is that God will use it in your life to do just that.
Craig: Well, welcome to Mission Hill, so glad you’re here at all of our locations, our campuses, our microsites, as well as if you’re joining us from Church Online from somewhere in the world. Just really honored you’d spend a little time gathering together with us today. We are gonna be launching a new series today. Kind of a miniseries honestly, just two weeks on one of my favorite stories from the Bible. I just need to be honest with you right now, though, and tell you, it’s not my favorite story because it’s a whole lot of fun. It’s my favorite story because God’s just used it really consistently in my life to help me kind of take the next step forward in becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission. That’s what we’re all about at Mission Hills, helping people become like Jesus and joining him on mission. But if you’re like me, I think all of us are kind of in the same place. There are often things that keep us from doing that. Things that hinder us, that hold us back, that kinda trip us up. And what God has done consistently in my life through this particular story is sort of helped me identify those things that are holding me back or tripping me up and then help me move forward. Sometimes, you know, sometimes we already know what the things are and we just kinda need somebody to light a fire under us who will do something about them. Sometimes that we’re not quite sure what they are, and this story both lights a fire under us but also gives us some really practical ways to identify those things that are holding us back or tripping us up. So I’m confident guys are gonna use it in your life in that way.
So why don’t you go and grab a Bible and start making your way to the book of 1st Samuel Chapter 4. If you’re not quite sure where to find 1st Samuel, it’s here. I’ll give you a clue, if you come to 2nd Samuel, you’ve gone too far, you wanna back up and that’s probably enough. You’ll be able to find it. Feel free to use a table of contents. But 1st Samuel 4 begins this way, it says, “And Samuel’s word came to all Israel.” Now, Samuel was a prophet. Especially in the days before we had scripture, the Word of God primarily really only came through prophets, and so Samuel is one of those prophets. And so to say that Samuel’s word came to Israel really is to say that the Word of God through Samuel came to all Israel. You can read about Samuel’s calling as a prophet. It happened when he was a very young child. You can find about it in chapter 3 of 1st Samuel. But what’s happening here is that Samuel is all grown up and he’s been recognized as a prophet. He’s been recognized as somebody that God sends his word to his people through by all of Israel. That’s a really important thing to understand. Samuel’s grown up and he’s been…everybody is basically like, “Yeah, he’s legit. He’s an actual prophet of the Lord. The Word of God comes through him.” And I want you to file that fact away because it’s gonna become important in just a moment, that all of Israel sort of recognized him as a prophet.
The other thing I want you to understand though is that Samuel’s rise also signals a transition period for the Nation of Israel. Israel was between two different things. When God set Israel free from their slavery to Egypt, they were led by a man named Moses. Maybe you’ve heard of him, right? Well, when Moses died, he was led by…Israel, was led by a group of people called judges. In fact, there’s an entire book in the Bible dedicated to that time period, and it’s called the book of Judges. It didn’t go real well during that time period, and in fact, here’s what we see at the end of the book of Judges. We’re told this, “In those days, Israel had no king and everyone did as they saw fit.” And as Americans, we’re like, two thumbs up, right? Right. They were free to do whatever they wanted. You know, no government involvement, they just kind of all did their own thing. Well, honestly, that’s probably not the best way to run a nation. And so really the book of Judges, kind of details the decline of Israel, really their…kind of their decline into anarchy. And now as Samuel is raised up as a prophet, one of the things that God’s gonna use Samuel to do is to anoint a king over Israel.
And so Samuel kind of represents the transition from anarchy to a monarchy. Okay? And here’s why that’s important. Here’s something you need to understand about transitions. Not just in the Bible, but in all of our lives, transitions expose our weaknesses. Do you know that about transitions? They expose our weaknesses. So we can get really comfortable in one kind of way of doing things, and until we’re forced to transition, we can get pretty good at making it look like we’re actually better than we are because we just have gotten good at making sure that the weakness has never come out. But when we have a transition, suddenly those weaknesses come out. And so, right, you know, when you make a transition from being single to being in a relationship, it exposes our weaknesses when it comes to communication. Anybody have that experience? Right. When it was just me, when I was just single, I had no communication problems. And then I got into a relationship, and then I got married, and I was like, “Wow, I am not nearly as good at communication as I thought I was.” It exposed my weakness. When you make a transition from being childless to having children, exposes the fact that we’re actually a whole lot less patient and a lot more selfish than we thought we were up until that point.
When you make a transition from being, you know, a student to being an employee, then it certainly that can expose gaps in our education or in our skill set, right? You know, before you have a job, you’re like, “Hey, this whole job thing’s going to be super easy. I got my degree, I’m ready to go.” And then like they’re paying you to do it and you’re like, “They should not be paying me to do it. I do not know what I’m doing.” Right? It exposes those gaps. When you make a transition from being, you know, an employee to being a manager or a boss, that exposes gaps in our leadership ability. I remember when I was an associate pastor, I remember looking at the lead pastor and thinking like, “What is wrong with this guy?” Right? “He just needs to do this and this and this and we’ll be good to go. And then I became a lead pastor and I was like, “This and this and this is really hard and I’m not really good at making that happen.” And so I had to push into my leadership stuff. When I made the transition from a smaller church to Mission Hills, exposed new gaps in my leadership abilities.
Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the reality is that when transitions expose our weaknesses, that allows us to push into those areas that we need to grow. And so we can pray about them, we can develop growth plans around them. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a reality that transitions expose our weaknesses. Now, Israel is in a transition period. And we’ve already seen one of the weaknesses, everybody was kind of doing what was right in their own eyes, as they saw fit, and then they kind of descended it into anarchy. But as the story goes on, we’re gonna see another significant weakness that this transition was exposing. And so back to 1st Samuel Chapter 4, “Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines.” Those are traditional enemies of the Israelites. Now the Israelites camped at Ebenezer and the Philistines at Aphek.”
Did you hear that, Church? The Israelites camped at Ebenezer and the Philistines at Aphek. And everybody went, “So?” Right? Right? That’s actually maybe more significant than we think. Ebenezer means something like a stone of remembrance or a stone of commemoration, and the Israelites would build them at certain points in their journey with God. And really what they were doing was they were kind of building a monument to remind them that God has been faithful up to this point, which means that we can trust God’s faithfulness as we go forward, right? So looking back at what God has done to look forward to his faithfulness. So they’re camped at a stone of remembrance. At a place where they sort of commemorate God’s faithfulness.
Now Aphek in Hebrew means something like strength. So there’s kind of a battle being set up between the faithfulness of God and the strength of their enemies, the Philistines. Now, you don’t have to spend a lot of time in church to know how this should go, right? When the faithfulness of God comes against the strength of our enemies, who wins? God does, right? And so, verse 2, “The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated. Israel was defeated by the Philistines who killed about 4,000 of them on the battlefields.”
Now that’s not the way that story’s supposed to go. The faithfulness of God has come up against the strength of their enemies. The strength of the enemy should have failed at that moment. God should have defeated them. And that’s especially true because Israel had a covenant with God. A covenant is kinda like a formal agreement. When God led them out of Egypt, he entered into this kind of formal agreement. And God basically outlined, and he said, “Here’s all the things that I’ll do for you.” And there was a ton of stuff. It was crazy stuff. And he said to the Israelites, “I’m gonna do all these things. There’s just one thing that you’re supposed to do. Your part of the agreement is that you’re to be obedient. I’m gonna give you the Commandments and you’re gonna follow those Commandments, and that one little thing is gonna unlock all of these promises that I’m giving you as part of this agreement.”
And by the way, one of those promises, book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 7, “No one will be able to stand against you.” In other words, you’re gonna win all of your battles. That’s one of the many promises God gave. He said, “All that you have to do is be obedient to me.” You know, and I came out to my car this morning, you know, my car is a pretty good-sized object and it’s got all this power under the hood, all this engine, everything. And I got in and I pressed a little button to start, and absolutely nothing happened. And I realized it’s because I forgot the key fob. And so it’s amazing. I mean, I had this big car with all this power and energy, but I had to go and had to get this little thing that’s about like that big to unlock all that potential power there. Well, obedience was a little bit like that. It’s, “As long as you’re obedient, all these problems, including this one, you’ll never lose your battles. No one will be able to stand against you. That’s what I’ll do for you.” But here they’ve lost a battle.
