The Twenty Years Silence
September 18th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
TWENTY YEARS OF SILENCE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 4:1-22
9-18-60 8:15 a.m.
Now in the Book, let us turn to 1 Samuel; 1 Samuel, chapter 4; 1 Samuel, chapter 4. Last Sunday morning at this hour, 1 Samuel, chapter 4, last Sunday morning, we left off at the first sentence in the first verse of chapter 4, “And the word of Samuel came to all Israel” [1 Samuel 4:1], and you remember I said that did not refer so much to a vision, to the prophetic word, but rather that referred to the Levitical task and assignment and ministry of Samuel as he went through all Israel with the Book in his hand and he taught the people the Word of God. I also said last Sunday, that that reminded us of the illimitable responsibility of teaching the Word of God, that lies upon us. Our children are not taught the Bible in the homes, with rare exceptions. We are prohibited by law from teaching the Bible in our public school system. That means, that means that God must give our people in the church those means and those methods and those dedications by which the good Word and the good knowledge of God can be taught here in this holy place.
That’s what Samuel did; with a Bible in his hand he went through all Israel teaching the Word of the Lord. Now, we’re going to follow through twenty years of silence in the ministry of Samuel. He drops out of the picture here. He’s not in the drama anymore. While he’s going around teaching the Word of the Lord, no mention is made of him for twenty years, but in those twenty years, these significant things happened.
Now we begin, 1 Samuel 4:1: “Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer.” That’s the first time you have the mention of the Philistines for about twenty years. The last time that we heard of them was in the days of Samson. Apparently, when Samson pulled down that great temple in which he himself lost his own life, apparently, so many of the Philistine leaders were slain [Judges 16:30], so many of the flower and fruit of their country was destroyed, until it took them years to recover from the terrible blow. This is the first time that they are mentioned since the days of Samson. And when they joined the battle, Israel is defeated [1 Samuel 4:2]. In the third verse, when they were defeated and they returned to the camp, Israel said, “Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us today before the Philistines?” [1 Samuel 4:3].
What did Joshua do when he was defeated by the sons of Ai? [Joshua 7:4-5] What did Joshua do? Don’t you remember, he fell on his face before the Lord, and in an agony, he took the case to God, and he prayed? And the Lord answered Joshua [Joshua 7:6-10]. What do these people do now when they are defeated? They say: “Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, and when it cometh among us, it will save us out of the hand of our enemies” [1 Samuel 4:3].
It’s pretty hard for people who have lost their spiritual vision to distinguish between God and the accouterments of God, the images of God, the symbols of God. It is so, so a weakness in human nature. I think that’s one reason why God prohibits—and we have other things later on in this Bible passage this morning about that—I think that’s one of the reasons why God prohibits the image [Exodus 20:4-5].
It is easy for people to be persuaded that “this little token will keep me from an accident.” Therefore, they have a little token, a little god in the automobile, “This image will keep me from harm.” And they have a little talisman, a little amulet, a little token that they hang around their necks, “This little image will keep our house from the evil spirits.” So they hang them on the wall, and they set them on the shelf, or they put them in a little alcove or a little cave or a little pretty place in the yard. That’s the reason God prohibits those things. There’s no exception in the history of men, but that it has led to that kind of corruption, always.
Now, these people here do that same thing. Joshua fell on his face in agony before God [Joshua 7:6]; these people don’t take it to God at all. They look for the amulet, they look for the talisman, they look for the symbol and the sign, they look for the image; so out in the midst of the war they come carrying the cherubim overlooking the ark of the covenant [1 Samuel 4:4-5].
Evidently, these idolatrous Philistines thought that those were the gods of Israel. In the eighth verse, look at that: “Woe unto us!” say these Philistines, “Who shall deliver us out of [the hand of] these mighty gods?” [1 Samuel 4:8]. Plural—these plural are the “gods,” plural—you see, when they saw those cherubim, they thought they were “gods,” plural. Two gods: “These are the gods that smote the Egyptians with all of the plagues in the wilderness” [1 Samuel 4:8]. They got it all mixed up. The plagues were down in Egypt [Exodus 7:14-12:30]. They got them out in the wilderness. But however they garbled it, the story had come to them how the great, mighty Jehovah had delivered Israel out of the hand of the Egyptians in that series of ten plagues [Exodus 7-12].
