And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before.” (1 Samuel 4:7b)
The Philistines had just crushed the Israelites in battle. This was nothing for them, for they were an army who were widely feared on the battlefield. From this same army would later come Goliath, the giant, whom David faced. Why would a shout from Israel suddenly plunge them into despair? Because “nothing like this has happened before.”
And if it seems at all odd that such a thing could happen—that thousands of soldiers could suddenly find themselves shouting their guts out—remember that not only was God present above the ark of the covenant, but inside the ark were the Ten Commandments—direct from the mouth of God, His living and active word. There was the incredible presence of God over the ark, and pure power emanating from within the ark, so it stands to reason that all Israel “shouted with a great shout.” When God and his word arrive, a thrill like liquid lightning runs through the bodies of His people, and a shout surges out. It certainly wasn’t scripted, nor was it voluntary.
The Philistines had to work to get their bravado back in place. The commanders had to give everyone a pep talk:
“Take courage and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews, as they have been slaves to you; therefore, be men and fight.” (1 Samuel 5:9)
Unfortunately, the Israelites were defeated again, and with an even greater slaughter. This time they lost 30,000 men. God apparently didn’t appreciate the Israelites using the ark of the covenant as a lucky charm. Nowhere does it say that they went to Him and asked for His help. Once again, they had the lamp of God over their heads (as we all do), and the ark of the covenant with the presence of God in their midst, but they hadn’t provided the oil of relationship, so their lamps were not lit. They, therefore, did not have His counsel and enlightenment.
But the point is that in God’s light—and because God was surely there—there is gladness and joy. It comes directly from God, and therefore those who don’t know God absolutely do not possess it. And—the very same element that causes gladness in God’s children causes fear and terror in those who don’t know Him.
There is a well-known portion of scripture by the prophet Isaiah that foretells the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It speaks of His light, and the resulting benefits:
The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them.
Thou shalt multiply the nation,
Thou shalt increase their gladness;
They will be glad in Thy presence
As with the gladness of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. (Isaiah 9:2-3)
When Christ came to earth, He was that great light, the light of God. As God’s lamp, He shone on His children. And what was the result? Gladness. And not just gladness, but increased gladness. And because we, like the people whom Isaiah spoke about, live in a dark land, our increased gladness will seem all the more unusual.
We live in a time when the economic downturn has affected nearly everyone, and many are struggling financially and record numbers of people are losing their homes. Sexual perversion is on the upswing, and pornography is one of the top grossing industries in the nation. The media is slowly but surely numbing us to nudity, offensive language, violence and horror. Illegal drugs like meth can now be made in anyone’s kitchen, and one hit can make a person an addict. And human trafficking is now the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world.[i]
In this present day when it seems dark and getting darker, it’s easy to feel afraid and unsure of what the future holds. Doomsday prophets abound. But if we are children of God; if we are wholly devoted to Him and have asked His Son Jesus to be our Savior; if we follow His commandments and live in the light of His word, we don’t have to fear. We will have gladness of heart; we will look at the approaching storm and know that we can hide under the shadow of God’s wing. He will care for us and He will comfort us.
More of Chapter 5 will appear in the next installment.
[i] Polaris Project Action Center, http://www.actioncenter.polarisproject.org/learn/human-trafficking-101,