The chapter starts off by explaining that Israel went to battle against the Philistines and lost. Four thousand Israelites were killed. After suffering enormous loss in their battle against the Philistines, they asked the age-old question, “Why did God allow this to happen?”
Specifically, they asked, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines?” (v. 3).
But it doesn’t appear that they actually considered the question with any gravity. There is no indication that they actually went before the LORD to find the answer.
Instead, they took matters in their own hands, and subsequently put their faith in the wrong things. The text indicates no pause between their question and their solution, “Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.”
Notice how their faith is in the symbol of God’s Presence, rather than in the One it represents. Their trust is in “it” instead of in “the LORD.”
Perhaps that is why God allowed the proceeding battle to end in even greater disaster – to teach Israel that they should reverence and trust in Him over mere symbols of Him.
The unfortunate result of that, however, was that the Philistines thought (at least for a time) that they had triumphed over God. Eventually they would realize that was false (in chapter 6), but not yet.
So some takeaways:
- When we ask “why,” are we really looking for an answer?
- Do we place our trust in God alone, or is it sometimes misplaced?
- When it seems as though evil has triumphed over good, we must remember that God is still in control; He has allowed things to happen for a reason, and someday, the tables will turn and He will triumph.