The Unseen Battle Waged Behind Enemy Lines

Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of First Samuel which describes a period of time after the judges of Israel, and during the days of Samuel the prophet of the LORD, Saul king of Israel, and David the shepherd boy from Bethlehem. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters ten through thirteen of this Old Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the convergence of the days of Samuel who ministered both as prophet and judge over the nation of Israel, and Saul who would be anointed as king over the nation and kingdom of Israel. As you stop and consider the words which are written and found within these chapters you will find that after the Ark of the Covenant had brought destruction and devastation in the midst of the territory of the Philistines, it would be brought back into the coasts of Israel—although it would not be returned or restored to the place where the Tabernacle of God would abide in Shiloh. If there is one thing I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated by when reading the words which are found in the preceding chapters, it’s how what seemed as an apparent defeat of the children of Israel at the hands of the Philistines would ultimately open the door for the living God to walk straight up into the midst of the territory and land of the Philistines. If and as you read and study the fourth, fifth and sixth chapters of this Old Testament book you will quickly encounter the awesome and astounding reality that in the midst of the children of Israel suffering defeat at the hands of the Philistines in battle, the Ark of the Covenant would in fact be captured and taken by the Philistines, yet the LORD was not caught off guard, nor was He caught unawares when the Ark was taken by the Philistines. It would be very easy to read the words found in these chapters and think about and consider the fact that the LORD was somehow taken by surprise, and was somehow caught off guard when the Philistines engaged His people in battle, and when the Philistines had defeated the children of Israel. It might be very easy to think about and consider the fact that when the Ark of the Covenant of God was taken and captured by the enemy, the LORD somehow wasn’t aware of what was going on, and perhaps didn’t have a plan which He was seeking to accomplish in the midst of His people. The more I read the book of First Samuel—specifically chapters four through five—the more I can’t help but come face to face with the fact that when the LORD allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be captured and taken by the enemy, He did so in order that He might accomplish something in the midst of the territory of the enemy which not even His own people could do.

WHEN DEFEAT OPENS THE DOOR FOR THE LORD TO WALK INTO THE TERRITORY OF THE ENEMY! I sit here this morning and I am absolutely gripped and captivated by the fact that the living God permitted and allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be captured by the enemy in order that His glory, His presence, His power, His strength and His might would be manifested in the midst of enemy territory. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely astonishing reality, for what would appear as though it was the glory and presence of God being captured and taken by the enemy, it would actually be the living God marching straight into the camp and territory of the enemy in order that He might accomplish something His people would and could not. The question I can’t help but wonder is whether or not the living God would in fact allow His people to experience defeat at the hands of their enemy, and even allow the symbol of His glory and presence to be captured by the enemy in order that He might do a work that His people could not. We must recognize and understand the living God never intended for His people to be subdued, afflicted and oppressed by the enemy and adversary, and what we read and find within these chapters demonstrates the fact that the people of God were still battling with the affliction and oppression of the enemy. Within the fourth chapter of the book of First Samuel we find the living God allowing His people to be defeated, and perhaps even to flee before their enemy, while the Ark of the Covenant which had been in their possession since the days of their fathers in the wilderness, in order that HE might accomplish something that His people could neither comprehend or accomplish. I firmly believe that it is possible for the LORD to allow us to suffer and experience defeat before and at the hands of our enemy in order for Him to not only show up and show off, but also for Him to march straight up into the camp and territory of the enemy. What I absolutely love about this passage of Scripture is that the defeat of the people of God opened the door for the glory and presence of the living God to be brought straight up into the camp and territory of the enemy in order that He might bring about a great destruction toward and against the enemy who had so afflicted and oppressed the people of Israel. What if—by allowing His people to suffer defeat at the hands of the enemy, and even allowing the Ark of the Covenant to be captured and taken by the enemy—the LORD was opening up the door and making a way for His presence to march straight up into the camp and territory of the enemy that He might fulfill and accomplish something far beyond what His people thought or imagined?

