1 Samuel 7 (NRSV)
And the people of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord, and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. They consecrated his son, Eleazar, to have charge of the ark of the Lord. 2From 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.
Samuel as Judge
Samuel — now all grown up and serving as judge and prophet to the land of Israel.
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 Astartes from among you. Direct your heart to the Lord, and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4So Israel put away the Baals and the Astartes, and they served the Lord only.
Samuel called the nation to repentance. The repentance had to be inward (with all your hearts) and outward (put away the foreign gods).
5Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6So they gathered at Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the Lord.
Lamentations 2:19 expresses a similar thought: Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord.
They fasted that day, and said, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.
Psalm 106:6 (New International Version)
We have sinned, even as our fathers did;
we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
Most merciful God,
we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of your Holy Name. Amen.
from Lutheran Service Book, Divine Service I
7When 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. 8The people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, and pray that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.”
Are the Israelites finally catching on?
THEN: looking to the Ark of the Covenant for victory
1 Samuel 4:3 (New Living Translation)
Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.”
NOW: looking to the Lord for their salvation
1 Samuel 7:8 (New Living Translation)
“Don’t stop pleading with the Lord our God to save us from the Philistines!” they begged Samuel.
9So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord; Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.
10As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel; but the Lord thundered with a mighty voice that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion; and they were routed before Israel.
God fought from heaven on behalf of Israel and defeated the Philistines. This was a special work of God because the Israelites heard the same thunder, but only the Philistines became so confused . . . that they were overcome. God not only sent thunder, He also sent confusion to the Philistines and confidence to Israel.
11And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as beyond Beth-car.
12Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
Very high on the list of my favorite hymns, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was written in 1758 by a Methodist pastor, Robert Robinson. He was 23 years old. The hymn includes what may be to many church-goers an enigmatic line: Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’m come. That reference is to the verse above, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
Some newer hymnals have altered the first phrase of that hymn line to Here I find my greatest treasure — the loss of a lovely allusion, I’m afraid. Perhaps the Ebenezer reference draws more to Scrooge than to Samuel.
At any rate — HERE it is, a touching rendition featuring Buddy Greene and Jeff Taylor.
13So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
15Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16He went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah; and he judged Israel in all these places. 17Then he would come back to Ramah, for his home was there; he administered justice there to Israel, and built there an altar to the Lord.
Samuel: a man of war, a man of peace; he worked hard for the Lord year after year and finished well, remaining faithful to the end (his death doesn’t come until chapter 25).
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.