This chapter chronicles the signs of the judgment prophesied in chapters 2 and 3, and Israel’s reactions to it. It is a beginning of God’s judgment upon the house of Eli and the greater social ramifications of that judgment as well. The narrative begins with a military defeat for the Israelites, and their reaction to it. The Israelites then fail in an attempt to right themselves religiously. The enemy, however, was emboldened, and prevailed a second time in battle—this time in a greater rout. In this rout, the prophecy of the death of Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas (2:34) comes to pass and the Ark of the Covenant is lost into the hands of the enemy.
God had spoken to Samuel: “I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the ears of everyone who hears it will tremble” (1 Samuel 3:11). This chapter records the hearing and the trembling. Eli hears the noise of the city mourning over the judgment (4:14). He faints in despair and dies from the fall. Then, Phinehas’ wife hears the news of the judgment. She reacts in despondency for the next generation, placing a name of defeat upon her newborn son.
This text, therefore, reveals three reactions to God’s judgment: delusion, despair, and defeatism. But this message is not all negative. There is an encouraging bonus feature hidden in the background, which serves as a backdrop to the whole story; but it will not come to the fore until chapter 7. This is the unrecorded “reaction” of Samuel through this whole time, as we shall see.
From all of this we can learn to discern our times, overcome the defeat and despair, and act in such ways as to glorify God and prepare for national revival.
“A Very Great Slaughter”
The narrative of chapter 4 is dominated by the reactions of the Israelites to God’s judgment. The judgment comes in the form of military defeat at the hands of the Philistines. The reactions, as we have said, come in the form of delusion, despair, and defeatism. These are the reactions of non-repentant people. They are reactions of false hope and of no hope, products of misplaced affections and trust. Not only do we get to see these reactions, we also see the results of those reactions.
Verses 1–11 record the Israelites’ reaction of delusion, and the results of their delusionary attempts to fix right their wrongs. The Philistines gathered to make war against Israel. Israel strode out confidently, but came back defeated with 4,000 fewer men. The elders to some extent understood that this was an in-house problem. “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines?” (4:3). They did not give credit to the Philistines. They knew their success or defeat was in the hands of the Lord and no one else. So they immediately fell on their knees in repentance and sought God’s Word, right?
Nope. Instead, they fell into ritualistic thinking: “Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” The ark, of course, symbolized God’s presence, and He often worked powerfully in relation to it. But the ark itself was never a guarantee of God’s favor. For the Israelite elders to assume that the mere presence of the ark in battle would “save us from the power of our enemies” was to abandon the true Word of God and engage in fetishism, or magic. It is the assumption that if we just have the right pieces in place, and the right artifacts, and the silver bullet, and stand in the right place at the right time, etc., etc., we will have victory.
To think this way is to assume God can be controlled by inanimate objects made with human hands. It is to unseat God and put men in His place, and to subject the Creator beneath His creation. It is a rank rebellion against the first and second commandments. All of this being true, it is a mild criticism to say these Israelites reacted to God’s judgment with a religious delusion. But for the Israelites to do this with the ark in particular reveals just how badly deluded they were. They were willing to use the ark itself in such a way that violated the very tablets of law that the ark preserved inside it. If the ark could not even make these men obey the very Word it was supposed to preserve, what power would it have over their enemies?
Nevertheless, the delusion prevails. They send to Shiloh for the ark (4:4). Notice that they had to go to Shiloh. Remember this detail for later, because it’s important in the narrative. Notice also that Hophni and Phinehas are the ones who personally bring it to the battle camp. Sure enough, God was behind this. He intended to execute these rebellious sons of Eli, and He used the delusion of the Israelite elders to drag them into the battle. It is fitting, really. The two men responsible for perverting the worship and teaching in Israel would suffer because of the ignorance and superstition produced by their own religious teachings. Thus God returned their sins upon their own heads.
The reaction of the camp shows how pervasive was the delusion throughout society. The two sons of Eli paraded the ark, and “all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded” (4:5). The reception of enthusiasm was so loud it was heard all the way over in the Philistine camp (4:6). The whole camp was obviously overjoyed the presence of the ark. They were also overconfident. This religious delusion would do nothing but lead to destruction and give occasion to the Philistines to blaspheme.