If you read the Old Testament book of Judges—specifically chapters fourteen through sixteen—you will find the LORD raising up Samson as a judge of Israel who would begin to deliver the people of God out of the hands of the Philistines. Within these three chapters you will find the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord coming upon Samson on multiple occasions and endowing him with supernatural strength with which to begin to scourge and smite the Philistines. Within these chapters we find one man being raised up and anointed by the Spirit of the living God to begin the process of delivering the people of God out of the hands of their enemies and adversaries. Samson would be used in a mighty and powerful way by the living God to unleash a reign of devastation, destruction and terror within the territory of the Philistines, and would begin a work that even the LORD Himself would take part and join in. In the Old Testament book of Judges we find Samson being raised up by the living God to begin a process of wreaking havoc and terror upon and against the Philistines, while in the Old Testament book of First Samuel we find three different and distinct individuals who would take up that work of delivering the people of God out of the hands of the Philistines. If you read the words which are found in this Old Testament book you will find that while Samuel never physically engaged the Philistines in battle himself, he would entreat the living God for the children of Israel, and would experience the living God answering his cries and petitions in order that His people might be delivered. What’s more, is that you will find Saul son of Kish being anointed as king over the nation and kingdom of Israel in order that he might deliver the children of Israel out of the hand of Israel—in all reality, to continue the work which the living God would begin during the days of Samson and the judges. In the Old Testament book of Judges we find Samson beginning the process of delivering the people of God out of the hand of the Philistines, while during the days of Samuel we find him entreating the living God on behalf of the children of Israel, and the LORD answering his cries and his prayer. What’s more, is that you will even read how during the days of Samuel the prophet and last judge of Israel the children of Israel experienced and enjoyed peace during those times. Even with that being said, both Saul king of Israel, as well as David the king in training, and David the king of Israel would engage the Philistines in conflict and battle. IT’s worth noting that from the time of Jephthah judge in Israel, to the days of Samson judge in Israel, to the days of Samuel the prophet and judge of Israel, and even the days of Saul and David, the children of Israel were in a continual struggle with the Philistines. You cannot read the latter half of the book of Judges, nor the books of First and Second Samuel and not clearly see the continued conflict and struggle that would exist between these two people groups.

What I so absolutely love about this conflict and struggle that exists between the Philistines and the children of Israel is that even though Samson, Saul, and David would each engage them in conflict and battle, there were two specific instances when the living God Himself would join in the fight and would engage the Philistines Himself. If you read the fifth chapter of this Old Testament book, as well as the eighth chapter, you will find two distinct instances when the living God would actually join in the fight and would engage the Philistines in conflict and battle—albeit in an entirely different way than what you read about Samson, Saul and David accomplishing. In the fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel you will find the Ark of the Covenant of the living God in the hands of the Philistines as they had captured it from the children of Israel, and as they had not only brought it into their territory, but also as they had set it up in the house of Dagon their god. In the eighth chapter of this same Old Testament book you will find the Philistines rising up against the children of Israel in an attempt to defeat and subdue them. In both of these passages you will find the LORD the God of the Hebrews engaging Himself against the Philistines, and bringing about destruction and devastation against them. Consider if you will the words which are not only found in the fifth chapter of this Old Testament book, but also the words which are found in the seventh chapter of this book as well:

“And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebed-ezer unto Ashdod. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon’s house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day. But the hand of the LORD was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof. And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for His hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god. They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither. And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts. Therefore they sent the ark of God to Enron. And it came to pass, as the Ark of God came to Enron, that the Ekronitescried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people. So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to his own place, that it slay us not, and our people: for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. And the men that died not were smitten with the emerods: and the cry of the city went up to heaven. And the ark of the LORD was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviner’s, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the LORD? Tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place. And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why his hand is not removed from you. Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one place was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure He will lighten His hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people god, and they departed? Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kind, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kind to the cart, and bring their calves hom from them: and take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go. And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Beth-shemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us; it was a chance that happened to us” (1 Samuel 5:1-6:9).

“And the men of Kirjath-jearim came, and fetch up the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Aminadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD. And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If y do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve Him only: and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only. And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh. And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the children of Israel said unto Samuel< Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD; and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him. And as Samuel was offering up the burn offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Beth-car. Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebed-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us. So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Enron even unto Gath; and the coasts there did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went from year to year in circuit to Beth-el, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built and altar unto the LORD” (1 Samuel 7:1-17).

