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)
After Israel called on Samuel to cry out to the Lord on their behalf, he first took the time to offer a sacrifice to God as we saw yesterday. After the sacrifice was made Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.
But before that, the Israelites must have been getting a bit nervous because as Samuel was in the middle of offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near. The enemy was getting close. But God swooped in in the nick of time, as He usually does.
God often waits until the very last moment to send us the help that we need. He does this so we will know that our deliverance came from Him (the longer our problems exist, the greater the odds they’ll defeat us) and so we learn to never give up on Him.
In this case, God used the weather to defeat the Philistines. He thundered with a mighty sound and threw the Philistines into confusion.
There were likely storm clouds in the sky as well as rain and lightning. Both the Israelites and Philistines had certainly heard thunder before. But the thunder the Philistines heard that day scared them. It must have been louder and more frightening than normal thunder.
When we study God’s various Old Testament victories over Israel’s enemies we see a common theme. He grants victory in such a way as to denigrate the gods of those nations, demonstrating their impotence (and non-existence).
When God sent the plagues against Egypt, each one was addressed against one of Egypt’s many gods. In the first plague, for example, God turned the Nile into blood and Khnum, the Egyptian god of the Nile was powerless to stop it. The other nine plagues were similar [Exodus 7:14-11:10].
Baal was the weather god of the Philistines (and other cultures in that area) who had power over rain, wind, lightning (which produces thunder). Yet during this battle, God was able to control these things while Baal was not. God used Baal’s own supposed domain to defeat Baal’s followers thereby showing His power over the impotent (and non-existent) Baal.
It’s interesting that only the Philistines were thrown into confusion by the thunder. One has to wonder why the Israelites weren’t as well. There are two possible reasons why.
It’s possible that the Israelites knew that the thunder was God’s answer to Samuel’s prayer. Considering how new they were in their relationship to God, this may or may not be the case.
It’s also possible that only the Philistines heard the thunder, or they were the only ones to hear it so loudly. Maybe the Israelites did not hear it at all or only heard it at its normal volume. In this case, God would have supernaturally caused the two groups to hear the same thing differently.
The bottom line is we don’t know exactly why only the Philistines were confused. But they were. And as a result, they were defeated.
Years before Israel had been soundly defeated by the Philistines because they were not right with God [1 Samuel 4:1-11]. They did not seek His help and instead relied on their own “knowledge” and superstition.
Notice that the Bible does not say that Israel defeated the Philistines. Its says that the Philistines were defeated before (in front of) Israel. When God authored the Bible He chose His wording very carefully. It was not Israel that defeated the Philistines. It was God who defeated them.
In today’s passage we see the result of turning back to God, removing sin from their lives, and confessing that sin to God and each other. Israel’s relationship with God was on the mend, and He could act on their behalf, granting them victory over their enemy.
Victory cannot, and will not, come from the human mind. No matter what problem an individual has or a nation has, no human being, or think tank, or political party has the inherent wisdom to solve our problems.
The only way to defeat our problems is to surrender ourselves to God and trust Him, and Him alone, for victory.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.