Now, it doesn’t take a bible scholar to figure this one out, right? If God is big enough to defeat our enemies, and there’s no question about that, and he’s promised to be faithful to defeat our enemies as long as we’re obedient, if we don’t win our battle, that must mean we have an obedience problem, right? So what they should have done at that point is going, “We need to do an obedience audit. We need to kind of take stock. How have we gotten out from under God’s blessing. How have we began to live in such a way that we’re no longer having God fight for us? We’re actually fighting the battles on our own and then kind of looking over our shoulder going, “Where did he go?” It’s because we’re out there on our own. So they should have pulled into that kind of a conversation and investigation. But that’s not what happened. Here’s what happened, Verse 3.
“Now when the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord bring defeat on us today before the Philistines?” Now, that’s not a horrible question. They’re at least pointing in the right direction, right? I mean, they’re not asking the question, you know, “What was wrong with our battle strategy? What was wrong with our troop tactics?” They weren’t asking, you know, “Were our weapons not up to the task? Did we just not have good enough gear?” They’re asking a spiritual question, but I want you to notice the way that they asked the question, “Why did God do this to us basically?” They lost the battle and then they’re basically going, “Why did God do this to us?”
I don’t know if you’ve ever known anybody… I know you’ve never done this, none of you have ever done this, but maybe you’ve known somebody that’s found themselves in a very difficult place. They’ve experienced some very significant defeats or setbacks in their life. So they’re in a very hard place and you know…again, it’s somebody else, not you, but you know that it’s because of the decisions they made. You can see the string of them that led them into that place, and yet they get into that place where their decisions have led them, and then they kind of look up and they’re like, “God, what’s your problem? Well, why isn’t God doing what I need him to do? Why isn’t God showing up?” And that’s kind of what’s happening here. Why did God do this? Why did God bring defeat upon us?
Now, here’s the interesting thing about questions. Did you know that the kinds of questions we ask determine the kinds of answers we get? It’s true. The kinds of questions we ask determine the kinds of answers that we’ll get. I mean, I get this complaint from parents a fair amount. It’s about their teenagers. And one of the most common complaints I get is, you know, “My teenager just won’t communicate with me. They just won’t tell me what’s going on in their lives. They just won’t open up,” and you know, it’s I’ll go, “Well, you know, how do you try to start the conversation?” They go, “Well, I ask the same question every day.” I’m like, okay, “Problem number one. Maybe you’re starting to sound like a broken record, but what question do you ask?” And I so often get the same. I go, well, whenever they come home, I ask, you know, “How was your day?” And I’m like, “Just stop right now. I feel a prophetic word coming on, word of knowledge has come into my spirit that I can see the end. I think the answer you get day after day is fine.” Like, of course it’s fine, because you asked a question that could easily be answered with a one-word answer. Kinds of questions we ask determine the kinds of answers we’ll get.
We figured this out in my house a long time ago and so we stopped asking that question. We very rarely ask that question. We ask much more specific, and some of those weird questions, honestly. We’ll ask questions like, “Hey, what happened today that you can count as a win? What happened today that was most challenging? What happened today that surprised you? What did you learn today that you’re gonna like put into practice tomorrow?” That you can’t answer those questions with fine. They’ll try at first, by the way. If you try to make this shift in your parenting, you can be like, “What was, you know, what happened today that was a win for you? And they’ll be like, “Fine. Wait, wait, what did you ask? I don’t even,” right?
Sometimes at dinner, like we have guests over and we’ll have these kinds of conversations and people think we’re very strange. Because my kids get in on it, and sometimes the questions are weird. And we had some guests over a while ago and it was my youngest daughter’s chance to ask the question, and she goes, “Hey, so if you’re day to day was a fruit, what kind of fruit would it be and why?” And our guests were like, “What is wrong with you people?” But you know, you can’t answer that with a one-word answer. And so, here’s the thing, this is kind of a freebie actually. Your next breakthrough in life, your next breakthrough might be a better question. That might be the key that unlocks your next break. That’s a better question. Your next breakthrough as a husband or as a father, as a mom or as a wife, as a son or a daughter, as an employer or an employee, whatever it is, your next breakthrough in life might actually be asking a better question that leads to a different answer than the one that you’ve been giving or getting.
So they asked the question very specifically, “Why did God do this to us? What’s interesting is that by asking the question that way, they seem to lean towards an answer that’s like, “Well, here’s how we can make him do what we want him to do.” Check this out. They said, “Let us bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant from Shiloh.” That’s the town it was housed in. “Let us bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant from Shiloh so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” That’s an interesting thing to say. They say, “You know what we gotta do, we gotta bring the Ark. We gotta we gotta bring with…now, if you don’t know what the Ark is, let me catch you up real quick. The Ark was this very ornate box that God had had them make while they were in the desert moving into the Promised Land. And into the Ark went a couple of things. Number One, the Ten Commandments that Moses got on the mountain side. They were in there. It’s kind of a reminder of their part in the agreement., they were supposed to be obedient to that. The other thing that went in there was some of the manna, that’s bread like substance that fell from the heavens and it is what they were able to eat and sustain them during their journey through. That was a sign of God’s faithfulness. There was a rod, probably Aaron’s rod which Moses used to hold out over the Red Sea when it parted. So those were signs of God’s faithfulness, but there’s also a sign of sort of their part in it that unlocked all those promises. It was there in the Ark. And very often what would happen is when they would go into battle, they took the Ark with them. And the Ark itself was just a box. It was a symbol of God’s presence and of this covenant.
But what seems to have happened over time as they began to kind of confuse the symbol of God’s presence with the actuality of it, they began to think that the box itself contained God. Now you notice they said, “So let’s bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant so that he may go with us.” By the way, I used to be able to just say this and assume everybody knew what I was talking about. But now I have to say, if you’re old enough to remember “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” you know when they took the lid off and everybody’s faces melted, that’s the box we’re talking about. Okay? It was a symbol of God’s power, but it wasn’t God himself. But you notice they thought, “Well, let’s bring the box so that God will go with us.” There seems to be a sense in which they’re thinking God is either connected to or confined by the box itself. And so if they bring the box, then God will have to fight for them. Simple math, right?
Well, listen, what they’re basically doing is they’re trying to control God. And we should probably understand this, is the more that we try to put God in a box, the more tempted we are to think that we can control him. Whatever those boxes look like, the more we try to put God in a box, the more tempted we are to think that we can exert some kind of control over God, we can make him do what we want him to do. And you know what God loves to do with the boxes we try to put him in? Yeah, he loves to blow them up. But that doesn’t usually go well for those of us who are trying to put him in the box. They said, we need to bring the Ark.
I wonder what that was like. I wonder how the conversation went, right? You know, they’re trying to figure out, why did we lose the battle? And at some point, somebody’s looking around and going, “I don’t know. We’re usually with the Ark we…” “You didn’t bring the Ark?” “Me? Wasn’t on my packing list. I thought you were in charge of the Ark.” “No. Okay, seriously, nobody brought the Ark? Nobody brought God? We left God back in… Oh my… Wow. Okay. Go…somebody go get God.” And so they go. And so the people sent men from Shiloh and they brought back the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord Almighty who is enthroned between the cherubim. And I think there’s a certain amount of sarcasm there. See, on top of the Ark, there were these two cherubim. Cherubim is a Hebrew word for angels, and there were carved angels on top of the Ark.
Now, in reality, God is enthroned between the cherubim. We actually find that statement throughout the songs, but we mean in heaven, right? In heaven, the angels flock around him and God’s between them on his throne. But they had this idea that between the literal carvings, God is somehow enthroned right there. He’s there with the box. So there’s some sarcasm there. “And Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas were there with the Ark of the Covenant of God.” And that’s really interesting. Eli, Hophni and Phinehas they’re priests in Israel. Eli is actually the Chief Priest and Hophni and Phinehas are his two sons. And what’s interesting is that if anybody in Israel should have been able to correct their error, if anybody in Israel should have been able to go, “Wait, wait, no, no. You’re thinking about this all wrong. The question shouldn’t be, how can we make God fight for us? The question should be, what have we done that’s taken us out from under God’s blessing so that we’re fighting on our own? But it’s not God’s fault, we need to do an obedience audit. We need to figure out where we’re failing to be faithful. If anybody should have understood that that was an important question to ask, these are the guys who should have understood it, but that’s not what they did. Instead of correcting Israel’s error, they went along with it.