Each of these passages of Scripture are incredibly unique in and of themselves, for in both instances we find the living God of the Hebrews rising up against the Philistines in order that He might subdue them before the people of God. What is so intriguing about the language we find in the fifth chapter of this Old Testament book is that while the children of Israel had been defeated before the Philistines, and while the priests of the LORD were dead, and the Ark of the Covenant captured and taken by the Philistines, the LORD wears still up to something on His end. The LORD allowed and permitted His people to be defeated before their enemies, and even allowed the symbol of His glory to be captured and taken by the enemy, however, what we find taking place is the LORD actually marching up into the territory of the enemy that He might unleash and bring about a great destruction against the Philistines. There is a great deal of language in Scripture about the living God going up before His people in the midst of battle to fight for them, however, what we find in this particular passage is not the LORD going up before them in battle, but the LORD actually going up into the territory of the enemy in order that He might unleash a tremendous destruction against and upon them. It’s almost as if for a period of time the glory of the LORD would depart from the midst of the children of Israel and would enter into the Philistines—not as a means of forsaking, neglecting or abandoning His people, but rather as a means to bring about a great destruction in the midst of the territory of the enemy. Scripture reveals how the Ark of the Covenant of the living God was in the territory of the Philistines for seven months, and it would during those seven months the LORD would unleash a great amount of destruction upon and against them. It would be during those seven months when He would not only exercise authority over Dagon their god, but He would also place His hand heavy upon them for destruction and devastation. IT’s quite remarkable to think about and consider the fact that the living God would indeed and would in fact enter into the territory of the enemy in order that He might bring about a great destruction among them in their midst. It’s worth noting and considering the fact that the living God allowed the children of Israel to be defeated before the Philistines, and even allowed them to return to their homes—perhaps feeling dejected and discouraged—in order that He might enter into the territory of the enemy and unleash destruction.

THE UNSEEN BATTLE IN THE ENEMY’S LAND! THE UNSEEN DESTRUCTION IN THE TERRITORY OF THE ENEMY! The more I think about and consider the words which are written and recorded in the fifth chapter of the book of First Samuel the more I can’t help but think about a conflict and battle that essentially unfolded in the unseen realm. For all intents and purposes the children of Israel thought the Ark of the Covenant had been lost forever, and the only thing they knew about it was that it had been captured and taken by the enemy. The children of Israel had absolutely no idea what the Philistines were going to do to the Ark of the Covenant, and whether or not they would seek to destroy it. The absolutely incredible truth that is found and contained within this chapter is that when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the territory of the enemy it would wage a silent and unseen war against the Philistines. What’s more, is that this silent and unseen battle was conducted in two different realms—the first being the realm of the children of Israel not knowing where the Ark of the Covenant was or what it was actually accomplishing, and the second is in the realm of the Philistines, for they knew they were being plagued with tumors, yet they couldn’t see the hand of the LORD moving upon them and in their midst. Scripture describes the hand of the LORD as being heavy upon them, however, it does not reveal that any of the Philistines saw the hand of the LORD moving among them in their midst. It’s worth noting that the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Philistines for a period of seven months, and that it was actually manifested in three different and three distinct cities—Ashdod, Gath and Enron. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this reality, for what we find here is essentially the living God of the Hebrews entering into the territory of the enemy and waging a silent and deadly battle against the Philistines. There behind enemy lines the glory and presence of the living God would and could do what no sword or spear of the children of Israel could do or accomplish. There behind enemy lines an unseen an invisible battle and warfare would be raging in the enemy’s territory, as the LORD would unleash a tremendous devastation and destruction upon the Philistines. Much like the living God of the Hebrews unleashed and released the plagues and judgments in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, against his princes and rulers, against the land, and even against the Egyptian people, the LORD would now plague the Philistines in an unprecedented way. The living God would allow His Ark to be captured and taken by the Philistines, and the LORD would allow them to bring it into their territory and land, and they would initially put the Ark in the temple of their god Dagon. The first battle and warfare the LORD would wage was not necessarily against the Philistines themselves, but rather against the false god of the Philistines. The living god would fell Dagon before the Ark—not once, but twice, and the second time around both his hand and his hands were cut off and at the threshold of the door. OH that we would get and understand this, for although the children of Israel were and had been defeated by the living God, the LORD would enter into the territory of the enemy and would wage a silent and invisible war in the midst of their territory and land.

