Discipline That RestoresJoey Ruyter
When Stephanie and I were learning how to discipline our children during their toddler years, the counsel we received from our pediatrician was to find a “time out” spot in our home, have our children sit there, and then turn away from them for 30 seconds. Needless to say, our children did not like this discipline very much. However, it was an effective way to train them about consequences. In this passage, we see God giving the Israelites a similar “time out.” He allowed them to experience life without his fullness and blessing (his glory). As all loving parents do, God was disciplining Israel to remind them of what they had forgotten: to fully trust in their gracious and loving Father.
- During a season when you did not fully trust God, what sort of consequences entered your life?
Read the Word
1 Samuel 4:12-22 (ESV)
12 A man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day, with his clothes torn and with dirt on his head. 13 When he arrived, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city and told the news, all the city cried out. 14 When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, “What is this uproar?” Then the man hurried and came and told Eli. 15 Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set so that he could not see. 16 And the man said to Eli, “I am he who has come from the battle; I fled from the battle today.” And he said, “How did it go, my son?” 17 He who brought the news answered and said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has also been a great defeat among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.” 18 As soon as he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell over backward from his seat by the side of the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. He had judged Israel forty years.
19 Now his daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant, about to give birth. And when she heard the news that the ark of God was captured, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women attending her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”
- For what reason did Eli’s heart tremble (vs. 13)? Why do you think his heart trembled over it?
- Look at the key words and repeated words throughout the passage, and then describe the overall tone of this section of Scripture. What is the significance of the overall tone?
- Eli’s sons had just died, yet what caused him to grieve was that the Ark of the Covenant had been stolen. Likewise, Eli’s daughter-in-law grieved, not because her husband and the father of her unborn child had just died, but because the Ark was stolen. What does this say about how they viewed the fullness (glory) of God?
- What does it mean for you to have the presence of God’s glory, fullness, and blessing in your life? If you are currently in a season of experiencing God’s discipline, then how can you humble yourself before God, in complete trust, today?
Respond to God
This is not a passage about God breaking his relationship with Israel, because they were his chosen people. But this is a passage about a loving Father who disciplined his children in order to restore their trust and hope in him. Much like Israel, we grow distant from the Lord when we grieve him by living prideful and self-sufficient lives. When we experience the absence of God’s fullness in our lives, God is waiting with open and welcoming arms right where we left him, that we might humble ourselves and run back to him.
- Ask God to reveal your independent, self-sufficient tendencies, and then confess them to him.
- Ask God to open your eyes and heart to his open and welcoming arms.