1 Samuel 4 & Romans 4

1 Samuel 4

    And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.

    Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. And when the people came to 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 here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.” So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

    As soon as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, “What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid, for they said, “A god has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.”

    So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

    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. 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. When Eli heard the sound of the outcry, he said, “What is this uproar?” Then the man hurried and came and told Eli. Now Eli was ninety-eight years old and his eyes were set so that he could not see. 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?” 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.” 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.

    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. 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. 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. And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.”

(1 Samuel 4 ESV)

Romans 4

    What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

    “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
        and whose sins are covered;
    blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
        Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

    For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

    That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

(Romans 4 ESV)

Something to Consider

Romans 4: The apostle Paul points out that Scripture proves that Abraham wasn’t justified on account of anything he did or accomplished. That is why Paul claims that he had nothing to boast about before God. His obedience was not a factor in his justification. Abraham simply believed what God promised, and so God credited him with righteousness. 

Now, we have to be careful here. Righteousness is not credited to us for believing in God or in a God that saves. We can have a strong faith in the existence of God. We can believe that the Bible is God’s holy word. We can show great reverence for God but at the same time, still be seeking to save and justify ourselves by trusting in our own moral performance or character. Righteousness is only credited to us when we transfer our trust from anything else in life to a complete trust in who God is and what He says He will do.

We must not even place our trust in our act of believing. Adding one ounce of confidence in our own moral achievements or character for justification reveals self-trust which is failure to believe the gospel. It is failing to believe God. 

God has promised that Jesus’ life and death has paid the penalty for our sins in full and has granted us a righteous standing before Him in spite of our sinfulness. Justification is guaranteed to the one who believes God. Yet, the simplicity of this gospel is a stumbling block to the religious and foolishness to the irreligious.

Our greatest temptation is failing to believe the cross was necessary (irreligion) or failing to believe that it was all that was needed (religion).

Abraham was fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He promised He would do even if it seemed improbable. The promise made by God to Abraham that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars, and that the whole world would be blessed by his Seed seemed highly unlikely being that Abraham was almost one hundred years old and his wife, Sarah, had suffered from infertility her whole life (Genesis 15). However, in hope, he stayed strong in his faith and didn’t waver concerning the promise of God because he was fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised He would do. And that is why Scripture declares his faith was counted to him as righteousness. 

Abraham considered his situation and then considered that the same God who just made this promise is the same God who created the world out of nothing. If He is capable of doing that then He certainly is capable of doing this.

To believe God is to focus on what we know about Him and what we know He is capable of. Faith is not believing something blindly. It always has a foundation in reason, and it is always reasonable to trust the trustworthy. When our circumstances lead us to waver in our trust, we must ask ourselves, “Is God capable and is God reliable?” Then we can take Him at His word even if it seems to contradict what feels right or what the rest of the world may be telling us.