What’s really interesting is that they talked to these guys instead of to Samuel. Remember I said to put in kind of a pin in this, hold this thought, that the Word of God has come to Israel through Samuel. He’s a legit prophet. Everybody recognizes God’s speaking through him, so they should’ve gone to Samuel. Why on earth did they go to these guys? Especially, and we haven’t known this yet, unless we’ve been reading the book of Samuel up to this point. But if we had been reading it, we would have understood that everybody understood that Eli, Hophni and Phiniehas they’re corrupt priests, they weren’t good holy men. In fact, they’re stealing from the sacrifices of God for themselves. They’re taking the best portions of the sacrifice for themselves. I mean, they’re corrupt. They’re not good men. So why on earth would you go to corrupt priest instead of a man everybody knows is a prophet of the Lord? And I think the answer has to be because they knew they wouldn’t like the answer they got from Samuel.
And we all have this temptation, don’t we? We have this temptation to go to the people who will go along with the plan rather than telling us that we might be part of the problem. Like we don’t like those people, do we? We have them in our lives, but we tend to avoid them, right? You know, we go to the other people. You know, the guy that he’s so frustrated with his marriage. He goes to his buddy and he goes, “She’s just nagging me all the time. It’s just nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, and she just never stops. I think maybe we just need to get a divorce.” He’s going to go say that to the buddy who’s going to go, “She does nag you, man. She just never stops. I don’t know how you put up with it. You know what? You deserve to be happy.” As opposed to that buddy who’s likely to go, “Hey, I know that’s frustrating, but can I say something? I wonder if maybe part of the reason that she seems to kind of always be on your case is because you don’t have a good track record of following through on doing what you say you’ll do.” Oh we don’t like that guy, right?
When we’re frustrated with our kids, we wanna talk to the woman who will go, “You’re right. They never do what you tell them to do. I’ve noticed it.” As opposed to the woman who might say, “Hey, I know that’s frustrating, but you know, can I be honest? Can I say that? I’ve noticed that when they do do something that you’ve asked them to do, you’re really critical about it. There’s always something that’s never quite good enough, and I wonder if maybe that’s contributing to them feeling like, I shouldn’t even try.” Like, we don’t like that woman, right? We really prefer the people who go along with our plan, who commiserate with our pain rather than the people who might point out that we could be part of the problem. That’s what’s happening here.
But listen, we need to seek out people who will tell us the truth even when it’s hard to hear, right? Amen. We gotta have people in our lives that will tell us the truth even when it’s hard to hear. We need to not shut those people out of our lives because God often speaks to us through them. That’s not what’s happening to go to the people who go along with the plan. Now, “When the Ark,” verse 5, “When the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant came into the camp, all of Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. And hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, ‘What’s the shouting in the Hebrew camp?’ And when they learned that the Ark of the Lord had come into the camp, the Philistines were afraid. ‘A God has come into the camp,’ they said.” Where do you think they got that idea? That’s what they hear in Israel, shout. And they said, “Oh no, nothing like this has happened before.”
That’s an interesting statement. To understand, you need to understand something of the way that the ancient people, especially in the Ancient Near East, thought about gods and goddesses. They tended to think that the gods and goddesses were sort of limited geographically. So they had a center of power, and that’s where the temple was typically. But as you got away from the temple, the power of that god or the goddess, it declined. And so if you got far enough away, they just…they didn’t have any real ability to do anything, but they were kind of locked into their temple, sort of an idea. And so now the Philistines, they’re cleaning up after the battle, they’re celebrating their victory. They’ve been listening all day to the Israelites on the other side of the hill. And they’re, you know, they’re weeping and they’re wailing, and they’re kind of congratulating each other. “Yeah, we totally kicked their butts.” And then sometime later in the day, there’s a little bit of a change in the sound, it starts to get louder. There’s more voices, and the tone of it’s different. And then the ground actually begins to shake, and they go, “What is going on? Somebody just go find out.” And I know how it works. You find the shortest guy, “Because like nobody’s gonna notice you. Go sneak over there, find out what’s going on.” So he climbs the hill, he looks down, he listens for a while, and then he comes back. He’s terrified and he’s spreading the panic. He goes, “Okay. Okay. Wow. So, I know, there’s…Okay. They’ve got a portable God. I know, I know. I’ve never seen, but…you…it’s not…portable. That’s not supposed to happen, right?” And so, they’re panicking. They’re saying, “A god has come into camp.”
Now here’s an interesting thing that’s happened. The Israelites have just gained a tremendous strategic advantage, right? Their enemies panicked. And when you’re panicked, you don’t make good decisions, right? Panic does not equal good planning. It just doesn’t. And so they’ve gained an advantage. Their enemies are panicked and they’re probably ripe to be defeated at this moment. So Israel has gained a strategic advantage, but you didn’t understand something. The advantage they’ve gained is based on a theological error. And listen to me, bad theology never produces long-term results. Long-term success. It might produce a short-term success, but bad theology never produces long-term success.
I have a friend in Dallas, he’s faithfully pastored a church and they’ve been committed to sound theology, good solid Bible teaching, for 35 years he’s pastored that church. And they’ve grown steadily over the years. Several years ago they got to a place that they had a worship center that seated about 1,000 people or so. And they were just maxed out in the number of services they were able to do. Everybody was kind of getting weary, but they were continuing to grow, but they didn’t really have the finances to go anywhere else. So they kind of got stuck. Now, down the street there was another church that had just come in existence just a couple of years before and it was a church that taught what we call the prosperity gospel. If you don’t know what that means, basically the prosperity gospel takes some teachings from the Old Testament and from the New, and it twists them around into this kind of strange promise that God never made and they say, “Hey, as long as you have enough faith, you’ll always be healthy and wealthy.” That if you have any financial problems or if you have any health problems, it’s because you don’t have enough faith. As long as you have enough faith, you’ll always be healthy and wealthy.”
By the way, churches that teach that often teach, “Hey, by the way, you know, just saying, one of the best ways you can demonstrate how much faith you have is by giving to this church. So if you really wanna show God you have enough faith, if you wanna get wealthy, you’ve gotta give a lot of money to the church.” And people bought it and the church grew really fast, explosively. And they had enough income coming in. They were able to go to a bank and convince the bank to loan them enough money to build a 5,000 seat worship center. And they moved in and it lasted about a year. And then they found out that pastor was doing some shady stuff with money and with his secretary. There were a number of other leadership things that were going on and the whole thing just fell apart. And suddenly, the church that had moved into a worship center of 5,000 people had about 500 people. And the leadership learned this lesson. They learned that bad theology never leads to long-term success. They might have a short term positive, but it never has a long-term success.
So the leaders of that 500 person church, they went to my friend down the street and they said, “We have a novel financial plan. How about we switch buildings?” And so my friend was handed the keys to a worship center of seats 5,000 people. They’re a church of about 16,000 people now, preaching Jesus throughout the Dallas area. It’s an amazing thing. They didn’t have the money to do that, but they had no problem taking on the mortgage payment. God’s good, right? And he brings good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose and teach good theology. It’s not actually in the verse, but it’s underlying it.
Bad theology never leads to long-term success. The Israelites have gained a short-term sort of advantage. Their enemies are panicked, but it’s on bad theology. Verse 8, “The Philistines said, ‘We’re doomed. Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. Be Strong Philistines, be men, or you’ll be subject to the Hebrews as they have been to you, be men and fight.’ And so the Philistines fought and the Israelites were defeated. Every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great. Israel lost 30,000 foot soldiers. The Ark of God was captured and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas died.”
Well, that went south quick, didn’t it? Here’s an interesting reality. The first battle they lost and they lost 4,000 soldiers, which was a pretty big number, right? But it was nothing compared to the 30,000. But you understand that, like, they could have easily lost that 30,000 in the first battle, right? There’s no particular reason why their losses had to be limited to a fairly small number. It could have easily gone as bad as it ultimately did right off the bat. What’s interesting is I think they looked at those 4,000, which turned out to be a fairly minor defeat, and they said, “This is terrible. Why did God do this to us?” But, you know, if they learned the lesson from that, they would have repented, they would have turned around and they wouldn’t have had that much greater defeat a little while down the line.
