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 4:12-22.
After years of going through the motions of being religious, the Israelites have a crisis. So they think they can bring out the ark of God, and it will work it’s magic and win the victory for them. But God has other plans. His people have not hit the bottom yet.
Far into the future, we know things will one day be far worse than this, and that Israel will be taken into captivity. But God wants them to avoid this, and sends obstacles to decline. He sends faithful men to turn them around, and call them back to God’s law.
America is in decline. We don’t know how far, but we are like Israel during the time of the judges. We do what seems right in our own eyes. We have stopped advancing the kingdom, and we’re just hoarding our blessings. We insulate ourselves from the outside world, but not too much. We are like them more than we like to admit. We seem to think that electing the right people is a substitute to bringing people into the kingdom by conversion. Our crosses and bumper stickers will not be our lucky charms to protect us from the enemy.