When the Philistines heard the noise, they were initially frightened, but jousted their fears with a good old fashioned pep-talk. They knew the potency of this Hebrew God, for they remembered what He did to the Egyptians (4:7–8). But they were willing to die for their freedom (as they saw it): “be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight” (4:9). This was essentially a “liberty or death” speech pre-dating Patrick Henry by 2,800 years. And so they went to battle against, as they saw it, all odds.
Little did the Philistines know God had prepared them to bring judgment upon the Israelites. Parading into battle with their false hope in the ark, the Israelites were mown down. The text relates “a very great slaughter” of 30,000 Israelites (4:10). Also, “the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died” (4:11). But something even worse happened. Something they didn’t count on (although Eli feared it—4:13). Something that would totally shatter their little religious delusion: “the ark of God was captured” (4:11).
You can now begin to see why the delusion gave the Philistines occasion to blaspheme. They themselves also believed that the mere presence of the ark meant the presence of God (4:7). Such assumptions were and still are common among pagan religions (which means the Israelites were thinking like pagans). Since these assumptions were made, and since the Philistines would rout the Israelites and steal the ark, what would they deduce? As we’ll see in the next chapter, they believed they had conquered the Hebrew God Himself. They placed the ark as a trophy at the feet of their assumedly triumphant god Dagon (5:2). Had the Israelites not fallen into ark-idolatry to begin with, it may not have ended up in the hands of the enemy being blasphemed so. But so often do our own religious delusions make room for the enemy. The true faith is ridiculed enough as it is. We should not also give them the ammunition they need to win the battle and to boast.
Whereas the mass of the Israelite army reacted in superstitious delusion amidst the judgment of God, Eli’s reaction and result were more severe. We may have anticipated this, since he’d had revelations given him personally on three occasions now (Hannah, the man of God, and Samuel—see chapters 2–3). Now, Eli’s time had come. The narrative marks this by telling us that Eli’s waning vision was now totally gone (4:15). Recall how his waning eyes paralleled the spiritual decline of the times. Now we learn that dimness had darkened to blindness. It would be lights-out for Israel, and for Eli.
Eli sat waiting for news from the battle. He knew the prophecies. He feared, but apparently was not prepared for the worst. A messenger had escaped the battle and brought the news into the city. Women and children learned they had just lost 34,000 husbands and sons, fathers and brothers. The city was, overnight, filled with thousands of widows and orphans—one of the great curses of war/judgment which has lasting effects upon society for years (see Isa. 3). Great wailing cries of sorrow filled the streets. Eli could not see what was going on, but he could hear the cries. So he asked what happened. The messenger’s report confirmed Eli’s fear for the ark as well as the fulfillment of the prophecy of the man of God concerning Hophni and Phinehas. Eli could not handle the news:
As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy (1 Samuel 4:18).
Eli’s end was that of the serpent’s: his head was crushed (Gen. 3:15). This is true of many of the representative enemies of God’s people in Scripture (Num. 24:17; Judg. 4; 9; 1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 18). There are three instances of this in 1 Samuel: Eli, Goliath, and Saul. All die having their heads “crushed.” All three wickedly opposed God’s elect.
Further, Eli’s fall and head-crushing was compounded by the fact that he was “heavy.” Obviously, great weight and frail elderly bones are not a great combination. But there is an implicit insult here, and not just on his size itself. It is a play on the word. The Hebrew root word is widely applied to various contexts. The literal meaning is “heavy,” but this is rarely used—only twice in fact, one of which is here. The more metaphorical use of the term includes that of honor, glory, and dignity (Num. 22:15; 1 Chron. 29:28; Ex. 20:12; Ps. 66:2; Is. 40:5; many more), and wealth (Gen. 13:2). A high-profile member of society such as Eli would be expected to have kaved, dignity and honor. Remember also, Eli was the high priest. The high priest’s garments were specifically designed “for glory and for beauty” (Ex. 28:2). But Eli had dishonored his office by perverting the sacrifices and honoring his sons above God (2:29). Note the text of that verse again. God says:
Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor [kaved] your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel? (1Sam. 2:29).
Now you can get the word play in 4:18. Eli should have projected kaved (honor and glory), but through his sin, he only fattened himself and became kaved (heavy). When he should have been a representative of the glory of righteousness in society, he was a glutton and grew fat because of it. He should have projected glory, but instead promoted shame and sin. And his sin became the means God used to destroy him. His sin came back upon his own head, literally.