I have to admit that as I sit here today I am completely and utterly amazed and astonished at the words and language I find within the fifth chapter of this Old Testament book, for within this chapter we find the living God of heaven and earth entering into the territory of the enemy and unleashing a tremendous wave of devastation and destruction. What’s more, is that the more you read and consider it the more you will come face to face with the reality that the LORD didn’t merely unleash one single wave of destruction and devastation against the enemy in their own territory, but the LORD unleashed three distinct and three different waves in the midst of that territory. As you read the words that are found in this chapter you will find that the hand of the LORD was heavy in the city of Ashdod as the LORD struck the men of that city with grievous tumors. Upon realizing and recognizing that it was the hand of the LORD that was in fact heaven against and heavy upon them, the lords of the Philistines gathered together and decided that the Ark of the Covenant should be moved from Ashdod and should enter into the city of Gath. It would be there in Gath, however, the hand of the LORD would be heavy upon the men of that city, for the LORD would strike those men—both great and small—with tumors in their secret parts. As if this weren’t enough you will find and discover that the lords of the Philistines would have the Ark of the Covenant of the God of Israel brought unto the city of Enron where it would unleash devastation and destruction in that city as well. Altogether the Ark of the Covenant would be in the land and territory of the Philistines, and during that time it would unleash wave after wave of devastation and destruction through the affliction of the Philistines with tumors. What I find to be so absolutely captivating when reading the words in this passage of Scripture is when you consider the fact that when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the land and territory of the Philistines, it was almost as if the LORD immediately went to work in afflicting the Philistines. The first order of business was to humble the Philistine god Dagon, and to do so before the Philistines themselves in the very house of Dagon. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that the living God was brought into the house of the false god Dagon and not only humbled Dagon once by causing him to fall on his face before His presence and glory, but the living God would also humble Dagon a second time and remove his head and the palms of his hands. Think about the fact that when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the territory of the enemy and adversary it was first brought into the house of the false god Dagon, and the LORD would enter into the house of this false god and humble him in the sight of the Philistines. This silent but deadly war that would take place in the land and territory of the Philistines would take place in the house of their false god Dagon before it would every begin to take place in the midst of the land itself.

When the Ark of the Covenant of the living God was brought into the land and territory of the Philistines, He not only entered and marched straight up into the territory of the Philistines, but I would even dare say He marched straight up into the house of the false god Dagon. It’s almost as if the living God marched straight into the house of Dagon in order that He might first humble and judge this false deity. What we must recognize and understand is that while the Philistines worshipped a literal and physical image of their god Dagon, there was a very real spirit and principality that was behind this image and false god. The Ark of the Covenant would be in the very house of this false god Dagon, and it would be there in that house the glory, the presence and the power of God would first be manifested, as he would not only humble the false image of the god Dagon, but would also humble the principality that was behind that false god. It’s important for us to recognize and understand this, for before the LORD would bring His judgment and plagues upon the inhabitants of Ashdod, Gath and Ekron, He would first bring His judgment upon the god of the Philistines. It’s absolutely astonishing to think about the fact that when the Ark of the Covenant of the living God was brought into the territory of the Philistines, it was brought in—almost as if it was a stealth mission on part of the living God to unleash devastation and destruction in the midst of the land. As you read the words which are found in the fifth chapter you will find that it’s as if the living God marched straight into the camp and territory of the enemy, humbled both the false god and principality behind that god, and then began to unleash His judgment upon three of the five cities of the Philistines. For seven months the Ark of the Covenant would be in the mist of the land of the Philistines as it would unleash plagues and sore judgments upon the inhabitants of the land, and unleashing upon the Philistines that which no sword or spear could do. How absolutely and incredibly powerful it is to think about and consider the fact that the living God marched straight up into the land of the Philistines and began to devastate the inhabitants of that land with tumors, plagues and judgments—just as He had done in the land of Egypt. In the land of Egypt the living God unleashed a series of plagues and judgments upon Pharaoh, his princes and rulers, and against the land itself, and now here we have the living God entering into the land of the Philistines and doing the exact same thing. It’s here in the midst of the land of the Philistines where an unseen battle would be waged—one that was entirely and altogether different from the one the children of Israel and the Philistines fought between themselves.