Then they joined the battle again [1 Samuel 4:9-10]. And guess what? What do you think about those little images, and those medals, and those little medallions, and those little talismans, and those little idols: do you think they deliver anybody from anything? And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man to his tent, and there was a great slaughter. And the ark of God was taken: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain [1 Samuel 4:10-11].
That is a demonstration of God’s contempt for the image, and the talisman, and the idol, and the medallion! God says that is superstition! God says that is false persuasion and silly reliance; God looks in disdain and disfavor upon it.
“I’ll carry me a rabbit’s foot!”
“I’ll find me a four-leaf clover, and I’ll put it in my purse!”
“I’ll put me a horseshoe!”
“I’ll get me a little god!”
The Lord looks in disdain on it. Now, if you do it for fun, that’s all right. “I’m looking over a four-leaf clover that I overlooked before.” I presume the guy is talking about his gal or something. He didn’t notice her before, but he notices her now. Now, God doesn’t mind that. That’s all right. You know, just for silliness, just for fun, just for entertainment, just for party, God doesn’t mind it. But when you look upon these things in sincerity and in earnestness, “These things shall deliver us, they will keep us!” The Lord God in heaven laughs in derision upon such folly and such superstition.
Now that’s a tragic thing here, tragic thing. And the Philistines slaughtered them; thirty thousand footmen alone fell in that day of battle, the ark of God was taken, and the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain [1 Samuel 4:10-11].
Now you have the story of the death of old Eli: and there came a messenger, for the heart of old Eli trembled for the ark of God [1 Samuel 4:11-12]. There came a messenger and came to Eli. And he was old. He was ninety and eight years old, and he was heavy. Inactivity makes us heavy. Old Eli had gotten old, and he didn’t move around very much. Old Eli was seated there, and there came this messenger, and when the messenger came, Eli who was old and blind asked what was the message. “And it came to pass, when he mentioned the ark of God, that he fell over backward and brake his neck, . . . for he was an old man, and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years” [1 Samuel 4:12-18].
Now look: and his daughter-in-law: Phinehas’ wife, his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife was with child, near to be delivered:
And when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her.
And about the time of her death, the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not, for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it.
And she named the child Ichabod, Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel.
[1 Samuel 4:19-22]
Because the ark of God was taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband, she said, “The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.”
You know, four times it says that in that little passage that I have just gone through. In verse 11, “And the ark of God was taken” [1 Samuel 4:11]. And verse 18, “The ark of God” [1 Samuel 4:18], in verse 19, “The ark of God was taken” [1 Samuel 4:19], it’s in verse 17, “And the ark of God is taken” [1 Samuel 4:17]. And in verse 22, “For the ark of God is taken” [1 Samuel 4:22]. And she named that child Ichabod, saying, “The glory is departed from Israel” [1 Samuel 4:21].
And that’s the last time that God ever was sought in Shiloh. That ended the ministry of Shiloh. Twice in the Bible is that referred to: in the seventy-eighth Psalm, beginning at the–beginning at the [fifty-eighth] verse, “For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their graven images. When God heard this, He was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh; and delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy’s hand” [Psalm 78:38-61]. That’s in Psalm 78.
Now, five hundred years after this, Jeremiah speaks of it. “Go ye now,” he says, in the seventh chapter and the twelfth verse:
Go ye now unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel. . . . Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by My name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.
And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all of your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.
This ended God’s ministry in Shiloh. Never again do the people turn there for worship. Never again is the ark there. Never again is the tabernacle there. This ended it. And she cried, “Ichabod, Ichabod, the glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God is taken!” [1 Samuel 4:21].