The nature of Eli’s reaction flows from this lack of character. Confronted with God’s judgment, he fainted in total despair. Despite the fact that he had been prepared for this moment through repeated warnings, there was nothing in his heart or soul which could bear up under the loss. And why should we expect there to be: Eli had forgotten God, and had in fact honored His sons above God. He had nothing in him that would glorify God. His weight was of the flesh, not of God’s glory. He had no spiritual anchor, no weight of character, no moral strength, no courage under fire. In the face of judgment, he could not stand.
The third reaction came from Phinehas’ widow. Of the three we consider here, hers may in fact be the saddest. Delusion was terrible, for it ended in great slaughter. Despair was awful as it ended in death. But defeatism would place a lasting imprint upon its children as well. Defeatism is resignation to a life marked by loss and hopelessness. It builds on despair and projects it into society.
This case (vv. 19–22) particularly highlights the inter-generational effects of defeatism. Phinehas’ wife was pregnant, almost to term. When she hears the news, the stress and trauma induces labor. She gives birth, but the trauma paired with the birth overwhelmed her physically. She lay near death. Her defeatist worldview at this point robbed her of all joy and hope. When informed the baby was a son—a male, therefore, to carry on the family name and trade. As the son of Phinehas (we assume), the boy would become a priest, possibly the high priest. But the mother did not answer or even pay attention (4:20). The Hebrew literally says she “did not set her heart,” again suggesting despair and detachment.
Her last meaningful act before her death was to name the child Ichabod. The I in this name means “not” or “no”; the chabod part is from the same word from earlier, kaved, “glory.” The name means “without glory,” or “there is no glory.” Thus the mother’s explanation: “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured” (4:22). She actually repeats this refrain in verses 21 and 22. The loss of the ark had obviously affected her profoundly. It dominated her dying thoughts, so much that she placed that name upon her soon-to-be orphan child to bear for the rest of his life. Not only had she resigned herself to hopelessness, but in her despair, she branded her child with hopelessness, too.
The lone faithful figure in this story makes only a brief appearance. He is Samuel. He is faithful here in that he brought the Word of God to Israel. Through all of this tragedy, delusion, despair, and defeat, his was the only proper reaction: faithful preaching and patience.
The “reaction” of patience is not recorded explicitly. In fact, nothing of Samuel is recorded after 4:1 until 7:3. The text is silent about him for three whole chapters. But what is the only reasonable understanding of this silence? It can only be that through this period, Samuel went about his work as a prophet, priest, and judge faithfully day to day. And as we will note when we get to chapter 7, a full twenty years passes in 7:2. Samuel would have been about his prophetic work for this whole time, and thus we can say he was both faithful and patient—very patient—in reaction to God’s judgment on the land.
But we do know that at the beginning of chapter 4, Samuel was preaching the Word to the whole nation: And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. One may question whether this even belongs in this narrative. It does seem rather to go better with the end of chapter 3:
And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD (1 Samuel 3:19–21).
Once God had established Samuel as a prophet with Eli, he then made it public. Soon, the whole nation knew that the Word of God was being published once again. Specifically, they knew 1) that the prophet was Samuel, and 2) that Samuel was at Shiloh. This is why the soldiers’ return to Shiloh mentioned earlier was so important: there was no way they could not have known that Samuel with the Word of the Lord was right there in Shiloh, and right there in the very tabernacle to which they were going to get the Ark. They could have gone right to him and inquired what to do. But they instead continued on with their own plan with the Ark. This is the reason I believe the mention of Samuel preaching belongs in 4:1. It belongs at the head of this chapter as a condemnation upon all of the sinful reactions which follow.
Why did the men not inquire of Samuel? There a few possible reasons. Perhaps Samuel was still quite young. He may not yet have been quite 20 years old—certainly not in a position to be considered a leader. But the leadership question seems to have already been answered by God’s establishment of Samuel as a trustworthy prophet throughout all of Israel. The men could still have despised his youth, but that seems like a trivial objection next to a perfect track record of prophecy. Granted, rebellious men are known to magnify trivial objections in an attempt to hide from God and continue in their rebellion.
A second possibility is that perhaps Samuel’s prophecies had been largely of impending judgment up to this point. Perhaps these men knew what they would hear if they inquired of God. Yet in their witless desperation, they continued with their religious schemes in an attempt to leverage God’s favor. This is rebellion writ large: having the word of judgment placed right before you, and instead of repenting, running. Yet not just running, but trying to make God work for you by means of your own planning.
