WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH
Dear Father you are the giver of life and truth and grace. I thank you for all your mercies.
Read 1 Samuel 7:2–17
Samuel Subdues the Philistines at Mizpah
Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. 3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.
5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader[a] of Israel at Mizpah.
7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. 8 They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.
10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,[b] saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
13 So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. 14 The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to Israel, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
15 Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Meditate on Jesus’ words: ‘No one can serve two masters.’1 Is there anything you need to confess?
When have you needed to repent and change direction? What was it that demonstrated this to others? For Israel, twenty years was a long time to lament. Lamenting was certainly promising as an indication of a change of attitude, but the people needed to demonstrate their change of heart in a practical way. All this was happening while Samuel was a child, teenager and, finally, a mature adult. Now he comes to the fore and takes a leading role, both in speaking to the people and in praying for them. He clearly had a God-given charisma that made the people realize they had to put away their foreign gods and serve the Lord only.
Samuel was the last of the judges. Like his predecessors, he was called by God to a leadership role when Israel was being attacked. Even while Samuel was praying and offering a sacrifice for Israel, the Philistines were again coming to attack, terrifying the nation. However, in a way they would surely always remember, the Lord ‘thundered with loud thunder’ (v 10) and sent the enemy into disarray. Perhaps it was a literal thunderstorm, reminding us of the story of Barak, when a flash flood did a similar thing.2 One thing was clear: Samuel was God’s leader at that time. Key elements (vs 15–17) were his annual visits to the main places of worship and his administration of justice, along with his own devotional life, demonstrated in his prayer life, his recognition that the victory was God’s alone (v 12) and in his building of an altar on his home ground.
Leadership of God’s people is a hefty responsibility, requiring faithfulness even when under attack, something that is only possible when it arises from a personal devotional life of submission to God.
Are you a church leader? How do you measure up to Samuel?
Gracious God, you keep your covenant and you are faithful to your promises. Forgive me for my sins and inconsistencies, and empower me for a faithful walk with you.
1 Matt 6:24 2 Judg 4,5
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