Now the fifth chapter, “And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer (where they had captured it) and took it unto Ashdod” [1 Samuel 5:1], unclean and filthy Ashdod, and they placed it in the house of the indescribable and sensual god Dagon [1 Samuel 5:2]. And there the ark of the Lord, with the covenant, and the tables of stone, and the mercy seat, there it is placed in the presence of Dagon as a trophy. Now the judgment of God upon Dagon: and the next morning—and then the next morning, there he lies with his head off and his hands off and his feet off [1 Samuel 5:3-4]. And then you have the heavy hand of God upon Ashdod, “and He smote them with emerods, even Ashdod” and all the folks around there [1 Samuel 5:6]. Then it was sent to Gath, “and God’s heavy hand was upon Gath [1 Samuel 5:8-9]. And then it was sent to Ekron, and the heavy hand of God was upon Ekron [1 Samuel 5:10-11]. I want to show you what God, through the psalmist in 78, again I want to show you what God says about that. “Then the Lord,” after the ark was taken from Shiloh:
Then the Lord awakened as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.
And He smote His enemies in the hinder parts: He put them to a perpetual reproach.
Can you imagine? You know, there’s, there’s an irony, there’s, there’s a humor in the Lord God Almighty that is astonishing, that is amazing: these Ashdodites and these Gathites and these Ekronites who are exalting in their god, Dagon, and how they have triumphed in their god Dagon over the God Jehovah—why, the Lord God sends them hemorrhoids, and they are destroyed [1 Samuel 5:6]. And the psalmist says: “He smote them in their hinder parts; and put them to a perpetual reproach” [Psalm 78:66], God’s contempt and disdain for these worms of the dust, these slimy, filthy, blaspheming uncircumcised devotees of Dagon; just a part of the Lord’s contempt for their filthy, indescribably blasphemous attitudes toward heaven. You know, you can expatiate on that a long time if you had the opportunity. It is remarkable to me how dirty people get dirtier! And filthy people get filthier! And slimy, unclean people get slimier and more unclean. It’s remarkable thing.
Did you ever notice when filthy-minded people get together and start telling jokes, how the thing gets a little filthier and a little dirtier and a little dirtier? Did you ever notice that? And did you ever notice how people who have lost the true image of God go down in their, in their thinking and in their vision and in their whole outlook? That’s all over the world.
I have been in places in this world, especially in some of the dark, unlettered continents of this world, I have been in places in this world where the people, because they had turned aside from the image of God and the true knowledge of God—I have been in places in this world where they had sunk, in their families, in their life, in everything about them, had sunk into indescribable dirt and filth.
You know, the Lord kind of lets us choose our way. And when we choose that kind of a life and that kind of a turn in our life, it just gets like these hemorrhoids. It’s dirty, and it’s filthy, and it’s bloody, and it’s messy, and it’s indescribably bad and full of reproach and stink. And that’s what God did here [1 Samuel 5:6, 6:5]. It’s unusual to read these things, unusual.
Well, they are in a come-to-pass, these filthy people, worshiping at the shrine of this sensuous and unclean Dagon; they’re in a come-to-pass. So they say, “What are we going to do?” They go to their diviners and their witch doctors and all of their priests before Dagon and say, “What are we going to do? We don’t know what to do with this thing that we’ve got into. What are we going to do with him? Or with it? Or with them? What are we going to do about this thing?”
How many times do you read that in the Bible? When Gadara was visited by the Lord Jesus, they lost some of their pigs because of His presence [Luke 8:32-33]. And they said, “What are we going to do with this Man? We have lost our swine because of Him. Now we have had some people healed, that’s right. And saved, that’s right. And we have had the gospel preached to us, that’s right. But we have lost pigs in this deal! What are we going to do with Him? What are we going to do with Him?” [Luke 8:26-37].
Some of you in the congregation today went to the Passion Play at Oberammergau. The Passion Play of Oberammergau places its first prop in this: when Jesus goes to the temple to cleanse the temple, He overturns the money changers and He drives out those that traffic in the house of God. And they plot together, saying, “What are we going to do with Him? We’ve lost in the deal. What are we going to do with Him?” [Mark 11:15-18].
Did you ever see a bunch of liquorites get together and put their best wisdom and best knowledge, “What are we going to do with these preachers over there in Oak Cliff? What are we going to do? What are we going to do with this problem? We’ve lost money on this deal.” Some of our swine have been driven away. “What are we going to do with Jesus?”
