1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
(1 Samuel 7:1-17)
We saw yesterday how God removed the ark of the covenant from public view in order to also remove it from the people’s minds. The ark had become a magical idol to the people of Israel and as such the people had drifted away from God. They no longer put their trust in God as they had generations earlier. Their trust was now in mythology.
So the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim for a long time – some twenty years. It was not until David was king that the ark’s location was changed [2 Samuel 6:1-11]. Meanwhile, all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
The word “lament” means “to express sorrow/regret for something considered unsatisfactory or unfair”. It was during this time period in which 1 Samuel 7 takes place that Israel was under the suppression of the Philistines. They had driven God away from their lives and had lost His protection.
Their lives were unsatisfactory and they came to regret their sins that had driven God away. This is exactly what God was trying to accomplish by allowing the Philistines to harass them and also by removing the ark from public life.
Many people who deny God’s existence believe that the proof of His non-existence is the overwhelming amount of sorrow and suffering on this earth. They think that God – if He exists – would do all that is within His power to fill our lives with nothing but perfect and never-ceasing joy. Sadly, even some professing Christians buy into this view. But this view is wrong.
God allows suffering. As we learned when we studied the book of Philippians, there is a purpose behind suffering. God uses our sorrow to turn us away from earthly things that keep us from knowing Him and to lead us to salvation [2 Corinthians 7:10].
God could, of course, eliminate all suffering on this planet in the blink of an eye. But just as no parent would try to shield their children from all the difficulties in life, neither will God. Difficulties build character. And, hopefully, they make one realize that it is fruitless to place our hope in anything this world has to offer.
We should not place our hope in any other human being. Not Donald Trump. Not Hilary Clinton. We should not place our hope in any ritual. Not baptism. Not making a Haj. Only God Himself can save us. And that is what God desperately wants us to realize.
The problems we have on this earth are allowed by God to give people the impetus to seek Him. Some do. Many don’t.
Whether one is an atheist who denies God’s existence or is one of His adopted children through faith in Jesus who has backslidden, you must realize that nothing on this earth can help you. Some things can make our lives more convenient, no doubt. But nothing can save us from our biggest problem: sin
All of us are living in temporary bodies. Someday each of these bodies will die. Then we begin a new life in eternity. If one accepted God’s offer of forgiveness before their earthly body died, their sins will be forgiven and they will be a part of God’s eternal family in heaven forever.
If on the other hand, one does not accept God’s offer – if they’ve decided to seek the solution to all the bad things that happen on this earth by turning to man-made solutions – they will not have their sins forgiven and will spend eternity apart from God in hell.
This is the purpose of the suffering we experience on this earth. God is trying to get our attention. He’s trying to make us realize that there is no solution to be found on earth. He’s trying to make us realize that He is our hope. Our only hope.
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