1. IMPENDING WOE UPON THE NATION
a. For what gift did faithful Samuel become renowned? 1 Samuel 3:19, 21.
b. Meanwhile, although Eli had bowed in humble submission to the rebuke against his household, how did God view the situation? Ecclesiastes 8:11.
“Eli did not manifest the fruits of true repentance. He confessed his guilt, but failed to renounce the sin. Year after year the Lord delayed His threatened judgments. Much might have been done in those years to redeem the failures of the past, but the aged priest took no effective measures to correct the evils that were polluting the sanctuary of the Lord. . . . The warnings were disregarded by the people, as they had been by the priests. The people of surrounding nations also, who were not ignorant of the iniquities openly practiced in Israel, became still bolder in their idolatry and crime. They felt no sense of guilt for their sins, as they would have felt had the Israelites preserved their integrity. But a day of retribution was approaching. God’s authority had been set aside, and His worship neglected and despised, and it became necessary for Him to interpose, that the honor of His name might be maintained.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 582, 583.
2. SUMMONING A SYMBOL
a. What foolish decision did Israel make when in a weak spiritual state, and who was responsible for this decision? 1 Samuel 4:2, 4.
“This expedition [of going out against the Philistines to battle] was undertaken by the Israelites without counsel from God, without the concurrence of high priest or prophet. [1 Samuel 4:2 quoted.] As the shattered and disheartened force returned to their encampment, ‘the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us today before the Philistines?’ (1 Samuel 4:3). The nation was ripe for the judgment of God, yet they did not see that their own sins had been the cause of this terrible disaster.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 583.
“Instead of confessing and forsaking the sins that had brought defeat upon them, [the Israelites] now set about devising some other means by which to obtain the victory. Then they thought of the ark of God. What wonders had been wrought when the priests bore it before the people into Jordan! How its waters parted, leaving a safe path for that vast company! They remembered also how it was borne about the city of Jericho seven days in solemn silence, and then as the trumpets pealed, and the people gave a great shout, the massive walls fell flat upon the earth.
“The recollection of these glorious triumphs inspired all Israel with fresh hope and courage.”—The Signs of the Times, December 22, 1881.
b. What shows the misunderstanding the people had about the ark, and how might we fall into the same trap today? 1 Samuel 4:5.
“[Israel] did not consider that it was the law of God which alone gave to the ark its sacredness, and that its presence would bring them prosperity only as they obeyed that law. . . .
“Yet we see a similar blindness and inattention on the part of many at the present day. . . . God has given to modern Israel warnings, counsel, and reproof, to bring them to repentance and reformation of life. But too often these produce but a momentary impression. The persons warned soon return to their own ways. . . . It is one thing to acknowledge the claims of God’s law, and quite another thing to render faithful and willing obedience to all its requirements.”—Ibid.
3. MISGUIDED CONFIDENCE
a. With what regard did the Philistines hold the ark? What was the outcome of the battle? 1 Samuel 4:6, 10. Why did the ark not help Israel?
“[Israel] overlooked the distinction between the divine presence vouchsafed to an obedient and believing people, and the ark, which was but a symbol of that presence. Hence they confidently looked to the ark for those blessings which God alone could bestow. They saw not the wide contrast between the condition of Israel when the Lord wrought so mightily in their behalf, and their present state.
“They were then walking in obedience to God. The ark was borne by holy men in accordance with His express command, and the Captain of the Lord’s host went before the repository of His law. Then His arm brought deliverance for them. But they were now following their own plans, in opposition to the divine counsel and authority. The ark was borne by sons of Belial who were doomed to destruction. Yet the people were so infatuated by Satan as to imagine they could induce God to fight for them, when the law under the mercy-seat condemned them to defeat, disaster, and death!”—The Signs of the Times, December 22, 1881.
“God permitted His ark to be taken by their enemies to show Israel how vain it was to trust in the ark, the symbol of His presence, while they were profaning the commandments contained in the ark. God would humble them by removing from them that sacred ark, their boasted strength and confidence.”—Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4a, p. 106.
b. What tragedies highlighted the woe of this defeat? 1 Samuel 4:11, 15–22.
