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)
Over the past several days we’ve read the story of Israel’s return to God, including their repentance and confession of their sin. We saw how God defeated their most powerful enemy in a way that only He could. After that victory Samuel, their spiritual leader, erected a stone memorial to God recognizing Him for all the help He had provided Israel during their history.
The result of all this was the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. For many years the Philistines had harassed Israel, making military incursions into their land [Judges 13:1, 1 Samuel 4:1-10]. But they did not do so again. While Samuel was leading Israel, the Lord’s hand was against the Philistines. Not only did God give Israel this specific victory we’ve been studying in this passage, He prevented the Philistines from attacking Israel for the rest of Samuel’s life.
Not only did God protect Israel from further losses at the hands of the Philistines, He arranged that the cities the Philistines had taken from Israel be restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath. All the territory the Philistines had taken from Israel was delivered (freed from the Philistines’ control).
That’s quite a lot that God did for Israel to free them from the powerful Philistines. But there was more. There was also peace between Israel and the Amorites.
The Amorites were peoples living in hill country of Israel. God had originally commanded Israel to expel them from the land when they crossed the Jordan River to take the Promised Land generations earlier [Deuteronomy 20:17]. But Israel did not. This led to all kinds of problems for years between Israel and the Amorites.
And even though the Amorites were not involved in any of these battles that we’ve been studying, Israel’s relationship with them was also affected in a positive way. The Amorites knew that they could not stand before the God of Israel if the more powerful Philistines could not. So the Amorites, wisely, no longer made trouble for Israel.
When Israel came together on the hill at Mizpah they came to rededicate themselves to the Lord. They were not planning on getting involved in a military skirmish. When they were attacked, and when God came to their rescue, I’d bet they were satisfied that the Philistines had fled. All the other aforementioned results were over and above their expectations.
When God gives us victory in one area of life, we often experience victory in other areas, even if we aren’t expecting to. For example, perhaps we are dealing with anger or selfishness or pornography (or all three!). Those sins will affect our relationships at home or at work. When we hand them over to God and let Him defeat them for us, we will not only experience victory over those sins, we will see an improvement in our relationships as well.
We may only be aware of our sinful thoughts and behavior. We may not see how our thoughts and actions are affecting the rest of our life. But when we conquer them – with God’s help – we will see a vast improvement in other areas of our life.
And it all starts, as it started with Israel, by turning back to the Lord; by declaring that we reject sin and want to be righteous. Then when we humbly come to the Lord in prayer, He will hear us and grant us victory.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective [James 5:16]. First comes righteousness. Then comes prayer. Then comes victory.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.