In spite of Israelite enthusiasm (v. 5; in Israel’s view God is always good for morale) and Philistine alarm, the scheme flopped. In view of all the hype one expects more than the laconic entry of verse 10: “So the Philistines fought and Israel was struck down, and each man fled to his tent.” Not only that, but Yahweh’s ark was captured (v11). The people who read the papers and listened to the newscasts could draw only one conclusion: Yawheh had suffered defeat; he was unable to deliver the goods for Israel. Not only Israel but Yahwah was the loser.
The text forces two important implications upon us: Yahweh will suffer shame rather than allow you to carry on a false relationship with him; and Yahweh will allow you to be disappointed with him if it will awaken you to the sort of God he really is.
Contemporary believers must beware of thinking they are immune from this rabbit-foot faith. What is behind a church’s twenty-four-hour prayer vigil? Is it a desire to be in earnest with God, to plead with him in some matter? Or is there some thinking that if we simply organize and orchestrate such coverage, God will be forced to grant whatever we are praying about? Perhaps individual Christians have observed that “things go better with prayer.” But what then is the drive behind their daily devotional exercises? Is it delight in meeting with God or with “things” going better? Whenever the church stops confessing “Thou art worthy” and begins chanting “Thou art useful” — well, then you know the ark of God has been captured again.
Now where’s that Fall ’53 Sears Catalog?