As I read and consider the words which are written within the fifth chapter I can’t help but see the living God engaging in an unseen and invisible battle with and against the Philistine god Dagon, as well as the five lords of the Philistines, and even the Philistines themselves. It’s worth pointing out that in the fifth chapter of the book of First Samuel we see a battle that is waged—not on the battlefield with swords, and spears and shields, but in the invisible realm where principalities, rulers of darkness, the adversary, the devil himself, and the living God and His holy angels are found. What is written within the fifth chapter is a truly remarkable sight, for with the Ark of the Covenant having been captured and brought into the land of the Philistines, it was as if the living God was waging a silent, unseen and deadly battle in the land and territory of the Philistines—one that would not only be unseen by the Philistines, but one that would be unseen by the children of Israel. The children of Israel had been defeated by the Philistines, had witnessed Eli and his two sons now being dead, and witnessing the Ark of the Covenant being captured and taken by the enemy. What is truly astonishing is when you think about the fact that while the children of Israel suffered defeat at the hands of the Philistines, and while the Ark of the Covenant of the living God would be captured and taken by the Philistines, the living God would essentially go behind enemy lines and would enter into the land and territory of the enemy to unleash and wreak havoc against the enemy in his own territory. UNLEASHING HAVOC AGAINST GODS IN THEIR OWN HOUSE! UNLEASHING HAVOC AGAINST THE ENEMY IN HIS OWN TERRITORY! We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss out on an an incredibly powerful truth concerning spiritual warfare and conflict. Though the children of Israel had engaged in a battle of flesh and blood, and though the children of Israel had been defeated in a battle of flesh and blood, there was another battle—a battle not of flesh and blood—that would be waged by the living God. It was true the children of Israel had suffered defeat at the hands of the Philistines in the physical and natural realm, however, there would be another battle—one the children of Israel would not even see or be aware was going on—that would be waged behind enemy lines and in the territory of the enemy. The defeat of the people of God in the natural and physical realm would open the door for the LORD their God to enter into the territory of the enemy and march straight into the enemy’s territory and go behind enemy lines in order that He might unleash a devastation and destruction that no Israelite with sword or spear could do. Oh how truly wonderful it is to think about and consider that the living God would enter into the territory of the enemy and would actually unleash devastation and destruction which none among the children of Israel could do. Not even David king of Israel, nor Joshua the son of Nun could accomplish behind enemy lines and in enemy territory what the living God did in the midst of the Philistine’s territory.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think about and consider the absolutely incredibly reality that there are times within our lives when what we view, what we perceive and what we experience might very well be defeat at the hands of our enemies, and yet in the midst of that defeat the LORD our God is working behind the scenes to fulfill and accomplish something that we couldn’t do in and of ourselves. The children of Israel suffered—not one, but two devastating losses at the hands of the Philistines, and the second loss was more tragic than the first one. It was this second battle that was lost which not only resulted in the deaths of two of the priests of the LORD who ministered in the Tabernacle at Shiloh, but so also was the Ark of the Covenant captured and taken by the enemy. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it was like when the people of God realized the Ark of the Covenant had been captured by the enemy, and when they realized that the symbol of the glory and presence of the living God was no longer present among them. Was it possible that men and women within the nation and kingdom of Israel viewed this as an ominous sign that the LORD had somehow abandoned, neglected, rejected and forsaken them? In the book of the Judges we find the LORD delivering the people of Israel into the hands of their enemies, however, the Ark of the Covenant was never brought into the midst of the battle, and it certainly had never been captured by the enemy. I am sure there were countless men and women in the midst of the nation of Israel who thought and perceived within themselves that the LORD had abandoned and forsaken them, and even Phineas’ wife named their newborn son Ichabod as a prophetic statement that the glory of the living God had departed from the midst of the nation. What is so absolutely remarkable and astounding when you think about and consider this narrative is that while it was true the Ark of the Covenant had been captured and taken by the enemy and adversary, it is also true that the Ark of the Covenant in the midst of the territory of the enemy and behind enemy lines could accomplish more among them in their midst than any of the men of war among the children of Israel could ever do with sword, spear and shield. The fourth chapter proved and demonstrated that the people of God could indeed and could in fact be defeated at and by the hands of their enemies, however, it also proved that the LORD could go behind enemy lines, enter into the territory of the enemy, and unleash a reign of terror, devastation, and destruction among them in their midst. If there is one thing the fifth chapter of the book of First Samuel reveals, it’s that the living God can indeed enter into the territory of the enemy, can indeed enter into the house of their god, and can indeed enter into their cities, and unleash such a wave of devastation and destruction that would otherwise not be possible.