And wasn’t that what Pontius Pilate did? “I have got Him on my hands, and I cannot get rid of Him, and what am I going to do with Him? Well, I will just wash my hands in water and dry my hands with a towel and send Him to somebody else or turn Him over to the priests in order that they might slay Him” [Matthew 27:24-26].
“What are we going to do?” You know, it’s a hard problem for a man to escape God in this life, and to escape the great holy moral precepts of the Almighty in this life. Don’t ever forget, God still runs this world. A little bantam like Khrushchev might say thus-and-so, and a little satellite like some of the others may boastfully say thus-and-so, but don’t you ever think different. God still runs this world, and He is the God of judgment.
And they say, “Make images of your hemorrhoids” [1 Samuel 6:5]. Law me! “And make images of your mice that mar your land” [1 Samuel 6:5]. Now, I wish I had about an hour here: “Make images of them.” That is a part of the corruption of the worship of God: images! And there is not anything in this Bible that the Word of God inveighs more clearly, and more earnestly, and more unwearyingly against, than it is the making of images. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” [Exodus 20:3], commandment number one. Commandment number two, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, neither shalt thou bow down thyself before it” [Exodus 20:4-5].
There is never an instance in all history, never; there is never an instance in all literature, never; there is never an instance in all the story of humanity, never; there is never an exception in the history of creation but that image worship corrupts the religion of God, always!
Outside of the Christian faith, may I give you an instance? The most progressive state in India is the Punjab. There you will find the most progressive farmers. There you will find the finest soldiers. The inhabitants of the Punjab, for the most part, are Indian Sikhs, S-i-k-h-s. Whenever you see an Indian Sikh, he wears long hair. You’ve seen them. We have visitors of the Sikhs’ sect and religion here in America. You have some of them here employed in some of these establishments. The Sikh religion was begun by Guru Nanak in the sixteenth century. And in the idolatrous India, where there is a god in every house, and a god on every shelf, and a god on every wayside—gods everywhere! Little gods, big gods, gods you can carry in your pocket, gods you can put in your automobile, gods you can place in your kitchen, gods you can hang up on the wall, gods everywhere! Images everywhere! In the sixteenth century, Guru Nanak preached the gospel of the one true God and the interdiction of images. And out of that spiritual reform of a pagan man, Nanak, he built a new religion, and a new state, and a new political entity. Wherever you have images, whether it is India, whether it is in America, whether it is in Latin America, whether it is in Europe, whether it is in China, whether it is anywhere in this world, wherever you have images, you have the corruption of religion, always! God interdicts it!
Wherever you have the absence and the interdiction of images, you have an opportunity to lift the people up into a spiritual appreciation of the one true God. And by the way, Sikhism, according to Nanak, is mighty close to our Baptist gospel. They just don’t have Jesus, but their idea of spiritual religion without images is like ours which is in the Book. “Let us make images of our hemorrhoids, let us make images of our mice” [1 Samuel 6:5]: unclean and unacceptable. Now, I must close this in just a moment. Let’s pick it up from there next Sunday.
I don’t like to close with just a thing that ought to be a sentence, when a thing ought to be expatiated upon, these remarkable passages in God’s Book. And it happened a long time ago, but the Lord put it down in this Book that we might be admonished in this day and in this generation and in this hour. So the ark of God is in this unholy, unclean land of Philistia, and God in His providence does an unusual thing. How a thing like this could happen, beginning at the seventh verse, I do not know. But God does an unusual thing, and the ark is back, not toward Shiloh, never up there anymore, but the movement of the ark is toward Judah, and toward Jerusalem, and toward Mount Zion, and toward the city of the great King and the great God [1 Samuel 6:7]: a remarkable, remarkable thing!
Now we are going to stand and sing a stanza of a hymn, and while we sing it, somebody this morning, you, give his heart to the Lord Jesus. And somebody you, put your life with us in the fellowship of the church. While we sing this song, while we make appeal, would you come and stand by me? As the Lord shall say the word and shall extend the invitation, would you come on the first note of the first stanza, and give the pastor your hand? While all of us sing the appeal together; may we stand and sing?