“The Lord sorely chastised His people Israel, revealing their hypocrisy and rebuking their presumption, and thus left upon the pages of history the testimony for all future ages, that the iniquities of His professed people will not go unpunished. The greater the knowledge of God’s will, the greater the sin of those who disregard it. God is not dependent upon men to cause His name to be feared and honored in the earth. He accepts the labors of those who walk in faithfulness and humility before Him, but He will reject all who profess to serve Him, and yet follow in the course of the unrighteous.”—The Signs of the Times, December 22, 1881.
4. ACCOUNTABILITY BEFORE GOD
a. In the judgment that befell the house of Eli, what solemn warning should we heed from the way history repeats itself? Matthew 7:19, 23; Isaiah 58:1.
“Eli was gentle, loving, and kind, and had a true interest in the service of God and the prosperity of His cause. He was a man who had power in prayer. He never rose up in rebellion against the words of God. But he was wanting; he did not have firmness of character to reprove sin and execute justice against the sinner so that God could depend upon him to keep Israel pure. He did not add to his faith the courage and power to say No at the right time and in the right place. Sin is sin; righteousness is righteousness. The trumpet note of warning must be sounded. We are living in a fearfully wicked age. The worship of God will become corrupted unless there are wide-awake men at every post of duty. It is no time now for any to be absorbed in selfish ease. Not one of the words which God has spoken must be allowed to fall to the ground.
“While some in Battle Creek have professedly believed the Testimonies, they have been trampling them under their feet. But few have read them with interest; but few have heeded them. The indulgence of self, pride, fashion, and display are mingled with the worship of God. He wants brave men for action, who will not regard the setting up of idols and the coming in of abominations without lifting up the voice like a trumpet, showing the people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their sins.”—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 517.
“Warnings and reproofs are not given to the erring among Seventh-day Adventists because their lives are more blameworthy than are the lives of professed Christians of the nominal churches, nor because their example or their acts are worse than those of the Adventists who will not yield obedience to the claims of God’s law, but because they have great light, and have by their profession taken their position as God’s special, chosen people, having the law of God written in their hearts.”—Ibid., vol.2, p. 452.
b. As the Philistines were cursed by stealing the symbol of a God they did not worship, how long was it before they returned the ark? How long was it before Israel would value again the sacred symbol? 1 Samuel 6:1; 7:1, 2.
5. A MIRACLE OF MERCY
a. What earnest appeal did Samuel bring to the people of Israel and with what beautiful results? 1 Samuel 7:3, 6.
“As soon as Samuel began to judge Israel, even in his youth, he called an assembly of the people for fasting and prayer, and deep humiliation before God. He bore his solemn testimony from the mouth of God. The people then began to learn where their strength was.”—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 517.
b. What should we learn from how God was gracious to humbled Israel? Why should we search our hearts as they did? 1 Samuel 7:7, 10, 12.
“The condition of God’s people at the present day is similar to that of idolatrous Israel. Many who bear the name of Christians are serving other gods besides the Lord. Our Creator demands our supreme devotion, our first allegiance. Anything which tends to abate our love for God, or to interfere with the service due Him, becomes thereby an idol. With some their lands, their houses, their merchandise, are the idols. Business enterprises are prosecuted with zeal and energy, while the service of God is made a secondary consideration. Family worship is neglected, secret prayer forgotten. Many claim to deal justly with their fellowmen, and seem to feel that in so doing they discharge their whole duty. But it is not enough to keep the last six commandments of the decalogue. We are to love the Lord our God with all the heart. Nothing short of obedience to every precept—nothing less than supreme love to God as well as equal love to our fellowmen—can satisfy the claims of the divine law.”—The Signs of the Times, January 26, 1882.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Why is it not enough to submit to reproof?
2. Why wasn’t the presence of the ark helpful on the battlefield?
3. What was the significance of the word “Ichabod” in Israel’s history?
4. Eli was a man of prayer, but what was lacking in his spirituality?
5. How are we—like Israel—in need of a “Mizpeh” experience today?