Summary: What happens when we decide to take matters into our own hands instead of following Christ?
Come Follow Me
It was a calm, cool and clear morning. The sun was still hovering near the horizon, it’s yellow ball showing a hint of the heat that would soon envelope the land. There were a few birds in the air, going about their early morning business of finding a meal and paying little attention to what was transpiring on the hills below.
The quietude of nature provided little warning of the tumult to come.
If one was to look down upon the scene from a balloon or plane you would see two hillsides separated by a long narrow valley. To the east lay Eben-ezer and to the west was Aphek.
Aligned on the hillside near Eben-ezer the Israeli army was encamped. The white tents haphazardly lined up. Campfires blazing as the morning meal was prepared. Men slowly crawling out of the tents tugging on their sandals and shirts. On top of the hill near the center of camp was a much larger tent with the flag of the Hebrews displayed alongside the commanders pendent. And towards the rear of the camp the horses were tied up, slowly swinging their tails while contentedly chewing their morning grain.
On the opposing hill stood the Philistine army. Their white tents were lined up tidily in straight lines. Paths clearly laid out allowing for troops to march unimpeded from one end of camp to the other. The command tent also sat atop the hill with its commanders pendent proudly swaying in the slight breeze. Towards the rear of the camp large campfires blazed with cooks busily preparing the morning meal for the troops; a line already starting to form and the men having their platters in hand. On the fringes of the camp one could see the sentries attending to their duty to provide warning if anything unexpected occurred.
About all laid a tense atmosphere of expectation. Men in both camps were a little nervous, quickly jumping to obey orders. As the morning wore on even the horses tails began to twitch nervously. Nerves were stretched taut, men appearing to talk to themselves, mouths moving, but no sound heard.
Suddenly, trumpets blared a call to arms. The birds who had been up to now quietly in search of seed or worm took sudden flight at the noise squawking their displeasure at being interrupted so rudely from their morning meal. Drums began to beat setting the pace as on both hillsides men began lining up below the tents with sword, shield or spear in hand. Busily hovering around the troops were the commanders ensuring the men were properly equipped and aligned.
In due course the trumpets blared again and the opposing armies began to race towards one another swinging their swords and shouting in an attempt to strike fear against the opposing soldiers. The combatants met in the valley with a noise similar to what a Tsunami wave crashing ashore might sound like. The battle waged with first one army gaining ground then the other. The sun slowly clawed its way up to its zenith then wearily started down the other side as if exhausted from watching the puny humans beating each other. Finally, late in the day the trumpets blared once again and the combatants wearily made their way towards their encampments.
As you spied upon the individual troops one could sense who the victors were and who were the losers. The Israeli’s clearly walked with much more of a slump to their shoulders, their shields, spears, and swords dragging along the ground.
Meanwhile, the Philistines had much more of a bounce to their step. Their shoulders were back, their shields held high and their swords proudly sheathed while their spears rested across their shoulders.
With much consternation the Israeli leaders met in the command tent. “Why? Why, did the Lord abandon us?
Surely, we fought against the heathens for the glory of the Lord.
Did he not see us?
Did he not hear us?
Why, did He defeat us?” They asked plaintively.
The leaders pondered the significance of the defeat and the loss of four thousand men. They debated different tactics trying to select the one that would turn defeat into victory. They poured over the maps looking for any hint of terrain that might give them an advantage. They sent their scouts out to see what damage they might have inflicted upon the Philistines.
When all was said and done the leaders came to the conclusion that only one thing would allow them to snatch victory out this most recent and humbling defeat. They needed the Ark of the Covenant. For surely, “with the Ark in the midst of the army no enemy could defeat them! Did not Moses pray “Rise up Lord and let the enemies be scattered” as the Ark was carried before the army? Surely, the Lord would do the same for us now” they exclaimed. All the leaders and elders were in agreement at this decision. So, the commander sent men back to Shiloh to bring the Ark to Eben-ezer.