For years, Eli the Priest, failed to raise his sons (Hophni and Phinehas) in the fear of God. He also failed to restrain his sons from defiling the temple. As a result, they handled the holy sacrifice in an unworthy manner. They also stood in the gateway of the temple and had in-appropriate relationships with the young women that came to worship God. The LORD’s anger was kindled on the nation of Israel, and He lifted His hand of protection from them. As a result, the Philistines attacked Israel, killed hundreds of thousands of their men, and destroyed their crops and animals. The Philistines also took the Ark of God. The Ark represented the glory and presence of God. Only consecrated trained priests were permitted to handle it. It was designed by Moses in the Sinai desert to hold the Ten Commandments. The Israelites carried the Ark on their way from Egypt to Canaan. After conquest of Canaan, they took the Ark to Shiloh and kept it there. Eli dropped dead after hearing the news of the Ark of God falling into the hands of the Philistines. His sons were killed in the battle too. Israel was left in a hopeless situation.
The Philistines took the Ark of God and placed it in their temple along their idol, Dagon. When they went to perform the rituals for Dagon the next day, they found the idol laying on the ground, face down, in front of the Ark. They put it right back next to the Ark. The next day they found Dagon on the floor again, broken into pieces. As if that was not enough, the hand of the LORD was heavy on the philistines, there was a deadly destruction throughout their land. For seven months, thousands died from tumors and plagues. Eventually, the Philistines were struck with fear and they came up with a plan to return the Ark of God to Israel. The rest of the story is detailed in the bible verses below.
What do we learn from this experience? The LORD is able to protect and restore His glory. He is able to watch over His word to perform it. He is able to establish His way. For example, Jesus Christ was born when the Israelites had lost the leadership of their nation to the Romans. Jesus accomplished all His Father assigned Him to, inspite of who was in control of the nation. That said, this is not the season to give in to fear. It is about time to look up and return to the fear of the LORD.
How Can You Restore the Fear of the LORD in the Christian Community? (1 Samuel 7: 3 – 9)
1. Return to the LORD with all your hearts, and seek Him daily.
2. Study and meditate on His word. Hide it in your heart that you don’t sin against Him (Psalm 119 – 11)
3. Trust the LORD with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. In everything you do, acknowledge Him, i.e., seek His will before you make major decisions (Proverbs 3: 5 – 6)
4. Put away foreign gods, i.e., idols, lying, lust, anger, greed, etc.
5. Prepare your heart for the LORD and serve Him only. Everything you do, do it unto the LORD.
6. Walk-in honesty, integrity, truth, and holiness (Hebrews 12:14)
Benefits of Fearing the LORD
1. The LORD reveals Himself as Jehovah Ebenezer, The LORD our helper. He subdues our enemies, fights our battles, and causes us to triumph over our enemies. (1 Samuel 7: 10 – 13)
2. Restores that which the enemy stole (1 Samuel 7: 14)
3. The peace of God rules over any contrary situation that we may face
4. The LORD reveals His secrets to those that fear Him. He makes His covenant with them (Psalm 25:14)
5. Preserves His children from sin (Proverbs 8: 14; Genesis 39:9)
6. Prolong the days of those that fear Him (Proverbs 10:27)
7. Imparts wisdom (Proverbs 1: 7)
8. Attracts His favor and protection, i.e., Blessing (Genesis 39:5)
“Then the Philistines put themselves in battle array against Israel. And when they joined battle, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men of the army in the field. And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of the enemies.’ … And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. … So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, ‘God has come into the camp! … Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. Be strong and conduct yourselves like men, you Philistines, that you do not become servants of the Hebrews… Conduct yourselves like men, and fight!’ So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. Also the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set it in its place again. And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon’s torso was left of it…. But the hand of the LORD was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumors. And when the men of Ashdod saw how it was, they said, ‘The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is harsh toward us and Dagon our god. ‘Therefore they sent and gathered to themselves all the Lords of the Philistines, and said, ‘What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?’ And they answered, ‘Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried away to Gath.’ … So it was, after they had carried it away, that the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction; and He struck the men of the city, both small and great, and tumors broke out of them. Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. So it was, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, ‘They have brought the ark of the God of Israel to us, to kill us and our people!’ So they sent and gathered together all the Lords of the Philistines, and said, ‘Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go back to its own place, so that it does not kill us and our people.’ For there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. And the men who did not die were stricken with the tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven. Now the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, ‘What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us how we should send it to its place.’ So they said, ‘If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty; but by all means return it to Him with a trespass offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why His hand is not removed from you.’ Then they said, ‘What is the trespass offering which we shall return to Him?’ They answered, Five golden tumors and five golden rats, according to the number of the Lords of the Philistines. For the same plague was on all of you and on your Lords. …and you shall give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will lighten His hand from you, from your gods, and from your land…. Now therefore, make a new cart, take two milk cows which have never been yoked, and hitch the cows to the cart; and take their calves home, away from them. Then take the ark of the LORD and set it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you are returning to Him as a trespass offering in a chest by its side. Then send it away, and let it go. And watch: if it goes up the road to its own territory, to Beth Shemesh, then He has done us this great evil.’…Then the men did so… Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right hand or left. And the lords of the philistines went after them to the border of Beth Shemesh. Now the people of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted their eyes and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. Then the cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and stood there… Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck 50,070 men of the people, and the people lamented because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. And the men of Beth Shemesh said, ‘Who is able to stand before this holy LORD GOD?’ …they sent messengers to the inhabitants of kirjath Jearim, saying, ‘The Philistines have brought back the ark of the LORD; come down and take it up.’ 1 Samuel 4: 2-11; 5: 2-11; 6: 1-21