Who Is Able To Stand Before God.001


Who Is Able to Stand Before God? 

The holiness of God knows no compromise…ever

First Samuel 3.19–6.21

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • November 30, In the year of our Lord, 2014

Song Leader and Song Suggestions: Larry Amberg – Songs on Judgment; Songs on God’s Holiness


  1. Just who is our God? 
    1. If you listen to people carefully,
      1. you will discover all kinds of opinions on His nature, but
      2. how many of those opinions fit what He has revealed about Himself?
    2. If you read the Bible carefully,
      1. you will discover that it reveals all kinds of opinions
      2. that people have of Him,
        1. sometimes even His own people
        2. did not understand Him fully,
          1. that is why they crucified Him
          2. when He lived among them.

            10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (John 1.10–11).

            37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him… (John 12.37).

  2. The Bible shows people who did not listen to what He said about Himself. 
    1. The text for today shows both
    2. the Philistines and the Israelites not understanding God properly.
      1. First, let us see Samuel, who did understand God.
      2. Then we will see how much Israel needed him.


  1. First Samuel 3.19–4.1a – Words that Did Not Fall to the Ground

    3.19 So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord. 21 Then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord. 4.1a And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.

    1. Can you find three better things to say of a young person?
      1. Samuel grew.
      2. The Lord was with Samuel.
      3. All knew that Samuel was a prophet.
    2. Therefore, Samuel’s word went to all Israel, and
      1. the Lord did not let the words of Samuel fall to the ground.
      2. Either he controlled his tongue well or his prophesying proved true.
  2. First Samuel 4.1b–4 – Was the Ark of the Covenant a Good Luck Charm?

    4.1b Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer; and the Philistines encamped in Aphek. 2 Then the Philistines put themselves in battle array against Israel. And when they joined battle, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men of the army in the field. 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.” 4 So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

    1. Why were the Philistines able to defeat the Israelites?
      1. Verse 3 shows Israel’s superstitious view of the Ark.
        1. Thus their own solution to their question
        2. answered their question more than they realized!
      2. Do Christians use the things of God for good luck charms?
        1. The cross
        2. The Lord’s Supper
        3. Going to church
        4. Prayer
        5. Giving
        6. The Bible
    2. Where does the Law say anything of bringing the Ark to war?
      1. Was it the Ark that brought victory, or
      2. their obedience to the Lord?
  3. First Samuel 4.5–11 – The Philistines Thought They Could Stand Before God

    4.5 And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. 6 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. 7 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. 8 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. 9 Be strong and conduct yourselves like men, you Philistines, that you do not become servants of the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Conduct yourselves like men, and fight!” 10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11 Also the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

    1. Hundreds of years later, the Philistines knew and remembered
      1. what the God of Israel had done to the Egyptians.
      2. How should the Philistines have responded?
        1. If the Philistines truly believed in what God had done to the Egyptians,
        2. why did the Philistines think they had any chance?
    2. The answer: They feared becoming servants of the Israelites.
      1. The fear of becoming servants or slaves drives people to war.
      2. Yet, how many people make themselves slaves to
        1. debt?
        2. sin?
        3. addictions?
    3. The Philistines did not overpower the God of Israel, but
      1. the Israelites were in sin, and
      2. the Lord let this happen, and
        1. He showed them that His Ark of the Covenant
        2. was not a good luck charm or a superstitious emblem.
  4. First Samuel 4.12–22 – Israel’s Despair Over the Ark

    4.12 Then a man of Benjamin ran from the battle line the same day, and came to Shiloh with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. 13 Now when he came, there was Eli, sitting on a seat by the wayside watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city and told it, all the city cried out. 14 When Eli heard the noise of the outcry, he said, “What does the sound of this tumult mean?” And the man came quickly and told Eli. 15 Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were so dim that he could not see. 16 Then the man said to Eli, “I am he who came from the battle. And I fled today from the battle line.” And he said, “What happened, my son?” 17 So the messenger answered and said, “Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has been a great slaughter among the people. Also your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead; and the ark of God has been captured.” 18 Then it happened, when he made mention of the ark of God, that Eli fell off the seat backward by the side of the gate; and his neck was broken and he died, for the man was old and heavy. And he had judged Israel forty years. 19 Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was with child, due to be delivered; 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 herself and gave birth, for her labor pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not fear, for you have borne a son.” But she did not answer, nor did she regard it. 21 Then 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.”

