After the Jews came to the promise land Joshua led them to take it over. However, after Joshua died, Judges ruled the land for a time. This is outlined in the book of Judges.
Now Pastor Miles leads us into 1 Samuel which is showing us that we need to make changes in order to receive God's full blessings for us.
The Power of the Ark
Eli is the high priest for the Jews at this time and he has two sons; Hophni and Phinehas (Phinehas means Nubian and Pastor Miles covered an incredibly interesting subject about various skin colors in the Bible. Rather than try to cover it here listen to Pastor Miles sermon if you can as he did an interesting, yet brief insert about it).
In 1 Samuel 4 we find the Jews battling the Philistines and losing. So the ark of the covenant was brought into the battle because the when the Jews carried the ark they were invincible. The Philistines where fearful when discovering about the ark but fought on anyways. And the Philistines not only won but killed 30,000 of Israel's soldiers and captured the ark. 1 Samuel 4:11 states that Hophni and Phinehas died as well.
Up to this point when the ark was brought into the battle the Jews would win. But why not now? For an explanation we have to go back to 1 Samuel 2 to see what kind of people Hophni and Phinehas where. 1 Samuel 2:15-17 describes an offering made to the Lord where meat was to be burned to remove the fat and the aroma was to please God. But these two priests would tell and threaten people to given them the meat first; denying God his due.
The Wickedness of Eli's Sons
Then in 1 Samuel 2:22 we see that these same sons of Eli lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
And Eli says it best in 1 Samuel 2:25: If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?"
But the sons didn't change their ways and when they called out the ark to battle against the Philistines God was offended. God allowed them to lose the battle and He killed the sons of Eli.
We are no different. There is something (maybe more than one thing) that we are or are not doing that is offending God and we need to change our ways in order to please Him or face the consequences.
The Ark Goes Back to Israel
But that is only half of the story...
Starting again In Samuel 6, remember that the Philistines had the ark? Well they took this as a prize and placed it in a temple to their god: Dagon and set the ark next to an idol of Dagon. In the morning they found their idol fallen in front of the ark. The priest put it back but the next morning the idol had again fallen and this time broke the head and the hands of the idol. But God also gave the Philistines tumors and after a few months the Philistines realized that they had to get the ark back to the Jews. The Philistines sent the ark back on a new cart, with a trespass offering of gold and this cart was being lead by two milking cows. The last part is very important because milking cows have calves so these cows would probably have returned to their young to care for them. But instead these two cows returned the ark to Israel.
We have to allow God to lead us back to Him. We may be offending God but he wants us to come back, he wants to turn our lives around to glorify Him and so that we can receive His blessing.
Pastor Miles pointed out that when God answers prayer He is in fact glorifying Himself. But He wants us to succeed and live productive lives, but we need His help to do it.