In 1 Samuel ch 4 verses 1 & 2 Israel went out to war against the Philistines and were defeated. To avoid further defeat the elders of Israel said the ark of the covenant should be brought into the camp hoping that that would bring God’s presence into the camp so they would be saved. So the ark was sent for and when it arrived the people shouted and welcomed it so enthusiastically the earth shook ( verses 3-5).
Israel seemed to be doing all the right things, sending for the ark and enthusiastically welcoming it, but the truth is they were just going through the motions, because we know the hearts of the priests Hophni and Phinehas were far from God ( Ch 2: 12-17 & 22 ) as were the hearts of the people who were worshiping idols ( Ch 7:3 ). The people hoped their outward actions would save them despite their hearts being far from God.
But God wasn’t fooled. He didn’t buy into their show of piousness, so they were defeated again with more casualties the second time than the first, as well as the ark being captured and the two priests Hophni & Phineahas being killed ( Ch 4 verses 10 & 11 ).
It was not until Israel returned to God with all their hearts that they were saved from the Philistines ( Ch 7:3, 10-13 ).
Like the children of Israel, God does not move on our behalf, when we are only going through the motions. If our heart is not in it, our enemies will defeat us. It’s only when we engage, give him our hearts that His grace and power are extended to us, and victory is ours.
Lets learn a lesson from the Israelites….just going through the motions spells defeat.