Ouxano 62: 1 Samuel part 9 – The Philistines Return the Ark

Ouxano 62: 1 Samuel part 9 – The Philistines Return the Ark August 18, 2014

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1 Samuel 7:1-2

So the men of Kiriath-jearim came to get the Ark of the Lord. They took it to the hillside home of Abinadab and ordained Eleazar, his son, to be in charge of it. The Ark remained in Kiriath-jearim for a long time—twenty years in all. During that time all Israel mourned because it seemed the Lord had abandoned them.

This process of Israel mourning began all the way back in chapter four, when they were relying on gimmicks and trickery to win a battle “in the name of the Lord”.  But God’s no genie who grants wishes so long as your carry His Ark around with you.  He just doesn’t work like that.

There are regular patterns of life that in a Spirit-directed way can help us draw closer to Christ, but there is no “quick fix” to deep spiritual maturity in god nor to the peace that we desire with our own lives.  There’s no instant-method of getting God to zap all your problems away and make your decisions and heart-desires in alignment with God’s.

Here’s a bit of a metaphor:  My kids used to love the Hobbit video game.  Now, they were pretty young and would come up to certain levels where they had problems going to the next stage.  So, every now and then, I’d step in and help them get to the next part of the game.  Then, admittedly, I would even spend some extra time getting to the next… and the next… and the next levels.  I spent SO many hours playing that game!  Now, sure, there’s a certain amount of satisfaction that comes when you beat a game like that.  But at the same time, as soon as I had completed the Hobbit, I started roughly calculating all of the hours upon hours that I sat in front of the computer trying to beat that stupid game.  Not to say that playing video games is bad.  God loves it when we enjoy ourselves, within His parameters.

What I am saying is that just like in the game, there’s no quick-fix way to get to the end – or to get right with God.  Yet, God is always likely to offer us new chances to make things right again.

We see this in verse three:

Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So the Israelites got rid of their images of Baal and Ashtoreth and worshiped only the Lord.

This applies to us in that we – each of us as individuals – have an active role in our relationship with the Lord.  Even when we’re in a season of waiting on God, there are active things that you should be doing to grow in your relationship with Him.  It sounds “old school”, but it’s true:  If you don’t put in the time, you won’t reap the benefits.  It’s that simple.

So, just like Samuel asked the Israelites, I’ve got to ask you:

Are you serious about having a relationship with God? 

If you truly are serious about having a relationship with Him, it’s going to move you in a direction toward His will and away from other certain things.  For many men, it’s going to move you away from pornography and sexual immorality anger and pride.  For women, it’s going to move you away from gossip, from eating disorders, and from finding emotional security in a man.  Just like the Israelites got rid of their gods when they decided to have a serious relationship with the Lord, we will also get rid of the things that stand between us and God as we make the honest and conscious decision to follow Him.

So, we pick up the story in verse seven:

When the Philistine rulers heard that Israel had gathered at Mizpah, they mobilized their army and advanced. The Israelites were badly frightened when they learned that the Philistines were approaching.“Don’t stop pleading with the Lord our God to save us from the Philistines!” they begged Samuel. So Samuel took a young lamb and offered it to the Lord as a whole burnt offering. He pleaded with the Lord to help Israel, and the Lord answered him.

Now, as we view this in the perspective of looking at the Bible as a whole, it’s really cool to see that with one lamb (or Lamb), God answered the prayers of His people.  Samuel didn’t offer up one lamb for each individual, or even each tribe.  He offered one singular lamb.

And in the New Testament, we see that Jesus was the one Lamb that was offered for the sins of the whole world.  So this is a picture for us, illustrating that God can take something in our place as a replacement for us.

10 Just as Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines arrived to attack Israel. But the Lord spoke with a mighty voice of thunder from heaven that day, and the Philistines were thrown into such confusion that the Israelites defeated them. 11 The men of Israel chased them from Mizpah to a place below Beth-car, slaughtering them all along the way.

Many times in Scripture, God acts by merely speaking.  We see this in Psalm 29:7-9

The voice of the Lord strikes
with bolts of lightning.
The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake;
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks[c]
and strips the forests bare.
In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”

From the Bible’s beginning to its end, we see God acting (creating ) simply by speaking.  We also see in John 1, that Jesus is the “Word of God”.  And we see here in 1 Samuel that simply by God speaking, the Philistines are thrown into a fatal state of confusion.

12 Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!”

I LOVE THIS VERSE!!  “Up to this point…”  Samuel doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the future.  Nor do you or I.  But we can know for certain that “Up to this point, God has helped us!”

My wife keeps a prayer journal.  At the time that she stopped writing down answered prayers, she had listed over 900 specific moments when God had answered our prayers.  It’s important for us to remember what God has done in our lives up to this point.

Here’s why:  We so quickly forget how God helps us.  We stand there crying out “What have you done for me lately, God!”  We become so crazy frightened when a new situation gets thrown in our face and we stress out about if or how God will solve it.

What Samuel did for the Israelites was to set up a stone of remembrance so that every single time that someone passed by on that road, they would be reminded of what God did for them that day.

And that’s my encouragement for you today.  Do you have anything set up around you at home, or work, or even in your car or even on your phone that helps you remember and reflect upon what God has done in your life.  If not, find a way for you to be reminded of how God has come through for you.  It could be journaling, it could be art, it could even be through social media or done digitally in the cloud.

By doing this, it will give you confidence that He will help you in the future based on the multiples upon multiples of times that He has helped you in the past.  It’s a faith-building exercise that I guarantee will reap results!

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