A third possibility seems likely: perhaps the society had sunk so deeply into superstition and corrupted religion that they simply did not think to inquire of the Lord. Like Eli, the people had grown used to not hearing from Him. Even though Samuel had been openly preaching among them for some time now, they did not regard the Word. They trusted more in the outward symbols, rites, and traditions of their faith than they did the deeper meaning. When a crisis came, the best their ignorant and deceived minds could devise was to assume the Ark had magical powers.
The one thing we do know is that Samuel preached faithfully anyway. Whether the people ignored him and did not seek the Word because of his youth, their open rebellion, whatever, we know that Samuel stuck to his calling. He had laid the Word out for all of Israel to hear. Therefore, he was faithful, and they were without excuse.
1. Worldviews have consequences
At the heart of the delusions and despair which cause our personal and social problems is often bad theology. There may be simple factual mistakes as well, but bad theology should not be overlooked. Bad theology makes for bad worldviews. Bad worldviews lead to poor decisions. Poor decisions create corrupt societies.
This began in the ecclesiastical leadership. Remember: what happened to these Israelites on this battlefield originated with a failure in worship and teaching (see 2:12–36). Perversions in the house of God produced defeat in society, law, and now international affairs. The advance of the kingdom of God had come to a halt.
Likewise today: so much of the social decline today results from failures in worship and in the pulpit. We fail to apply the word to all of life (which is true worship—Rom. 12:1–2), and pastors fail to instruct Christians how to do so, or even to do so period. We create religious comfort zones, limit the Word, and then act surprised when we lose battles and the enemies gain ground. The Israelites went to battle while dishonoring God, and then reacted in dismay when they lost 34,000 men. Likewise, we send our children to public schools, then act befuddled and mourn when the enemy picks them off by the thousands. We support compromised, corrupt, and even pagan politicians, then act surprised when they sell us out. All this and much more, and yet we can’t figure out why the cultural values slide. We’re like the Israelites asking themselves, “Why has the Lord defeated us today” (4:3), as if it were God’s fault and not our own.
Worse yet, the church not only halts the progress of the kingdom, but when the enemy begins to gain ground, the church in its own way actually embraces the decline. At least the Israelites after the defeat in this chapter knew they had failed. They still knew they were supposed to advance the kingdom and take ground. They just had a wrong answer to their crisis. The church today too often exonerates itself and embraces the social decline with a combination of excuses for its behavior and theologies of defeatism or escapism. The modern church can look into the face of social failure and say, “I have done no wrong. This is how it is supposed to be.” But this is overconfidence in the service of delusion. The two are a wicked pair, always together. We must confront this pride and fear. Christians must accept that the decline in civilization is a theological failure first and foremost. The pulpits and the people need to repent and return to God’s word to answer their worldview questions: sovereignty, authority, law, sanctions, inheritance.
Eli had lived out his own delusion as well. He scorned God’s glory and honored his own sons above God. He ended up blind physically and spiritually, and spiritually vanquished. He had no spiritual strength to endure even the news of judgment. He despaired and died under the weight of his own fattened body.
Paul teaches us that Christians must do just the opposite:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16–18).
We endure affliction and make sacrifices in our lives in order to glorify God, not men. His honor comes first. Such a lifestyle prepares us for even greater glory—indeed, eternal glory—because we do not look on the outward glory of men and institutions. We thrive from the spiritual strength God gives within: strength that enables us to overcome the lusts of our own flesh and pride, to humble ourselves before Him, to obey His law, to withstand the taunts and traditions of men, and to present out bodies as living sacrifices to Him.
Eli’s path led eventually to despair and death. He who honors anything above God will eventually run into this problem. It is a classic case of what Wisdom herself put before us: For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:35—36). The ultimate manifestation of despair is suicide; and while Eli did not fall over backwards on purpose, his death is just as much attributable to a despair deriving from having forsaken God. To such an extent, all false theology is suicidal.
Likewise, the despair of Phinehas’ wife led to death, but it went even further. Her loss of hope led her not only to give up, but to brand her child with hopelessness as well. So easily can we toss the burdens of our own sins upon the backs of our children and grandchildren. This is despair growing into full-blown defeatism: it is a worldview that reaches tentacles into the future. The defeatist interprets present failure as a prophecy for all the future; he believes God’s kingdom will not prevail in history. When faced with adversity, the defeatist does not resort to prayer, repentance, and especially not personal discipline. Instead, the he accepts adversity as confirmation of his defeatism: “the world is getting worse, and here’s proof.” Thus there is no hope except in death or escape from society.