So they looked at the 4,000 they said, you know, “Why has God abandoned us?” Rather than, “Why have we abandoned God? What’s let us to fight on our own out from under his blessing?” The asked, “Why has God done this? Why has God left us?” But the reality, honestly, I think is that God hadn’t left them at all. God was actually there limiting their losses. God was there protecting them from the possible consequences of their sin to a large degree, and he allowed them experience some of the consequences of their sins as a warning sign, it’s time to turn around because if you continue down this road it’s gonna get so much worse. Their first loss wasn’t…it wasn’t a sign of God’s anger, it was discipline. It was discipline to draw them back so they wouldn’t continue down a road that would lead them to a harm so much greater than they could even imagine.
You know, we often look at these difficult things that we get ourselves into. We look at God, “Why has God done this?” But maybe those things, sometimes those difficult things we experience because of our choices, maybe those are actually a sign not of God’s displeasure, but of his love. Because discipline is a sign of love. You understand that? Listen to this Proverb. Proverbs 3:11, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resist or resent his rebuke because the Lord disciplines those he…” Say it with me, Church. “Loves. As a father, the son, he delights in.” God disciplines us because he what? Because he loves us. God disciplines us because he loves us.
And some of you are hearing this and it’s striking a little too close to home, and I get that. I promised them that this one wasn’t gonna be fun, but it’s gonna be important. Some of us are hearing this and we’re going, “I know exactly what I’ve done. I know exactly the choice I’ve made. I know exactly the sins that I’ve allowed into my life, and it’s led me to this place where I’m experiencing this difficulty,” and I’m asking you to recognize that the difficulty, it’s not just a result of your sin, but it actually might be a sign from your incredibly loving Father to get you to wake up and turn around before something much worse happens. You know, Jesus himself said that to a man. He healed a man of something and he said to him these interesting words, he said, “Now, stop sinning or something much worse will happen.” Some of the difficult things we face, they’re disciplines from God so that we don’t end up in a much worse place than we already are by our own decisions. God disciplines us because he what? Because he loves us.
Discipline is a sign of God’s love. And if we’re experiencing that discipline, we need to rejoice in the fact that God loves us enough to bring that discipline into our lives, and then we need to respond to it. We’re not always sure exactly what that is. Sometimes we know. Sometimes some of you are going, “I know exactly what it is,” and sometimes we’re not so clear. And next week we’re gonna unpack some things that God teaches about how we unearth those things that are holding us back and tripping us up that we might otherwise kind of be unaware of, but they’re still doing that negative work in our lives. So don’t miss next week.
But as we think about how we just kind of incorporate this truth into our lives, let me give you some questions to ask. The first question is just this, what transition am I experiencing? What transition am I experiencing right now? And what need for growth is it revealing in my life? You know, we said that transitions expose weaknesses, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. God wants to meet us in those. He wants his strength to be ours. So, we take a look at those transitions that we’re experiencing in life. And I think probably almost every one of us is experiencing some kind of transition right now. Well, what weaknesses is it exposing? We can begin to pray in that area and we can begin to work with the Lord to develop ways to grow in that area.
Second question is this, what boxes am I trying to keep God in or out of? You know, we probably aren’t real prone to make their mistake and go, “Well, you know, God’s in this little box right here.” You know, we go, “No, no, no, he’s not.” But it’s interesting that we do kind of put God in physical boxes that we call churches, right? And we go, you know, “The church building, that’s where God is.” Like I was taught that growing up. No, nobody would ever actually say that, but they’d said strange things. Like I got caught running in a church once. Once. And a deacon read me the riot act. He’s like, “You do not run in God’s house, boy.” I was like, “My Sunday School teacher just told me the earth is the Lord’s and everything in. I didn’t realize, like, that this was a different place than the rest, you know. Can I run out there?” “No. Yeah. Okay. What’s…” You know, and sometimes in our odd little ways like that, funny little ways, but sometimes in much more serious ways, we somehow manage to communicate that God is in the box. He’s in the church building. And I think one of the reasons that we tend to do that, we tend to think God’s in the box or leave God in the box, is because honestly, we’ve got a bunch of other boxes we really want him to stay out of, right? “You stay in the box of church God, I’m really glad to meet with you there. That’s awesome. But if you could just stay out of my relationships, that’d be awesome. If you could stay out of my finances, that’d be great. If you could stay out of my career life,” right?
We have these boxes that honestly we want God to stay out of, and so we try to keep him in other boxes. We keep God in a box of that hour a weekend where we go to meet with him. And then we find that he’s trailed his home and he’s trying to get involved in another box, and we’re like, “Hey, stay in your box.” So what boxes am I tempted to try to put God in or to keep him out of? Because listen, we already said it right? You know what God does love to do with boxes that we try to keep him in? Blow them up. But that’s painful. It’s painful for the box builders. So we need to recognize that question, wrestle with it.
We also need to ask this, am I seeking counsel from people who will speak the truth to me even when it’s hard to hear? Do we have people in our lives that we can count to speak truth even when it’s hard? Because God often speaks to those people. He also often leads us to understand that he’s disciplining us out of love. So, do we have these people in our life? If we don’t, then we need to pray that God would send them into our lives and give us the courage and the humility to listen to them, and God will answer that prayer, I promise you. If you are ready to listen to people who will speak hard truth in your life, he will send those people. Just ask him
And then last, and again, you can always get these questions on the Mission Hills app or on the church website so that you don’t miss any of them. But this last question to wrestle with is just this, is there anywhere in my life that I’m trusting in bad theology? Because bad theology never leads to long-term success. So we need to find those areas that we’re kind of building ourselves and our lives on bad theology. And you’re like, “Well, how would I know?” Well, the Israelites could have known if they’d just gone to the right source, right? If they’d gone to the Prophet who spoke the Word of God. Well, maybe we don’t have a prophet in our lives, but you know what? We do have the Word of God that came to us through prophets. And Scripture is what we use to test every teaching. You should use it to test anything that I say. Anytime anybody says, “This is what God wants you to know, it should be tested against God’s Word. He’ll never contradict himself. It’s also, it’s helpful to have people in your life, especially teachers in your life, who can help you to make sure you’re understanding God’s Word correctly. Because we have a tendency to read God’s Word and get out of it what we were really hoping it was gonna say, right? So it’s important to have people in our lives who also speak those hard truths to us, whether they’re gifted teachers or just trusted advisors or friends around us. But we need to make sure that we have those people in our lives who speak the hard truth even when it’s hard to hear. Because it’s only in these ways that we recognize that our eyes get opened to the reality that sometimes what we experience in life is because God is disciplining us. And then we come to this incredible important realization that God disciplines us because he loves us.
Why don’t you pray with me? God, it’s easy to thank you for your love when what we get out of your love is comfort and joy and peace and blessing. But Lord, we also recognize that it might actually be a greater sign of your love that you discipline us, because it’s a demonstration of your unwillingness to allow us to continue down a road that leads from bad to worse. Lord, would you give us eyes to see your discipline in our lives where it’s happening, and hearts that recognize that it comes from love, the love of our Father.
Lord, root out of our lives those things that are keeping us from becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission in the world. Those things that are holding us back and tripping us up, show them to us. Lord, we know that you will show them to us because you love us too much not to. If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying right now for the people seated around you, the people on our campuses and locations, people watching online from all over the world, because I believe in all of those places. There are some people who don’t have a relationship with God. They don’t have a relationship with this good and loving Father. And I think if that’s you, you know it. And I’d just like to speak to you for just a moment, because it may be that you’re in a place in life where things are very hard. And if you’re really honest, you’ll recognize that you’re probably in that place because of some decisions that you’ve made.
Sometimes it’s things that have been done to us, but very often it’s the ways that we respond and it’s decisions that we make. And maybe you’re in that difficult place and there’s something in your heart that’s tempted to blame God. You know, why would he do this to me? And maybe today, for the first time, you’ve heard something that’s turned on a light bulb and you’ve recognized that maybe the difficulty you’re facing isn’t a sign of God’s anger or his disinterest, but it’s a sign of his love. He’s disciplining you to turn you back to him.
