Samuel is now growing up, listening to the LORD, and speaking prophecy to all of Israel.
Now the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines. The Israelites camped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines at Aphek. The Philistines deployed their forces to meet Israel, and as the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand of them on the battlefield. When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, "Why did the LORD bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? 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." (1 Samuel 4:1b-3 NIV)
It’s not bad for the Israelites to battle the Philistines. God had instructed them to rid the land of the people who lived there before Israel. Why, then, did they lose in battle? That was also a good question to ask. The problem, though is that they did not ask the LORD. Instead they asked themselves. Then, they came up with a plan that sounded good and acted on it.
So the people sent men to Shiloh, and they brought back the ark of the covenant of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim. And Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. When the ark of the LORD's covenant came into the camp, all Israel raised such a great shout that the ground shook. Hearing the uproar, the Philistines asked, "What's all this shouting in the Hebrew camp?" 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. "Oh no! Nothing like this has happened before. We're doomed! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness…" (1 Samuel 4:4-8 NIV)
I’m just going to pause right here to say it. Rebellion against God often sounds like a good idea at the time. I’m going to say it again. Rebellion against God often sounds like a good idea at the time. We can come up with really good ideas and plans. The plans can sound good, right, and holy. The plans can sound churchy, with all the right words and trappings. The problem, though, is that they are our plans. We come up with plans on our own and, if we pray about them, we ask God to bless them. When we do that, we talk at God. Maybe, we talk to God. But we are certainly not listening to God. Talking is different than listening. The Israelites came up with a plan. They got everyone in Israel excited about the plan. The Philistines were frightened as a result of the plan. It was not God’s plan. The Israelites talked. They did not listen.
Be strong, Philistines! Be men, or you will be subject to the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Be men, and fight!" So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died. (1 Samuel 4:9-11 NIV)
God’s plans are not necessarily our plans. God’s ways are not necessarily our ways. The only way to make them the same is to listen. God will not be impressed by our great wisdom, our eloquent arguments, or our passionate persistence. When the LORD has a plan in place, we need to get on board with His plan – even when it does not match our own.
That same day a Benjamite ran from the battle line and went to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dust on his head. 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. When the man entered the town and told what had happened, the whole town sent up a cry. Eli heard the outcry and asked, "What is the meaning of this uproar?" The man hurried over to Eli, who was ninety-eight years old and whose eyes had failed so that he could not see. He told Eli, "I have just come from the battle line; I fled from it this very day." Eli asked, "What happened, my son?" The man who brought the news replied, "Israel fled before the Philistines, and the army has suffered heavy losses. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured." When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off 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. He had led Israel forty years. (1 Samuel 4:12-18 NIV)
Eli died heartbroken. His sons died on the same day, just as the LORD said would happen. The LORD shared this plan through his prophet…Samuel. This was the first prophecy given to the young boy, Samuel. He knew that talking was different from listening. He listened.
How about you? Do you go to God in prayer? Do you talk at God? Do you talk with God? Do you listen?