WE OFTENTIMES DON’T SEE WHAT TAKES PLACE BEHIND ENEMY LINES! WE OFTENTIMES DON’T SEE WHAT TAKES PLACE IN THE UNSEEN AND INVISIBLE REALM! What so absolutely and utterly captivates and shocks me about the narrative that is found in the fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel is that while the children of Israel had suffered defeat at the hands of their enemies, and while the children of Israel no longer had the Ark of the Covenant among them for a season of time, there was something going on in the land and territory of the Philistines which they could not see with their natural eyes. Not only speaking from a geographical perspective and the fact that the children of Israel could not see what was taking place in the territory of the enemy, they could not see in the supernatural, spiritual and unseen realm. There was not a single soul in the nation and kingdom of Israel who knew what the LORD was doing behind enemy lines in the land and territory of the enemy. There was absolutely none among the children of Israel who understood what the presence of the Ark of the Covenant was doing behind the enemy lines in their own territory. There was not a single person within the nation and kingdom of Israel who knew what the LORD was actively doing behind the lines of the enemy within their territory, as the LORD was waging a silent and deadly war among them. What we must recognize and understand is that I don’t believe the LORD wrought the plagues upon the Philistines because they had captured the Ark of the Covenant, and had taken it from the children of Israel. You might be wondering how and why I could and would make such a statement, and the truth of the matter is that the LORD could have very easily have smitten the Philistines the moment they captured the Ark of the Covenant. If you read of the story of Uzzah you will find that the LORD smote him for doing something that was simply innocent enough—steadying the Ark of the Covenant when David attempted to bring it into the city of Jerusalem. What’s more, is that the LORD struck down a great number of people after the Ark had been brought out of the territory of the Philistines for looking inside of it. If the LORD struck Uzzah dead for steadying the Ark, and if the LORD struck down countless men and women because they dared look inside the Ark of the Covenant, how much more could He have struck down and smitten the Philistines the minute they went for, and even seized the Ark of the Covenant. There is no indication how the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the camp of the children of Israel during the battle, and there is no indication how the Philistines had captured and taken the Ark of the Covenant, but we must recognize and understand that the Philistines could very easily have been struck down and smitten by the living God for even attempting to go after the Ark of the Covenant.

The more I think about and consider the reality of the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD God of the Hebrews being captured by the Philistines the more I believe that it was the desire, the will, the purpose and the intention of the LORD to allow it to be captured by them. If you think about it—the LORD could have struck down and smitten the Philistines on the battlefield when they attempted to lay hold of and seize the Ark of the Covenant, and yet the LORD allowed them to seize and capture it. Furthermore, the LORD could have smitten and struck down the Philistines on the way back to their own land and territory as they were in full possession and control of the Ark of the Covenant. The LORD could have struck them down at any point in time from the battlefield all the way to the border of their own land, and yet the LORD not only allowed them to seize and capture the Ark of the Covenant, and not only transport the Ark, but the LORD also allowed them to bring the Ark of the Covenant into their own territory. Oh I firmly believe that the LORD knew exactly what He was doing when He allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be captured and taken by the Philistines, and the LORD deliberately and intentionally allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be brought into the territory of the enemy, for He would accomplish something none of the men of war of Israel could ever hope to accomplish with any sword or spear. I firmly believe the living God allowed His glory, His presence, His strength, His power and His might to be captured and brought into the territory of the enemy in order that He might accomplish something no sword or spear could ever hope to accomplish. Lest you think that this is not and could not be a reality, I would invite you to think about and consider the fact the living God allowed Jesus the Christ—not only to die, and not only to be buried in a borrowed tomb, but He even allowed Him to descend into the depths of Sheol and hell itself. The living God could have very easily kept Jesus from being handed over into the hands of His enemies, and even into the hands of the Romans, and yet He deliberately and intentionally allowed Him to be given over into the hands of the religion, as well as into the hands of sinners. What’s more, is that when you read of the darkness that covered the earth for a period of three years, I firmly believe that the darkness which covered the earth during those three hours was not a physical darkness as we understand it as the absence of natural light, or even a solar eclipse when the moon blots out the son, but rather a period of time when all the forces of hell and all the powers of darkness converged upon Golgotha in order that they might taunt and jeer before and against the Son of the living God. What’s more, is that we know and understand that Jesus did in fact descend into the very depths of Sheol, and hell itself, and yet He emerged from both victorious and triumphant with the keys of death, hell and the grave. The living God allowed His one and only begotten Son to not only die a cruel and brutal death, but He also allowed Him to descend into the very depths of Sheol and hell itself where He would overcome the very gates of hell and emerge with the keys of death, hell and the grave.