And if you’re listening to this and you know you don’t have a relationship with a God who loves you, please hear this news. He does love you so much. He loves you so much that he puts discipline in our lives to turn us back to him. But it’s not just that, he loves us so much he sent his own Son to pay the penalty for our sin. He sent his Son Jesus, who lived a perfect life. He had no sin to pay for, nothing to separate him from the Father. But he took our sin on his shoulders, he died on the cross and paid the penalty of our wrongdoing with his blood. Every wrong thing you’ve ever done, he’s paid it. Every sin you’ve ever committed, I’ve ever committed, he has paid it all. Three days later, he rose from the dead. The grave is empty, and he is offering us new life, forgiveness, freedom from sin. A relationship with the God who loves us enough not just to discipline us, but to pay the price necessary to bring us back to him. And if that’s you and you know you don’t have a relationship with God through faith, but you’re ready to begin that relationship, you’re ready to come back to God. You’re ready to say yes to faith in Jesus, would you just slip your hand up right now?
That’s awesome. Fantastic. If you’re watching online, just click the button right below me. And wherever you are, you just have this conversation with God in your heart. You say, God, I’ve done wrong. I’m sorry. Like I’ve realized that some of the difficulty that I’m facing in life is because of my sin. It’s hard to say, but Lord, thank you for loving me enough to discipline me. Jesus, thank you for loving me enough to die on the cross in my place. I believe that you rose from the dead, and I believe that you’re offering me your forgiveness, new life, adoption into the family of God, a relationship with my loving heavenly Father. Jesus, right here, right now, I’m saying yes to you. I’m putting my faith in you. Jesus, come into my life. Be my Lord, my Savior. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.
All across Mission Hills this week, we’ve had a number of people make that decision to say yes to Jesus. Can we just welcome them into the family of God? This is so great.
1 Samuel 4:12-22
Today we’re wrapping up our mini-series called the Weight of Glory. Often in life, we deal with the symptoms rather than the source of our problems. But unless we deal with the source, the symptoms will just keep appearing. Join us in 1 Samuel as we examine how to search for the source.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills on our Grassroots Weekend. I love this weekend. I try to dress accordingly. This was the most grassroots-iest outfit that I could put together, but hey, can we give it up for our worship team? Was that awesome or what? Yeah, it is one of our favorite weekends of the year to kind of throw it down and throw it back a little bit. So I’m really glad you’re able to be part of this. Also, really glad you’re able to join us today because I believe that God has something really powerful and practical in your life from his word today, something that God’s consistently used in my life that I get to speak about today. And really, what we’re gonna be talking about today is the importance of seeking the source. And the reason I say that is because I think a lot of times we recognize, you know, we’ve got struggles in our life. You know, maybe we’re struggling in a relationship, we’re struggling at work, we’re struggling in our relationship with God, and trying to become more like him and join him on mission, and there’s some stuff that’s getting in the way. But a lot of times what happens is we see those things and we try to deal with each of those things. But what’s sometimes happening is we’re dealing with the symptoms rather than the source. And if we don’t deal with the source, the symptoms are just gonna keep showing up.
Several years ago, my kids were really little and I remember kind of walking around the house one day and recognizing that there were marbles all over the place. Like every time I turn I was like, there’s a marble and there’s my, and I was trying to deal with them each and so I’d pick the marble up and I put it in a container and there’s another marble. And I realized after a while I was picking up marbles from places where I had already picked up marbles, like there should have not been any marbles because I took care of there. It was clean and like there’s a marble and so it’s like, I got to look for the source, which turned out to be my youngest daughter, Lynae, she’s about one and a half and she’s wearing footie pajamas. You remember footie pajamas? Were they not the best? Right? But I was looking at her in her footie pajamas like she looks wrong. Like she’s like kind of misshapen, like her legs especially were really baggy. And so I was like, “Lynae come here.” And she kind of started to walk towards me, but she made this weird noise, she was like, “urgh.” And so I walked over and I picked her upside down, and I held her by the ankles and hundreds of marbles began to pour out of, she had like poured them all down in, but there was a hole in one of the ankles and one by one they were kind of. See it’s like that in life sometimes, right? So we try to deal with the symptoms, but, unless we deal with the source, the symptoms are just gonna keep showing up, right?
And so the question is then how do we identify the source? So why don’t you go and grab your Bible and start making your way to the book of 1st Samuel Chapter Four, we’re gonna pick up where we left off in verse 12. While you’re making your way there, let me just catch you up real quick. If you’re just joining us, if you missed last week, what we saw last week was that Israel, the Nation of Israel, God’s people, they went into battle without God’s blessing. And because of that, inevitably, they lost the battle. They lost 4,000 soldiers, and that should have been a wake-up call to seek the source and figure out why that happened, that the loss itself was a symptom and they should have looked for the source of the problem. But rather than doing that, they basically hatched a plan to manipulate God into fighting for them by bringing the Ark. That was the box they kept the 10 Commandments in. It’s the box where everybody’s faces melted when the Nazis pulled it off in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that box, they said, “If we take that into battle, God will have to fight for us. And so we’ll win then.” So they had this sort of strategy, but they never dealt with the source that gave rise to the first loss. And because of that, things went from bad to worse. And so they ended up losing 30,000 people in the next battle.
And so this is the same day, a little bit after that battle, Chapter 4:12 told, “The same day a Benjamite,” that’s a member of the one of the tribes of Israel. “He ran from the battle line. He went to Shiloh,” that’s the town where the Ark was housed “with his clothes torn and dust on his head. Now, when he arrived, there was Eli sitting on his chair by the side of the road watching because his heart feared for the Ark of God.” Now, Eli is the chief priest. And what we saw last week was that Eli, he should’ve been the guy to kind of correct the plan. He should’ve been the guy to go, “Hey, wait a minute, you’re dealing with the symptom. You lost a battle and you’re coming up with some new strategy, but what we should be doing is we should be looking for the source. Why it is that we were out from under God’s blessing? Where’s the disobedience in the nation that’s leading us to this problem?” He should have done that, but instead of that, he went along with the plan. He gave them the Ark and they went off. But now what we see is that, after the Ark’s gone, he’s gone out to the outside of the city, sitting down by the gate on the side of the road and he’s waiting for news because his heart feared for the Ark of God.
Now, what that tells us is, he didn’t have any confidence that the plan was gonna work. He was not at all confident that God was going to fight for them just because they sent the Ark. He was quite concerned about what might happen, which is interesting because what it suggests is, he knew it wasn’t a good idea, but he went along with it anyway. Why? Why would you do that? And what this begins to show us is that Eli had a priority problem. Eli was putting the priority on something that the priority shouldn’t have been on. He’s putting weight on things that really shouldn’t been getting the weight of his attention and his focus.
And when we have a priority problem that almost always leads to a problem, doesn’t it? A difficulty, something kind of begins to go wrong. I have, I’m gonna be super honest with you guys. I have a daily reminder of what happens when you have a priority problem, so I’m just gonna look right into the camera here, and I’m going to say, these two right here, fake. Because when I was 16 I had a priority problem. And it wasn’t even like a big, ongoing priority problem, it was just a one day, like a moment, a lapse in judgment priority problem. I was on the track team. I was a sprinter and a pole vaulter, but there was a high jumper girl that I just thought was really cute and I really want to impress her. And she was trying to jump a particular height, I don’t remember what it was, but she was struggling and kept hitting the bar and coming back, she was getting frustrated. And in my adolescent male brain, this plan hacks, to like, if I can show her that I can do it easily then she’ll fall for me, right? Because why would that not work, ladies? Right, right, right?
Now, here’s the thing, I’ve never high jumped in my life. I knew nothing about the technique, I knew nothing about any of it. I was like, there was a part of my brain that was like, “Yeah, but we don’t know what we’re doing,” I’m just, “Shut up brain. We’re going with this.” It was a priority thing. My priority, I’m gonna impress this girl. So I just took off running and when I got near it I just jumped as high as I could and I immediately was, it was clear because I wasn’t using the right technique at all. I was like going face first and I wasn’t supposed to do that. It’s like, I am not gonna clear it, so I need to get my body apart. So I like yanked my knees up to get them higher and I kneed myself in the face, and I broke out one of my front teeth, hit the ground, came up and looked to her like, she was not impressed. And I had to go to the hospital and like months of work later actually. And so now, years later, I have this permanent reminder of what happens when you have a priority problem, and it’s not usually good things. She was not impressed, she did not ever go out with me, just in case, let’s close the loop on that story. It was not Coletta, it’s not her.
