1 Samuel 4:3 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.”
1 Samuel 4:5-8 And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. Now when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the sound of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp. So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp!” And they said, “Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.
Israel apparently saw no need to consult God regarding their battle plans prior to engaging the enemy. However when their efforts failed they (the elders of Israel) blamed the Lord and then went to get the ark to ensure their future victory – something He had not told them to do. They didn’t want His guidance, they just wanted His power at work in the course they had determined to pursue. It’s almost as though the ark was some magical object, as though they didn’t recognize the awesome presence associated with it. There seemed to be no real reverence for the holiness of God…”let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us”….they wouldn’t go to Him for guidance but wanted Him to come to them for victory.
What a shout they gave as the ark came into the camp, but was it merely the shout of those who felt certain that their victory was now assured and not a shout of praise to the Lord God? How tragic that He actually seems to be more reverenced by the heathen than His own people.
God is not the means to our end. He is not some useful object to help us get what we want in life (even the religious things we want in life). He is Almighty God and He will not stoop to serve the agendas of men. If you are found to be using God for your own selfish gain, don’t be surprised to find yourself defeated before your enemy.