    1. The capture of the Ark
      1. caused Eli’s city to cry out,
      2. shocked Eli so that he died, and
      3. made Eli’s daughter-in-law to go into labor.
    2. They apparently did not seek the Lord,
      1. otherwise, the Bible would have told us so.
      2. How many people seek the Lord to find the answers?

        19 The way of the wicked is like darkness;
        They do not know what makes them stumble.
        (Pro 4.19)

        1. They stumble, and they know they are stumbling,
        2. yet, they cannot figure out why.
  5. First Samuel 5.1–5 – Yahweh Versus Dagon

    5.1 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon. 3 And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set it in its place again. 4 And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon’s torso was left of it. 5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor any who come into Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

    1. Dagon bowed before the Ark of the Lord,
      1. like the statue of Saddam Hussein bowing
      2. before US troops.
    2. Did they not see the irony in setting Dagon back in his place again?
      1. Was it ironic that the Philistines could capture of the Ark of the Lord?
      2. No, because the Philistines did not capture the Lord.
        1. What about when the Jews and then the Romans captured Jesus?
        2. He allowed it to happen with a purpose in mind,
          1. something that would help the people, and then
          2. He raised Himself from the dead!
    3. Again, Dagon bowed before the Ark of the Lord.
      1. This time, Dagon lost his head and the palms of his hands.
      2. Only his torso remained, leaving not much of a god!
    4. The Philistines learned from this episode, but
      1. they did not learn enough, because
      2. although the Philistine priests no longer tread Dagon’s threshold,
        1. nevertheless, they still worshiped this false and dead god!
        2. Hello! Earth to the Philistines! Earth to the Philistines!
  6. First Samuel 5.6–12 – Send the Ark Away

    5.6 But the hand of the Lord was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. 7 And when the men of Ashdod saw how it was, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is harsh toward us and Dagon our god.” 8 Therefore they sent and gathered to themselves all the lords of the Philistines, 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 away to Gath.” So they carried the ark of the God of Israel away. 9 So it was, after they had carried it away, that the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction; and He struck the men of the city, both small and great, and tumors broke out on them. 10 Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. So it was, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, “They have brought the ark of the God of Israel to us, to kill us and our people!” 11 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 back to its own place, so that it does not kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. 12 And the men who did not die were stricken with the tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven.

    1. Ashdod suffered.
      1. Gath suffered.
      2. Ekron suffered.
    2. Why did they think sending it to Gath from Ashdod would solve the problem?
      1. Gath was the hometown of Goliath.
      2. Whether Goliath was around yet, I do not know, but
        1. he did not come from pipsqueak parents.
          1. My mother could not remember my length at birth,
          2. so I estimated 20 inches, and she says I grew to 6’ 1”.
            1. That means I increased my height by 3.65 times.
            2. The smallest estimate for the height of Goliath is 9’ 9”.
              1. If he grew at the same rate that I did,
              2. he started life at 32 inches long!
        2. Therefore, Gath may have been known for its mightiness, and
          1. the Lords of the Philistines thought
          2. they could handle the problem.
    3. However, it does not matter how mighty any man or civilization is,
      1. none can contend with the God of Israel, or
      2. the Lord of the church.
        1. Many have tried and failed.
        2. Does the Lord ever allow our enemies to get the upper hand over us?
          1. Yes, because the church sins.
          2. Sometimes it is a test.
            1. However, in the end,
            2. His people always win.
    4. The Ekronites got the picture.
      1. The Ark of the Lord made Ashdod and Gath suffer.
      2. Ekron did not believe that they would be the exception to the rule.
    5. The Philistines knew what they had to do to ease their suffering.
      1. Send the Ark back to Israel!
      2. God heard the cry of the Philistines!
  7. First Samuel 6.1–12 – Cows Know Better Than People

    6.1 Now the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2 And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it to its place.” 3 So they said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty; but by all means return it to Him with a trespass offering. Then you will be healed, and it will be known to you why His hand is not removed from you.” 4 Then they said, “What is the trespass offering which we shall return to Him?” They answered, “Five golden tumors and five golden rats, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines. For the same plague was on all of you and on your lords. 5 Therefore you shall make images of your tumors and images of your rats that ravage the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will lighten His hand from you, from your gods, and from your land. 6 Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He did mighty things among them, did they not let the people go, that they might depart? 7 Now therefore, make a new cart, take two milk cows which have never been yoked, and hitch the cows to the cart; and take their calves home, away from them. 8 Then take the ark of the Lord and set it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you are returning to Him as a trespass offering in a chest by its side. Then send it away, and let it go. 9 And watch: if it goes up the road to its own territory, to Beth Shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we shall know that it is not His hand that struck us—it happened to us by chance.” 10 Then the men did so; they took two milk cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11 And they set the ark of the Lord on the cart, and the chest with the gold rats and the images of their tumors. 12 Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right hand or the left. And the lords of the Philistines went after them to the border of Beth Shemesh.