But when we have priority problems, things tend to not go well because we’re putting the weight on something that probably shouldn’t get the weight, right? That’s kind of what’s happened. Eli has gone along with the plan. He’s sent the Ark off, but he knows in his heart this was not a good idea and he’s worried. So he’s on the side of the road, outside the front gate waiting to hear word, and the messenger comes with the word. Now, we’re told this, “Now, when the man entered the town and he told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry. Now Eli heard the outcry and he asked, “What’s the meaning of this uproar?” And so the man hurried over to Eli, who was 98 years old and whose eyes had failed so that he could not see.” Let’s make sure we understand what’s happened here. Eli is sitting outside the gate on the side of the road waiting for a messenger to come. The messenger comes running by, he sees Eli, Eli doesn’t see him because Eli’s eyes are failing, and so he doesn’t recognize the messenger. But the messenger clearly recognizes him, there’s no question that the messenger knows who he is, but the messenger runs right past him, completely ignores him, goes into the city and announces the news. And that’s really interesting. And what it tells us is that that messenger had no respect for Eli. Really, the people as a whole didn’t have any respect for Eli.
And what we need to understand is that, a lack of respect is usually a symptom for something else. A lack of respect is usually a symptom, on the part of the person who’s not getting the respect, to be perfectly honest. See, so we often have this idea that we’re supposed to be respected because we occupy certain positions, right? You know, so we go, “I’m the mom, I’m the dad, I’m the boss, I’m the pastor.” And we have this idea that respect comes to us because of position, but that’s not the way it works. There’s a certain amount of power that attaches to a position, that’s true. We get power from positions, but respect we have to earn. And that often involves the way that we are dealing with and treating the people that we’re looking for that respect from. What we’re seeing here is that Eli doesn’t have that and that’s a symptom of something else.
Now, if we’ve been reading the book of 1st Samuel up to this point, we actually know what it is already. If you read 1st Samuel Chapter 2, I’m not gonna have us read it today, but let me summarize it, but you might wanna read it later this week. In chapter 2 of 1st Samuel, we’re told that there was a tradition in those days that when they made a sacrifice to God, when the people brought their sacrifice to God, that the animal was killed and it was cut up into the choices, the different pieces of meat, and then they were thrown into a big cauldron and that was their moment of sacrifice. They were giving it to God at that point. The tradition was that, for the priests, they had a big three-pronged fork and they were allowed to kind of stick the fork in, kind of root around, and whatever came up, that was their pay for the day. That was what they ate. It went to God first, then they got to, and the idea was, you know, whatever comes up, that’s what God’s giving you for the day. That was a tradition.
Now, Eli, the chief priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, both priests. And Hophni and Phineas didn’t like that plan. And I understand it, because when you stick the fork in you don’t really know what you’re gonna get, so maybe you get the filet mignon, but maybe you get the tongue. And I’ve had several people tell me this weekend, the tongue is totally edible. No, it’s not. No. I’ve eaten it, like the texture is all kinds of wrong, right? But if you’re just doing that, you just don’t know what you’re gonna get. And so they didn’t like to plan, so they came with a new plan, and that new plan was, as they brought their meat to throw it into the cauldron, as they brought their sacrifices, Hophni and Phineas would go, “Oh, I want that piece.” And the people would say, “No, no, no, we’re going to give it to God first, and then you do the fork thing, and whatever God gives you, that’s it.” And they said, “Yeah, we want that piece before it goes in there.” And they went, “No, we give it to God first.” And they went, “Okay, what part of this don’t you understand? We’re taking that part.” And in fact, 1st Samuel 2, I kid you not, says, that they said, “If you don’t give it to us, we’re gonna take it by violence, by force.” Like can you like try to wrap your brain around that. Like this is church. This would be like if we’re taking an offering in church and the pastor is wandering around watching what you’re putting in, and if he sees like 100 about to go in and he’s like, “Why don’t you just give that straight to me?” And you’re like, “No, I’m gonna give it to God and then the Church will pay you,” You’re like, “No, no, give this right to me or I’ll beat you up.” It’s like a holy mugging basically is what’s happening, right? This is what’s going on.
Now, Eli, Chapter 2 says that Eli knew what was going on and he went to his sons and he said, “What you’re doing is not good.” Which is totally lame. Like that’s all you got? Really? “It’s not ideal, boys.” And that was it. They continued to do it, and Eli really didn’t do anything else about it. And so this is why Eli doesn’t have respect. He might have some power because of his position, but he doesn’t have the respect of the people. And so the messenger sees Eli, runs right past him. Everybody in the town, here’s the news. They begin to cry, to weep and to wail at the news of the loss and all the loved ones that they have now lost. And when Eli hears that, he goes, “Hey, what’s going on?” And he calls and the messenger comes over, in verse 16, “The messenger told Eli, “I have just come from the battle line. I fled from it this very day.” And Eli said, “What happened, my son?” And the man who had brought the news replied, “Israel fled before the Philistines. And the army has suffered heavy losses, and also, your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, they’re dead and the Ark of God has been captured.” Now, when he mentioned the Ark of God, Eli fell backward off of his chair by the side of the gate, his neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and he was heavy and he’d led Israel for 40 years.”
Actually, I want you to underline those words, “he was heavy,” that’s not just a passing note, that’s actually a really important part of the story. It’s important in two ways. The first, is to understand that, you know, to say that he was heavy, to give him that description basically means that he was obese, he was an extremely large man, and that’s kind of an unusual thing in those days. They didn’t typically eat high fat diets, they walked everywhere they went, they weren’t going to the 7/11 and getting a Big Gulp every afternoon. And so the fact that he was obese and he was heavy, that’s an unusual thing. And the question is naturally as like, well, how would that happen? Well, let’s go back to what his sons were doing. They were bringing the sacrifices and they were picking the choice portions. And do you know what the choice portions of meat are? Let me do it this way. I love to smoke different things. I heard how that sounded, let’s stop. What I mean, it’s Colorado, I know. At my house, I have a smoker, I love to put meats in the smoker and smoke the meats and then eat the meats. I eat the meats, there’s no, okay, we’re clear on this? One of my favorite things to smoke is pulled pork, basically to make pulled pork. But, to make pulled pork right, you got to have a particular cut of meat, and the cut of meat that’s gonna make really good pulled pork is a cut of meat that has a whole lot of fat on it. Because, Church, can we be true with each other here? Culinary principal here, fat equals flavor. Like we understand that, right?
People are always trying to tell me, “No, it doesn’t.” You know, here’s a fat-free muffin that’s covered in, I can’t believe it’s not butter, and it’s just as good. No, it’s not. And it’s not a muffin, it’s a tiny brick with grease on it. That’s all it is, okay? They have known for thousands of years what we all know, if we’re really honest with each other, and that is that fat equals flavor. The choice portions were the fatty portions, that’s the parts that they were taking. And now, what we’re meant to understand is that Eli hasn’t just been allowing it to happen, he’s also been participating in it. He’s been eating what they’ve been taking and giving to him. With the result that, he’s an old man and he’s heavy, so much so that when he gets all this bad news, culminating in the loss of the Ark, he falls off the stool in shock and his tremendous weight comes down on his neck as it hits the ground and it snaps his neck and he dies there.
There’s a second reason why he was heavy, is important to the story. And to explain it, I gotta geek out on you just a little bit if that’s okay. Some of you are like, “Yes,” others, just stick with me for a second. There’s a play on words happening here in the original language. This was originally written Hebrew. There’s a play on words happening that you really can’t get in English, and it has to do with the fact that the word for heavy in Hebrew is chabed. Chabed means heavy or weighty. There’s another Hebrew word that features very prominently in the story, and really throughout the book of 1st Samuel after that, and that word is chabōd. Chabed means heavy, chabōd means glory or glorious. And when we hear the word glory, we tend to think of something that’s bright and shiny. But for the Hebrews, chabōd, glory, meant that it was weighty, that it was heavy, right?
And so there’s an interesting play on words going. What we’re told is that Eli was chabed, because the weight has been put on something that probably it shouldn’t be. And then we get this interesting description. Verse 19, “His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phineas was pregnant and she was near the time of her delivery. Now, when she heard the news that the Ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and she gave birth, but she was overcome by her labor pains. As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair. You have given birth to a son,” but she didn’t respond or pay any attention and she named the boy,” What? In English we say Ichabod, but it’s literally Ichabod.