I would dare say that the living God knew and was very much aware of the fact that the Ark of the Covenant was captured and taken by the enemy, and even deliberately and intentionally allowed it to be brought into the territory of the enemy—almost and essentially as a weapon of mass destruction in the midst of their land and territory, as the LORD would essentially engage in a circuit of destruction and devastation in the midst of the territory of the Philistines. What causes me to consider the fact that the living God was not only very much aware of the Ark of the Covenant being captured by the enemy, but also deliberately allowed it to be moved within the territory of the Philistines. The very fact that the Ark of the Covenant was moved from the house of Dagon in the city of Ashdod, to the city of Gath, to the city of Ekron, and the fact that in each of those cities the men of the city were struck by tumors in their physical bodies indicates the LORD was accomplishing something far greater than the children of Israel could have ever accomplished in and of themselves. I firmly believe that the living God allowed the Ark of the Covenant—not only to be brought into the territory of the enemy, but also to be moved within the midst of the border of the enemy in order that He might strike the men of the city with great plagues of judgment. It’s worth noting that I don’t believe for one moment the LORD struck the inhabitants of Ashdod, Gath and Ekron with these plagues of tumors simply because they had captured, taken and laid hold of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant remained behind enemy lines and in the territory of the enemy for seven months, and it would be during those seven months the LORD would strike three different cities within the territory of the Philistines with tumors. The narrative we find within the fifth chapter of this Old Testament book is truly remarkable and astonishing when you think about it, for within it we find the living God deliberately and intentionally allowing His Ark to be captured and taken by the enemy and adversary in order that He might bring upon the Philistines a great devastation and a great destruction. The very fact that the Ark of the Covenant was made its way to three of the five major cities of the territory of the Philistines clearly indicates the LORD knew exactly what He was doing, and He knew what He wanted to do in the midst of the land and territory of the Philistines. With and while the Ark of the Covenant was behind enemy lines in the territory of the Philistines He would accomplish something truly remarkable and astounding, for the LORD would unleash a reign of terror against and upon them—one that would cause countless men among the Philistines to be struck with tumors. Oh think about and consider the fact that the living God not only deliberately and intentionally allowed His holy Ark of the Covenant to be captured by the enemy, but He also deliberately and intentionally allowed it to move within three of the five major cities of the Philistine territory that He might afflict them with grievous tumors, plagues and judgments. What makes this even more intriguing is when you consider the fact that when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout of the children of Israel, and realized the Ark of the Covenant had entered into the camp, they spoke of the plagues which the LORD had sent within and upon the land of Egypt—a reality that would be manifested in their own territory after the battle was over.

