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)
The people of Israel had fallen away from God. They had removed themselves from God’s blessing by removing God from their lives. But in the passages we’ve been studying over the past few days we see that they returned to God after many years of difficult living.
They had gathered at Mizpah where they humbled themselves before God and confessed their sins. They were on the road to spiritual recovery.
But when the Philistines heard all this, they went up against Israel. That is, they decided to attack Israel. This should not be surprising if we understand how to study the Old Testament.
When we study the Old Testament we need to view the characters with the proper understanding. The nation of Israel was God’s people. In Old Testament times they – and only they – had a relationship with God. Gentiles could have a relationship with God too if they wanted. But first they would have to join God’s family – Israel.
God is still creating a family. Only now we are living under the New Testament; the Old Testament has expired. Today anyone – Jew or Gentile – can join God’s family through faith in Jesus.
So when we read the Old Testament stories we need to see that Old Testament Israel represents New Testament born-again believers. On the other hand, the Gentiles (including the Philistines and other pagan nations) represent all that is against God’s people. This includes Satan, sin, and the ways of the world.
When we understand this, we can learn the lessons that God wants us to learn from these Old Testament stories.
Whenever a person tries to build a relationship with God – or improve the relationship they have with Him – they will be attacked by Satan. It doesn’t matter if it is someone who is a new believer (e.g. an atheist who believes in God for the first time) or if it is a Christian who has drifted away from God and is now returning, or if it’s a lifelong Christian who decides to take the next step and serve God with more of their time. Satan hates it when people try to get closer to God and will quickly and assuredly attempt to derail that person’s spiritual growth.
Satan prevented the apostle Paul from visiting the church at Thessalonica [1 Thessalonians 2:17-18]. Even Jesus experienced the attacks of Satan. After being baptized to start His public ministry, Jesus was immediately tempted by Satan [Matthew 3:16-17, 4:1]. If Paul and Jesus can be attacked by Satan, then so can we.
Every child of God can expect to be attacked by Satan. And not just once. But many, many times. Satan does not give up even though it may seem that he has. He simply waits for a better opportunity [Luke 4:13].
In today’s passage we see that the Israelites were doing exactly what God wanted them to do. Yet they immediately faced a troubling situation. This is exactly how the Christian life goes. When we make an effort to grow spiritually, Satan makes an effort to derail that growth.
The closer we get to God the more severe those trials will become. What matters though is how we respond. Satan’s goal is to get us to cower and retreat. We learned how to handle this spiritual warfare when we studied the book of Ephesians.
It seems counterintuitive, but the times when we are the most spiritually strong are the times when we can expect our faith to be tried. Satan is no fool. He isn’t going to waste his time attacking someone who is not spiritually strong to begin with. The stronger our faith the more troubles we will face. We can count on it.
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