“When he arrived, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road watching, for his heart trembled for the ark of God.”1 Samuel 4:13 (ESV)
We find Eli watching helplessly as the Philistines wage war against his people, Israel (1 Samuel 4:10-11). There is so much at stake! Lives could be lost! Israel’s national welfare is threatened! Eli’s own sons are in great danger! The scene of the conflict must have seemed so chaotic and disheartening. There are plenty of things that could be weighing heavily on Eli’s mind right now. But we find him overwhelmed with one great concern, one thing that consumes all his thoughts, one thing for which he trembles in the midst of the conflict. It is the ark of God. The ark was symbolic of God’s holy presence. To have the ark with you meant having the glory of God by your side and in your midst. Eli’s trembling is induced by his anxiety for what might happen to the ark. Don’t miss this. In the midst of all the conflict and chaos, when there is so much at stake, the thing that drives Eli to trembling is his concern for the presence and glory of God. And this even more so than the welfare of his nation, his sons, or even his own life.
Many of us can find some things we identify with in Eli’s story. The secular culture has been waging war against biblical Christianity for years, but it seems to have been kicked into hyperdrive recently. Our cities are under siege within our own country. The America, and even the world, we knew even one year ago seems like a distant memory and we fear for what we will see one year from now. So much chaos surrounds us. For most of us, we find all we are able to do is sit and watch it happen. But can we identify with Eli in his trembling? In the middle of all the turmoil this year, what do you find yourself trembling for? For many of us it is the potential loss of a free, democratic society, the future welfare of our children, our current safety, the continuation of religious liberty, and so on. All of these are legitimate concerns, but they are not ultimate. Let the example of Eli teach us that the faithful will tremble the most at the prospect of the diminishing of God’s glory. Our hearts should cry out, “Anything but the glory of God! Let us lose our liberties if we must. Let us lose our country, our safety, even our very own lives. But may we never lose the presence and glory of God! His glory at all costs!”
We are in a time now when the future of our country is not guaranteed. The very fabric of this nation is being shaken to its core and I hear the experts saying this is only the beginning. There is the possibility that our religious liberty could be on its way out the door and, judging by how quickly things have progressed this year, it could be sooner rather than later. There will only be more pressure from here to give up our biblical convictions and cave to secular narratives. In the end what your heart most trembles for will be the god you serve. So if your greatest fear is your family’s safety, you will cave when that comes into conflict with standing on biblical truth. If your greatest fear is the loss of your national identity, you will toss your Bible when that comes into conflict. Just ask the churches of Germany during the rise of the Third Reich. If it is the loss of your influence, well, you can see where this is all headed. During the times of trouble that may soon come there is only one way to ensure that you will stand in faithfulness to our Lord. You must have a heart that trembles, first and foremost, for the glory of God.
So let me ask this of all of us. As we watch all the constant headlines flashing across our newsfeeds, what is our great concern? What is it that we are most worried about? May the Lord move our hearts so that the greatest cry coming out from us is this: “Oh, what might become of the glory of God?! Even if we lose all else, we cannot, we must not, lose our sight and experience of His glory!”