Ichabod basically means no glory or the glory has gone, chabed means weight, chabōd means glory, but it, again, it has to do with this idea that it’s heavy, that it’s weighty. Why would she name her child no glory. She’s saying that the Glory, [chabōd] it has departed from Israel. The weight of God is gone. Because of the capture of the Ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband, and she said the glory, the chabōd, has departed from Israel for the Ark of God has been captured. So there’s a play on words going back and forth and it’s built on the idea that these two words in Hebrew are so closely linked. It’s the idea that to give glory to something is to treat it like it has a lot of weight. Does that make sense?
To give glory to something is to treat it like it has a lot of weight, and that’s precisely what’s not happening in Israel. God is not being treated like he has a lot of weight. The weight that belonged to God is actually being put in all kinds of other things. For the people, they put their weight on their strategy rather than on God. Hophni and Phinehas are putting the weight on their appetites rather than on honoring God. Eli is putting his weight on his sons rather than honoring God. This is the source of their sin. There’s specific things that are happening in Israel, but honestly they’re the symptoms. The source of all of it is basically that the weight that belongs on God, the glory that belongs on God is going to other things, other things are being treated like they have weight.
That’s the source of their sin, and honestly, that’s the source of all sin. It’s kind of an interesting perspective on sin that we often don’t talk about, but here’s the truth, Church, sin is essentially a symptom of misplaced weight. Sin is a symptom of misplaced weight. Sin is what happens because we put weight on something that doesn’t deserve it and can’t handle it. Why do we lie? Because we put the weight on our fear of being found out. Why are we selfish? Because we put the weight on our appetites rather than on honoring God. Why are we materialistic? Because we put the weight on our possessions. Why do we break promises and vows? Because we put the weight on momentary pleasures. See, the sin is ultimately it’s a symptom of misplaced weight. And what Israel has discovered here is a pretty simple truth. It’s the answer to a very important question. What happens when we put the weight on things that don’t deserve it and can’t handle it? What happens when we take the weight that belongs on God and we put it on other things?
Israel has just discovered. But it’s a truth too that Jesus teaches. A very familiar story, you may have heard this even if you’re not spending much time in church or haven’t ever, if church is new to you, you’ve probably heard something like this. Jesus said this, Matthew 7:24 “See everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice, who gives weight to them, is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” It deserves it and it can handle it. “The rain came down, the streams rose up, the winds blew and they beat against that house and yet it did not fall because it had its foundations on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice, does not give them weight, is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Doesn’t deserve it, can’t handle it. “The rain came down, the streams rose, the winds blew and they beat against that house and it fell with a great crash.”
What happens when we put weight on things that don’t deserve it and can’t handle it? Everything falls apart. Let’s be very clear. When we put the weight on anything other than God, everything falls apart. This is the lesson that Israel learned here. The good news is, they learned it the hard way. We don’t have to learn it the hard way. We can learn the lesson from God’s Word from what happened there, and we can make changes in our lives so that we don’t set ourselves up for the same kind of disaster. So, what do we need to do? Very simply, we need to identify the things that have more weight than they should, and we need to initiate a weight transfer. It’s all there is to it. Identify the things that we’re giving more weight to than they deserve or can handle, and we need to initiate a weight transfer, get those back on to God. And I believe every one of us has these things because the reality is that, unless we’re very careful, there’s a constant temptation to drift so that the weight that belongs on God is being slowly redistributed to things that simply cannot handle it and absolutely don’t deserve it.
We all run through that. I run through that. And so this is a constant process that we needed to do, to identify those places where it’s happening and then initiate a weight transfer back to the only one who deserves it and can handle it. So, how do we do that? How do we identify the things in our lives? Because I think we all do, but how do we push in to figure out what they are? Some of us immediately go, “I know exactly what it is.” And you don’t need me to go any further because as soon as I said it, you went, “I know the thing in my life that I’m putting way more weight on, and it doesn’t deserve it and it can’t handle it. And so you don’t need to go any further.” But some of us need to push into it a little bit.
And so what I teach you is three principles and three very simple questions that come from these principles that might help you to identify these things that we’re tempted to do this with. The first principle is just this. Our thoughts orbit what has weight in our lives. Our thoughts orbit around whatever has weight in our lives. We think about it a lot, we think about it too much. You know, think about, why does the earth go around the sun? Because the sun is heavier than everything else in the solar system, right? But you know what? Even if the sun’s light were to go away, and if it just became a cold, dark ball, we would continue to orbit it. We wouldn’t be able to see what it was that we were orbiting, but we would know that it was there because the orbit is still happening, right? We would know there was something with that kind of weight, even though it’s hard to discern, we would know that it was there because the planets are still orbiting it.
Our thoughts are the same way. We may not know exactly what the thing is, but we can pay attention to the orbit of our thoughts and go, “What is it that we keep orbiting around?” Because there’s some things that we just think about way too much and that’s a sign of how much weight that we’re giving them. You know, maybe there’s a relationship in your life that, man, you’re just obsessed with that relationship. And I know sometimes it’s a new relationship and that’s kind of normal at first, but over time, you might be in a place where you are so obsessed with that relationship that you realize, I’m actually giving way more weight to that than it deserves or it can handle. Maybe it’s your kids, maybe it’s your job, maybe it’s your career, maybe it’s a possession, maybe it’s politics. Can I say that on the 4th of July weekend?
We have these things that were so upset. We’re in orbit around them. What that demonstrates is they have more weight than they really should. And so we just ask ourselves that question, “What am I thinking about too much?” Or maybe I don’t even know if it’s too much, but what am I thinking about a lot? What occupies much of my thoughts these days? That might be a way that you can begin to push in on what is this thing that has this weight in my life?
Second principle is this, is that what has weight in our lives changes our plans. You know, sometimes an asteroid comes into the solar system from outside the solar system and when it does, it’s on a straight line. It’s just, you know, point to point to point, it’s going straight. But when it comes into the solar system, it moves past a planet or it moves past the sun and the weight of that thing changes the course of it. It’s no longer going straight, it’s now curving a little bit because it’s encountered something that has a lot more weight than it does. Our thoughts work the same way. Our plans work the same way. Sometimes we make plans, we go, “I’m gonna do that. I’m definitely gonna be there to do that. We’re gonna make this happen.” And then something happens to make us change the plans.
Now, understand, that happens as just a part of life sometimes. I get it. Life happens, we have to change plans occasionally. I’m talking about patterns. I’m talking about the person who goes, “Yeah, I’m definitely gonna make it to my kid’s soccer game this time.” But then something from work comes up, like it has the last five times, like it has for most of the times. We’re looking for these patterns where we go, “I’m gonna do this,” but then something causes us to change trajectory. Something causes us to change plans. So we ask these questions, is there something that regularly causes me to change plans that I’ve made? That might be an indicator of something in your life that has more weight than it really deserves.
And the third principle in question is just this. It’s, what has weight prevents us from making changes that we know we need to make. So sometimes the weight comes and we reckon it’s because we’re orbiting around it or because it’s changing our plans, but sometimes it’s the, we’re just locked to it. We go, “I know I need to go there. I know I need to do that thing. But this thing here is keeping me from making these changes that I know I need to make.” So we can say, “You know, I know I need to go to church more regularly. I know I need to be part of worship services in a more regular basis and I totally will as soon as the weather gets cold,” right? As soon as I can’t hike or bike or boat or whatever, then I’m definitely gonna do that thing I know I need to do. Well, that might suggest something to you about something that has a little bit more weight than it should. Or we say, “Yeah, I’m definitely gonna get more involved with my life group, and I’m going to be much more connected to my church. I’m definitely gonna do that as soon as it’s very clear that the Broncos are out,” right? “That there’s no chance of them going all the way, then I’ll,” see, it’s something that’s keeping us from making change. We go, “I know I need to spend more time reading God’s Word. I know I need to start the day off with a little bit of time of prayer and reading from God’s Word, I know that’s what, I’m definitely gonna do that. Tomorrow morning, definitely gonna do it, but, you know, right now, I’m just gonna watch that one more episode of that show on Netflix.” And then that next episode, and then it’s 3:00 AM. And Netflix has asked us, two or three times, “Are you still watching? Are you sure you are?” And so we go to bed at 3:00 AM and when the clock goes off in the morning to get us up to do our time with God, we’re like, “Oh, I gotta hit snooze a couple of times.” And when that happens pretty regularly, that says, honestly, there’s something in your life that maybe has a little bit more weight than it should, and you know it because it’s keeping you from making changes that you know you need.
