The Israelites attack the Philistines to get their freedom. After a small failure, they go get the ark of God and bring it to the war front. The Israelites rally for a while, but the Philistines rout them. 40,000 soldiers dead. The ark is taken by the Philistines. The two sons of the high priest dead (as Samuel had prophesied)
A runner goes to Shiloh, where the ark had come from. The town erupts in sorrow. Old man Eli, the high priest, falls off his stool and dies. His daughter in law is giving birth and she dies.
7 -8 When the leaders of Ashdod saw what was going on, they decided, "The chest of the god of Israel has got to go. We can't handle this, and neither can our god Dagon." They called together all the Philistine leaders and put it to them: "How can we get rid of the chest of the god of Israel?" Asdod sent it on to Gath and the same thing happened. So they sent it on to Ekron. They didn' want it either! Finally they asked for help how to get rid of it. They were told to put the ark on a cart and send it back to Israel, along with some gold replicas of the rats and tumors they had been plagued with.
It came back, and there was rejoicing in Israel.
2 "From the time that the Chest came to rest in Kiriath Jearim, a long time passed—twenty years it was—and throughout Israel there was a widespread, fearful movement toward God.
3 Then Samuel addressed the house of Israel: "If you are truly serious about coming back to God, clean house. Get rid of the foreign gods and fertility goddesses, ground yourselves firmly in God, worship him and him alone, and he'll save you from Philistine oppression."
4 They did it. They got rid of the gods and goddesses, the images of Baal and Ashtoreth, and gave their exclusive attention and service to God. "
So what is the application?
First of all, even when the child of God is defeated by the gods of this world - like materialism - don't admire and respect or worship the false gods. They are empty of power and will always fall before the God above all Gods.
Second, we must do our part, but always cry out to God, because when He does His part, big things happen.
Third, even in the midst of terrible tragedy, God is still working. We may not see it, or notice it, or even know about it for a period of time. But He is still working. The Israelites were consumed in their own sorrow and grief and confusion over what had just happened. They had no way of knowing that God was putting on a show of His power over satan in the Philistine towns.
But He was...
Doan mess with the ark!