What do we do when things go wrong. Something does not turn out the way we expected and naturally we ask questions at this point. The easiest question to ask is, “What did I do wrong?” Maybe you cannot identify anything that you did wrong and as a believer you might ask, “Why did God allow this to happen?”
The Israelites were in just such a situation. They had gone to war against the Philistines and they had been defeated. This was an unusual result. Their leaders never asked what they had done wrong. Instead, they immediately began to question God:
When the soldiers returned to camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the LORD bring defeat on us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the LORD’s covenant from Shiloh, so that he may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies.” (1 Samuel 4:3 NIV)
The question they asked was appropriate. Unfortunately, it appears that the leaders never asked God why they were defeated. There is no indication that they prayed at all. Instead, they put their own heads together and came up with a solution. There is no indication of whether they followed the instructions from Exodus on moving the ark. If they did not, then God is merciful and no one dies in the process of moving the ark. However, moving the ark is not their salvation.
When the ark arrives the people cheer because their secret weapon has arrived. They incorrectly assume God is present and on their side. Only, the one thing that is present is the ark and God will not fight for them. The Philistines overwhelm them and 30,000 soldiers die. Even worse, the Philistines steal the ark. It is a sad day for Israel.
What about us?
The Israelites had turned the ark into an idol, a very poor substitute for the actual presence of God. The army put its faith in the ark for victory and the result is a devastating defeat. The church around the world is facing great challenges and I think that especially in the United States we have become complacent. We have not experienced suffering and persecution anything like other places in the world. When life does not go the way we expect I think we, and I include myself in this, find it too easy to answer the hard questions with our own idols.
We appear to have lost the culture war, but have we been fighting the right battle with the right weapons? From what I read far too many Christians have put their faith in political solutions to deep spiritual issues. The Supreme Court will not change the hearts and minds of those who are lost and deceived. I have complete faith that God is working out His purposes in all that is happening around us. I am also confident that His desire is for me to go to Him in prayer for answers, being prepared to respond with a yes to whatever He calls me to do.