In her defeatism, Ichabod’s mother did not set her heart upon her child, but rather set the mark of her own sin upon him for life, like a scar. Likewise, our lack of trust and hope can have lasting intergenerational effects. When our hearts do not trust in God’s promises, we live like it—meaning, we give up on the future, too. This manifests clearly in how we budget time and money, how we relate to a declining society and its institutions, and very clearly in how we educate and train our children. The defeatist will accept decline with resignation. He will accept the institutions thrust before him, for he has no hope they will change. He will not fight for change, for there can be “no glory” in this life. He will not call others to fight, and he will not teach his children to stand up and fight, either.
While this worldview deficiency may neutralize Christians, it is not neutral in society overall. It merely removes the Christian voice and biblical worldview from any public influence. It leaves society to the dogs of humanism. This means that the only influences in the public square and in much of the private sector as well will be pagan, humanistic, naturalistic, and whatever else non-Christian is present. Over time, society is shaped more and more by them and not us—because we handed it to them without a fight.
Defeatism is not content with self-defeat; it must defeat its children, too. As society declines due to Christian detachment, the defeatist is simultaneously training his children to be defeatists also. Thus, the next generation of these Christians will also avoid engagement. This will allow another generation to spiral downward—downward from the lowest point of the last one. The result is a downward trend over generations, fueled by Christian pessimism and resignation to society.
Thus defeatism presents a double failure for Christians in society: it surrenders its own generation, and it does all it can to neuter the next one as well.
The greatest single symbol of this dual failure is that of the defeatist handing over his own children to be educated in a pagan institution. The symbolism of this act—engaged in by tens of millions of Christians nationwide—is that of resignation in the face of social decline. As that child walks from the car into the halls of a public school, he or she might as well have “Ichabod” written on the backs of their shirts, for so have their parents branded them: there is no hope, there is no glory. Walk on, child, into this inglorious world before you. Be forewarned: your parents’ hearts are not set upon you.
Against all these things, God has called us to have a full-orbed biblical worldview: he expects us to remain faithful to His law, and He promises that He shall defeat all of His enemies. This requires us to be courageous and faithful, like Samuel, even in the midst of enemies, even in the midst of judgment and social decay. But Samuel’s example shows this is indeed possible. He abounds in two things that flow from his loyalty and faithfulness to God: preaching the Word, and patience. We must do the same. We must preach the Word comprehensively and without compromise. We do not tailor it to fit the emotional foibles of superstitious elders (though they be elders), the selfish gluttony of corrupt churches (though upheld by prominent clergy), or the complacent defeatism of compromised preacher’s wives (or other seemingly important members of the community). We preach it as it is in all its fullness in every area of life: family, church, state, military, school, hospital, etc., etc. Woe unto us if we do not.
2. In difficult times, religious leaders often defect to superstitious liturgy instead of applying the Word
Though they had Samuel right there with the Word of the Lord, the superstitious elders did not seek it. The same is too often true today. We have the Word of God right here in our hands, but when the Philistines of this world confuse us a single time, we give up on Dominion and fly to ritualistic versions of the faith—whether it be Romanistic liturgies or word-faith type charismatic magic. We are so quick to set up man’s word and man’s ideas in the place of God’s. And why? Because we ran into one temporary setback, or lost a single small battle. But instead of repenting and asking what about us needs to change, we assume the defect is on God’s end. We abandon His word, and look for some version of the faith that does not challenge us so, yet gives us ritualistic hoops to jump through to make us feel like we have somehow served God for the day. But the truth is, though we may delude ourselves into thinking such ritualism actually pleases God and will bring His favor, we are digging our graves deeper, preparing for the greater social defeat that is about to come as a result of God’s judgment on our rebellion.
But fallen man is too good at rationalizing his superstitions. Why did the Israelites prefer their ark-worship to God’s pure Word, after all? Why did they decide to trust in the ark like they did? Was there good biblical precedent? Did the Law command this, or promise it? No. It was a superstitious assumption based on lore from the distant past mixed with a generation of perverted theological leadership. Because of clueless theological assumptions, based upon what? Mere traditions? Sentimental religious piety? Tales of good ol’ Joshua and the battle of Jericho? The ark worked for him after all, right? Then the theologians get hold of the rationalization and make it sound plausible: We’re trusting in the historic liturgy that our ancient fathers established. We’re living out the communion of saints. March on!
