A Pep Rally Without Victory

1 Samuel 4:1-11 says, “1And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek. 2And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men. 3And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. 4So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. 5And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. 6And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp. 7And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. 8Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. 9Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight. 10And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. 11And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.”

When I was in high school, on different occasions, before our team played our greatest rival of the season, whether it would be in basketball or football, we would have pep rallies at the school to get everyone pumped and excited for the game. However, many of those pep rallies failed to complete its mission, as we would normally lose that game that night. Sure, it cause everyone to cheer and chant for the Pioneers, but they were only spectators. They were not participators! When it came time to play, our teams always appeared to be intimidated and would fold under the pressure.

This is no different than the children of Israel. They believed that they could overcome the Philistines within their flesh and without the presence of God, but they were badly fooled. They lost four thousand men! After such a horrific defeat, they then wanted to go to God, which is why they went and fetched the Ark of the Covenant, a piece of furniture in the Tabernacle of Moses that represented the throne of God. However, God was not going to sit on the Ark this day because there was sin in the camp, in particular within the priesthood. Once they got the Ark of the Covenant, Israel shouted with a great shout. In other words, they had a pep rally and a celebration as though they had already won a surprising victory without even competing or fighting. Instead, when they went to battle, the Philistines won, took the Ark, and killed the two sons of Eli because they were responsible for the sins in leadership, which is why they were destined to lose. Yeah, they may have had a great pep rally, but it did not lead to a victory!

Too often in church we find ourselves having pep rallies without any form of victory being lived out on a daily basis. We can have our shouting, “feel good” services, but if we are miserable during the other six days of the week, what difference does it make? Praise and worship leaders should not have to push or prime the congregation to worship God by telling them to praise God with their lips or to lift up their hands. This should be automatic from God’s people! If someone has to motivate people to praise God, then it is simply not much praise at all! When we live holy and praise God from our hearts because of our gratitude and love for Him, then regardless of what battles we face from week-to-week, we will walk in total victory!