With all of this being said, you will find that in addition to what the LORD did behind enemy lines in the land and territory of the Philistines in the fifth chapter, the LORD would again fight for the children of Israel against the Philistines. As you come to the eighth chapter of this Old Testament book you will find the Philistines coming out against the children of Israel when they heard how they had assembled in Mizpeh. When the children of Israel saw the Philistines approaching them they cried out to Samuel in desperation and fear because of their presence before them. Scripture reveals how Samuel took a lamb, offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD, and cried unto the LORD for Israel. What’s more is the fact that the LORD heard Samuel, and as he was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. As the Philistines approached the children of Israel, however, we find and read how the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them. What’s more is that the Philistines were smitten before the children of Israel, and the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh and pursued the Philistines, and smote them. In the thirteenth verse of this chapter we find and read how the Philistines were subdued, and how they no more came into the coast of Israel. Furthermore, Samuel goes on to write how the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel, and that the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored unto them—from Ekron even unto Gath. Even still, the coasts were delivered out of the hands of the Philistines and delivered into the hands of the children of Israel. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this absolutely wonderful and incredible reality, for what we find within the eighth chapter is not only the LORD fighting for the children of Israel, but also His thundering against their enemy, and His discomfiting their enemies served as an invitation for them to rise up from their place of fear and trepidation and pursue and overtake their enemies. Even more than this, we find and read how the Philistines were not only subdued before the children of Israel, but also that that the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel the prophet in Israel. What would begin with the hand of the LORD being heavy upon three Philistine cities with the presence of the Ark of the Covenant in their midst would now be His hand against them all the days of Samuel the prophet of Israel. It’s necessary and important for us to recognize and understand this, for it’s one thing for the hand of the LORD to be heavy upon our enemies, and for the hand of the LORD to be against our enemies. The hand of the LORD would be heavy upon the Philistines cities of Gath, Ashdod and Ekron during the days the Ark of the Covenant was there would now transition to the hand of the LORD being against the Philistines all the days of Samuel the prophet of Israel. How absolutely wonderful and incredible it is to think about and consider the words and language that is found in this eighth chapter of the book of First Samuel, for within it we find the living God fighting against the Philistines, and in the midst of His fighting against them, He would invite the people of Israel to engage them in battle.

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I would like to call your attention to the reality of Saul who was anointed as the first king of Israel, for part of the assignment of Saul as the king of Israel was to save the people of Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. In fact, when you read of the words which the LORD had spoken unto Samuel the prophet concerning the king who would be anointed over the people of Israel, you will find that He declared unto him that part of the assignment and mission of Saul king of Israel would be to save the people of Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, for He had looked upon them as their cry had come up before Him. This is actually quite interesting and unique when you think about and consider it, for in the seventh chapter of this book we learn and discover the tremendous reality that the Philistines were subdued before Israel all the days of Samuel the prophet of Israel, and yet this reality would require Saul son of Kish to engage the Philistines in battle in order that He might help save and deliver the people of Israel out of the hands of their enemies. As we will see moving forward, however, is that Saul would not only be a man who would transgress and rebel against the word of the LORD, but he would also be a man who would be overcome with fear, and would even lead the people of God in fear before their enemies. There were two distinct occasions within this Old Testament book—the first being in the fourteenth chapter, and the second being in the seventeenth chapter—where not only would Saul, but so also would the children of Israel cower in fear before the Philistines. Although Saul would be anointed as king over the nation and people of Israel that he might save them out of the hands of their enemies, he would be one who was completely and utterly overcome with fear before and in the presence of the enemy. This is perhaps one of the greatest differences between Saul and David, for while Saul was a man who was continually gripped and overwhelmed with fear before and in the sight of the enemy, David was a man who was not only willing to engage the Philistine champion—Goliath the giant from Gath—but also engage the Philistines in numerous conflicts and battles. Oh that we would truly understand this conflict which existed between the Philistines and the children of Israel, for I am convinced that it is a powerful glimpse into the struggles and battles we face within our own hearts and lives. I am convinced the language that is written and recorded within these chapters is a truly powerful picture and glimpse into the struggles and battles we face within our lives, and is an invitation to allow the living God to give us the strength, the courage, the fortitude and the discernment and wisdom to be able to engage our enemies in conflict and battle. What’s more, is that there is a tremendous need for trust and confidence in the living God, as there might very well be times within our hearts and lives when it might seem as though we have suffered defeat, or are presently suffering defeat at the hands of the enemy, and yet what is actually taking place is the living God working something behind the scenes in the midst of the territory and camp of the enemy that He might accomplish and fulfill something truly astonishing against and upon that enemy which has afflicted and oppressed us for far too long.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s