Throughout the whole Old Testament the Jews interpreted defeat a sign of God’s displeasure with their sin; conversely victory was treated as a sign of his blessing and pleasure with them. This is a somewhat simplistic understandi ng of defeat and victory but it is ultimately built upon the right foundation in that if the people embrace sin it will eventually, sooner or later, lead to their destruction; likewise, if we embrace God’s will and the life of virtue we will be walking upon the path to etrnal beatitude.

Hophni and Phinehas are men whose lives are far from upright and their death is interpreted as judgment upon their sin. Eli is seen to be complicit in their sin because he does little or nothing to stop them sinning. Again this seems to us a little too deterministic and neat to hold much credence to the modern mind, but again, there is a certain degree of truth in this understanding. We cannot afford to dismiss sin with a wave of our hand because we have all experienced the horrible consequences of sin at one time or another in our lives. We know there is an element of truth in the idea that sinners will be punished, if not in this life, then in the next.

What should we learn from this story of defeat? I think we can learn that God is a just God and that eventually justice will come to the sinner. In some ways those who suffer greatly in theiur earthly pilgrimage are far closer to heaven on the the day of their death than others who have sufffered little for their sins. It is interesting in this context to note that the saints desired to suffer precisely because they knew that there is a necessary amount of suffering that we all must endure to make repoaration for our sins.

This can give us new insight into defeat and the suffering that accompanies it – namely that the suffering is in preparation for our death and our final journey to eternal life.

How do I view defeat and suffering in my life? Do I try to avoid it at all costs, even the cost of sin? Do I embrace it and offer it for my salvation and the saklvation of others?

Holy Spirit, help me to embrace any suffering that comes to my life so that I will always see it as a form of reparation for my sins and thus helping me on the path to eternal life.