So today too many theologians have all but abandoned God’s law, dominion, and the uphill task of faithful, patient reconstruction of society via the preaching of God’s comprehensive Word. They prefer to don ridiculous ruffly gowns, burn incense, bow and cross themselves, jostle Latin phrases, dig up and drone ancient canticles, and oh so much more tinkerage. By this they think they will purify worship and draw us into continuity with the historic witness of “the Church.” With all of their gay ruffles and colors, they do not stop to think they how much they make God’s ministers look like clowns. With their rites and rituals, paraments and vast array of paraphernalia, they turn the worship of God into a circus. Seeing that most of the outward aspects of ancient liturgy and vestments were borrowed from pagan religions or culture to make new converts feel comfortable, we should understand that the introduction of such things into Christian worship was the seeker-sensitive movement of its day. Then the ancient church-establishments enshrined it as ecclesiastical law for the sake of uniformity. Modern-day Reformed theologians who wish to reinstate this stuff are trying to join the seeker-sensitive movement, only they are frozen in time 1700 years in the past. And they want the centralized church government to impose their gayeties. Like the ignorant Israelites seeking the magic Ark, they will ignore the simple and direct Word in order to compound error upon error, superstition upon superstition. And if so, they will fall in the cultural battle before them, seven times worse than the small battle that made them think to begin with.
We can easily fall into other superstitions as well, like the common mentality that “church” is merely what we do within the four walls of a particular building on Sunday; that “worship” is singing songs in that building on that same day. But these things are a small and almost symbolic aspect of what the church and worship are all about. Paul explains:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:1–2).
Our Christian life is the largest and most important aspect of our worship, and the sacrifices that we make in order to remain faithful to God amidst a hostile culture are properly called “a living sacrifice” and “your spiritual worship” (literally, your “logical service” in the Greek). It should direct us to be transformed by God’s Word, and not conformed to pagan ways of thinking, dressing, and worshipping. We need Samuels and Pauls who will lead our worship in this way, and not confused “elders” who give themselves to effeminacy, quasi-cross-dressed complete with satin, lace, and fringe.
3. When we dishonor God, we give His enemies occasion to blaspheme.
When we act unfaithfully, we provide opportunities for the enemy to advance. When we adopt tactics that dishonor God, we secure our own defeat. When we fail to repent and change our ways, we embolden the enemy. When we refuse to learn, we secure future defeats as well—but this time at the hand of an emboldened enemy bent on the destruction of us and our God. The defeats grow worse and the effects ripple further throughout society. The enemy is magnified, and God’s people grow despondent and resigned to failure. This is the very bondage from which God has freed us. Do we value the freedom He gives? Then we should be a people quick to repent, individually and corporately. Should we fail to do so, then we may expect a vicious spiral of defeats ahead, until God’s enemies blaspheme Him openly, remove Him from society, and prostrates Him at the feet of their own man-made gods.
4. Patience, my friend
When we retain a faithful witness, we put the enemy on the defensive. He may still ridicule and revolt, but we can rest assured that God will bring His will to pass in due time. This is where patience becomes our friend. Biblical worldview and Christian reconstruction teach us to have a multi-generational outlook. Unlike Phinehas’ despondent wife, who branded the next generation with despair, we must face declining society with optimism at the opportunities that are to come. We respond not by despairing, but by preparing. And this requires that we act faithfully now, and that we do so even when it seems pointless and hopeless to us in the immediate present.
Under our first application, we noted that Samuel had reacted faithfully by preaching the Word and also by his patience. We also noted previously that the historical window would stretch twenty years before his preaching and preparations would have any impact. We must have the same mentality. We have no idea what God intends to accomplish or when he intends to accomplish it: it could be tomorrow, it could be twenty years from now. But we do know for certain the standards He has called us to live by. Let us cling to the certain and leave the timing up to Him. And if He will twenty or forty years of suffering to pass, then we will preach the truth and prepare for twenty or forty years. He who trusts wholeheartedly in the Lord, can remain patient for millennia, for patience is nothing short of an active faith that never loses hope, and yet never compromises its focus. With that in place, nothing any enemy can do will startle us, and we will always know where to turn when there are questions or temporary setbacks.