Year 2 Day 210
Read - 1 Samuel 4:1-3a
Message - Alan Burke
Last week there was a news headline “Climate change: 'Adapt or die' warning from Environment Agency”. The article paints a pretty bleak picture of what lies ahead in this world unless we take significant steps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. As I read it I did so with a biblical lens and I was comforted in the knowledge that our God by his providence is at work. It’s something that we have thought about before, providence. Providence may or may not be a word that is familiar to you but it is a biblical teaching that in what we face with a changing climate, in what we face in difficult circumstances in life, actually in all things that God is governing all his creatures and their actions by his providence from beginning to end. As we look to the book of 1 Samuel once more we are reminded of that truth.
So far everything had been focused on what God was doing in redemptive history, in how he was bringing forth a godly man to lead his people in Samuel, but then all of a sudden the focus changes and we are told of how the Israelites went out to fight against the Philistines (4:1). We’re not told who was the aggressor, in fact it doesn’t matter. What we do know is that there had been issues between the Philistines and the people of God for a long time, their hostilities dominated Israel’s history.
The Philistines (2) deploy their forces leaving four thousand Israelite soldiers dead on the battlefield, there is no mention of the wounded or the scale of the fighting force. What we are given here is like the live news report from an emerging situation, one in which there has been no time to take stock of anything other than the casualties and the Israelites are left reeling at it all. The hope that was there in chapter three and the opening of chapter four in how we are told of Samuel’s word coming to all Israel (3:19-4:1) is now but a distant memory.
As the soldiers return to camp, the elders of the people ask the question “why did the Lord bring defeat upon us today?” (3a). It is a striking questions, for in the midst of their loss, they understood something that often we easily miss, even though they as a people did what was right in their own eyes, they still had an understanding and a belief in the sovereignty of God that in all things God is in control by his providence. Yes the battle was lost but they knew that it wasn’t the Philistines who had brought this defeat on them but the Lord, ‘why did the Lord bring defeat upon us’ they asked knowing that he was ultimately in control.
The Scriptures make clear that the Lord by his providence is at work, he is governing all his creatures and their actions. In a most complete and sovereign way, he ordains everything from the beginning to the end, and he brings them to pass. This includes not only the good and pleasant things, but also things that are not. In a mysterious, and in a holy, wise, and powerful way, God does this, he is sovereignly over all, (see Gen 45:5, Acts 1:16).
He had shown that in his using of Hannah, who had suffered bitterly, who had longed for a son, God used her suffering according to his purposes, and likewise here God was using the events here that unfolded for his purposes. The four thousand dead on the battlefield were according to his eternal plan, according to the council of his will and the elders as they exclaimed why did the Lord bring defeat upon us knew that. We may stand back and wonder what is going on but sovereignly behind it all God is at work, at work here now in the midst of it all by his providence (Dan 2:20-21, Amos 3:6, Eph 1:11). God leaves nothing to chances. His purpose will not be thwarted. Instead, in a most complete and sovereign way, he ordains everything from the beginning to the end, and he brings them to pass.
Q89 How is the Word made effectual to salvation?The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation. (Neh. 8:8, 1 Cor. 14:24–25, Acts 26:18, Ps. 19:8, Acts 20:32, Rom. 15:4, 2 Tim. 3:15–17, Rom. 10:13–17, Rom. 1:16)