    1. Are you smarter than a cow?
    2. Animals sometimes know better than man does!

      3 “The ox knows its owner
      And the donkey its master’s crib;
      But Israel does not know,
      My people do not consider.”
      (Isa 1.3)

      7 “Even the stork in the heavens
      Knows her appointed times;
      And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow
      Observe the time of their coming.
      But My people do not know the judgment of the Lord.”
      (Jer 8.7)

    3. The priests and diviners of the Philistines knew what to do:
      1. Do not send the Ark back empty-handed.
        1. They may not have known what God said in the Law, but
        2. they knew that you do not honor a god,
          1. is how they viewed it,
          2. empty-handed, even as the Law said,

            20b “None shall appear before Me empty-handed“ (Exo 34.20b).
      2. Make golden replicas of the tumors and rats plaguing the people.
      3. Give glory to the God of Israel.
      4. Remember the lessons of Egypt and imitate the Egyptians who let Israel go.
      5. Make a new cart
        1. pulled by new milking cows
        2. that have never pulled a cart before, and
        3. the Philistines would not guide it.
          1. If the cows separated from their calves still go,
          2. then you know that the God of Israel was behind it all.
            1. When I worked at a dairy,
            2. we had to separate the calves from the cows, and
              1. the mothers protested loudly and vigorously,
              2. that is lowing.
    4. The cows headed straight for Israel,
      1. going to Beth Shemesh,
      2. lowing the whole way.
        1. They wanted their babies, but the Lord led them.
        2. They had no experience at cart-pulling, but the Lord led them.
        3. They did not know the way, but the Lord led them.
  8. First Samuel 6.13–16 – Israel Sacrificed

    6.13 Now the people of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley; and they lifted their eyes and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. 14 Then the cart came into the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and stood there; a large stone was there. So they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 The Levites took down the ark of the Lord and the chest that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone. Then the men of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices the same day to the Lord. 16 So when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day.

    1. The Israelites were happy to have their Ark back,
      1. although they still did not know fully what to do and not do.
      2. They believed they were blessed, but a curse would follow shortly.
  9. First Samuel 6.17–18 – Tumors and Rats

    6.17 These are the golden tumors which the Philistines returned as a trespass offering to the Lord: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron; 18 and the golden rats, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both fortified cities and country villages, even as far as the large stone of Abel on which they set the ark of the Lord, which stone remains to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.

    1. The stone remained clear to the day of the writer of the Books of Samuel’s,
    2. showing the valuable use of archaeology.
  10. First Samuel 6.19–21 – Who Is Able to Stand Before God?

    6.19 Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the Lord had struck the people with a great slaughter. 20 And the men of Beth Shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? And to whom shall it go up from us?” 21 So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the ark of the Lord; come down and take it up with you.”

    1. The holiness of God knows no compromise,
      1. not even during times of celebration,
      2. not even when His people seek to honor Him.
    2. No one could look into the Ark of the Lord.
      1. However, they had heard what was in it.
      2. Imagine if you lived then,
        1. could you resist the temptation to look at its contents?
        2. Would you like to see the original Ten Commandments,
          1. once held by Moses himself, and
          2. written with the finger of God Himself?
        3. Would you like to see Aaron’s rod that budded?
        4. Would you like to see a bowl of that special manna?
    3. The men of Beth Shemesh did two things:
      1. They questioned who could stand before this holy God.
        1. Malachi 3 prophesied of the first coming of Jesus,

          2 “But who can endure the day of His coming?
          And who can stand when He appears?
          For He is like a refiner’s fire
          And like launderers’ soap.”
          (Mal 3.2)
        2. Revelation 6 shows possibly the Second Coming of Jesus,

          16 “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev 6.16–17).
      2. They sought to pass off the Ark to another city even as the Philistines had!


  1. Israel needed to do what the Philistines needed to do. 
    1. The world needs to do what the Israelites and the Philistines needed to do.
    2. Repent!
  2. Just as surely as the Son of God walked the Earth in the first century, 
    1. He will return.
    2. Are you ready?
  3. Do not let the curtain of time come down without living as a follower of Jesus.