And so we ask ourselves, what is regularly preventing me from making changes that I know I need to make? Those are three very powerful questions for identifying that thing that has more weight than it should. Now, if you really wanna push in and figure out what those things are, that have more weight in your life then they should. You’re not just gonna ask yourself these questions, you’re gonna ask somebody else these questions. Somebody else that knows you really well, your husband, your wife, a good friend, somebody that knows you well, you’re gonna ask them, “Hey, would you shoot straight with me? Do you think there’s something that I’m thinking about too much? Do you think there’s something that is pretty consistently causing me to change plans that I’ve made? Do you think there’s something that you’ve noticed that’s keeping me from making changes I need to make?” If you really wanna push in you’re going to ask somebody who knows you well to speak that truth into your life. That’s a hard thing. It’s a vulnerable thing. But it may be that somebody else can identify it through these questions, something that you might be blinded to. Because the reality is that often that the weight distribution that’s happened to these other things, it doesn’t happen consciously, we don’t do it on purpose, but it does it over time, and we wake up one day and we realize that we have put way too much weight on things that don’t deserve it and cannot handle it, and we’re setting ourselves up for a fall. So we need to identify these things. And when we’ve identified these things, what do we do? We initiate a weight transfer. The good news is, this one’s a lot easier.
The real hard work is figuring out those things that have more weight than they should. The actual weight transfer is easier than you think it would be. Here’s what we do. We’re basically, we’re gonna do three things, three simple things. We’re gonna repent, we’re gonna request, and we’re gonna receive. Repent, request, and receive. What are we gonna repent? We’re gonna repent of those things that have more weight. So we’re gonna turn around and we’re gonna make a commitment to God, once we’ve identified those things, we’re gonna turn around from, and we’re gonna say to God, “I see it. I know it. I know it’s got more weight. I’m sorry about that. I’m gonna turn it off.” And we’re going to make a commitment to God to take the weight off of that thing and put it back on him. That’s repentance, and it is the key that unlocks the power of God and the forgiveness of God in your life. So we have to call it what it is. We can’t vacillate. We can’t, “You know, It’s kind of maybe, sort of, maybe it’s not ideal, God, I don’t know.” “Hey, God, I’ve taken some of your weights and literally I’ve put it on this thing. It doesn’t deserve it. It can’t handle it. I’m sorry. I’ll call it what it is, turn it around, put it back on you.” You’re gonna repent.
Second thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna request. What we’re gonna request is we’re gonna request strength from God to keep that commitment. Because the reality is, a lot of times, you know, we speak some truth like this and we go, “I’ve already done this. I’ve already seen it, I’ve identified it, and I’ve said, “God, I’m sorry.” I’ve said, “God, forgive me.” I’ve said, “I’m not gonna allow that thing to have the weight in my life.” And I’ve done that a dozen times, I’ve done that, I’ve done it 100 times and I’m still screwing it up.
Okay. Then what we need is God’s strength to do what we can’t do on our own. So we’re gonna request God to give us the strength to keep that commitment. This is a prayer that God will always answer. I promise you. The moment you ask that, that strength is available to you. Now, whether or not we choose to make use of it, that’s up to us, but the strength is there. The third thing we’re gonna do is we’re gonna receive, what are we going to receive? We’re going to receive that strength. I promise you, when you ask God for the strength to keep that weight on him, he will give it to you. You’re gonna receive the strength, but you’re also gonna receive forgiveness.
One of the things I think that often keeps us from taking advantage of that strength is the sense of guilt and shame that we’ve already tried this, we’ve already messed this up so many times, we’ve already taken the weight off of God and put it on other things and things begin to crack under that pressure because they don’t deserve it and they can’t handle it, but I keep doing it, God. And that sense of shame and guilt makes us feel like, like I’m just stuck in an endless cycle here. But you need to understand that when you request that strength and when you repent, there’s a forgiveness that comes that wipes the slate clean and we start over, we start fresh that day.
You understand, Jesus didn’t die on the cross for that one time that you took weight and you put it on something that didn’t deserve it and couldn’t handle it. He didn’t die for the second time you did it with the same thing or the third time or the fifth time or the 10th Time or the 50th or the hundredth or the thousand. He died for every single time. Jesus died on the cross to forgive every sin, which is ultimately a symptom of this misplaced weight. He died for every single instance. So we identify those things, we initiate a weight transfer. We repent, we request, and we receive it, the strength and the forgiveness.
Would you pray with me? As followers of Jesus, let’s just have a moment where we confess to God, those things that even at this moment he has revealed to us that have more weight than they should. Holy Spirit, we just invite you to have your way with us and to bring these things to mind. If not in this moment, Lord, then maybe through these questions that we reflect on this week, through even asking these questions of somebody who knows us well, O Lord, would you move, and would you take off the blinders, would you pull back the curtain, would you shed light on the reality of these things that have more weight than they should. Things that we’re putting weight on that they don’t deserve it and they can’t handle it. Lord, as we become aware of these things, we repent, we call it what it is and then we turn back and we say, “Lord, you and you alone deserve the weight. You and you alone deserve honor. You and you alone deserve glory.” And so we commit to giving it to you and you alone.
But Lord, as your people, we recognize, we don’t have the strength to do that on our own and so we request strength from you. God, pour your strength into our lives. Give us the ability to initiate this weight transfer and to keep that weight on you. And Lord, right now we receive from you strength, and we receive from you forgiveness. Thank you that no matter how many times we messed this one up, no matter how many times we take weight and glory away from you and give it to things that don’t deserve it and can’t handle it and thank you. No matter how many times we do that, there is always mercy, there’s always grace, there is always forgiveness, there’s always a fresh start. So, Lord, we received that fresh start today.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying for the people around you, people that are watching online from all over the world and all of our different locations? Would you begin praying for them? Because I believe in all of our locations, we have people that they don’t have a relationship with this God. They don’t have a relationship with a Father who can be trusted with the weight of their lives. And let me speak to you for a moment if that’s you, if you know you don’t have that relationship with God. It may be that in this message today, a light bulb went on, a truth clicked into place and you realize that maybe part of the reason that life has been such a struggle for you, it just feels like everything is constantly crumbling under your feet is because you have put the weight on something that doesn’t deserve it and cannot handle it. And I believe by the power of the Holy Spirit, you know exactly what that thing is, or maybe those things are. And you’re realizing for the first time that you have an opportunity right now to take the weight off of those things and put it on the only One who deserves it and who can handle it, because he loves you. This is how much he loves you.
He sent his own Son to pay the penalty of all of the sin that results from that misplaced weight. We’ve all sinned, we’ve all fallen short, and the consequence of that is a separation from God, because of our choices we’re separated from the One that we’ve taken the weight away from and put on other things. There’s a penalty for that, but God loves you so much he sent his own Son to pay the price of that. Jesus lived a perfect life. He died on the cross to pay the price of our sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove that the weight of sin could not hold him down. That’s a fact of history. The grave is empty.
Faith comes in when we decide to trust what he did for us. And if you’ve never done that, if you’d never put your faith in Jesus, and allowed him to forgive your sins and to take that weight and to put it on the only one who can handle it. But if you’re ready to say yes, to put your faith in Jesus, would you just slip your hand up right now? That’s awesome. Fantastic. That’s awesome. If you’re watching online, just click the button right below me, and wherever you are, you just, in your heart, just have this conversation with God. I’ll lead you in it.
Just say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I understand that my sin is a symptom of misplaced weight. I’ve put it on other things that can’t handle it, don’t deserve it, and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to set me free. Thank you for paying the price of my sin. I believe you rose from the dead, and so right now I’m saying yes to you. I’m putting my faith in you. I’m choosing to trust you, to put the weight on you, Jesus. I receive forgiveness, and new life, freedom from all the weight, and a relationship with a God who’s the only one who can handle it. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”
We’ve got a number of people make that decision today, right in the service as well as around our campuses and locations. So exciting to welcome you into the family of God. It’s awesome. If you made that decision for the first time, wherever you are, I would encourage you just to text the word, Jesus, to 888111. You’re gonna get back a link that’s going to tell you five things are true about you now because you put your faith in Jesus, and get you some resources to help you begin walking in a relationship with this God who can handle the weight. It’s of a glorious God, a weighty God, God who is worthy of all of our weight. Amen?