Oak Grove Baptist Church

Striving to become the church of choice for this generation.


“SAMUEL’S LEADERSHIP BRINGS VICTORY” 
SUNDAY, JULY 12, 2020: 
COMMENTARY (THE UGP CURRICULUM)

Lesson:  I Samuel 7:1-12; 
Time of Action:  1047 B.C.; 
Place of Action: Kirjath-jearim; Mizpeh and between Mizpeh and Shen

Golden Text:  “And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines” (I Samuel 7:8).


I. INTRODUCTION. Intercession is an important word in the Christian vocabulary.  It implies that one or more people pleaded to God on behalf of another person’s need.  In the book of Acts we have the record of a group of believers interceding for Peter, who had been thrown into prison (see Acts 12:5) and God answered.  In this week’s lesson text the Bible tells us of a time when Samuel interceded on behalf of the nation of Israel.  God brought a great victory to His people, helping to deliver them from the control of the Philistines.


II. BACKGROUND FOR THE LESSON. Under Joshua’s leadership Israel had conquered Canaan and received their tribal inheritances, and at that time they generally followed the LORD (see Judges 2:7). But after Joshua’s death, conditions became chaotic.  The spiritual condition of Israel also declined.  Israelites often adopted the idolatrous and immoral practices of native peoples and surrounding neighbors, inviting God’s judgment (see Judges 2:11-15).  But the LORD still had mercy on His people and raised up judges to deliver them from their enemies (see Judges 2:16).  However, even some of the judges were men of mixed character, like Samson.  The priesthood also reached a low point under Eli and his sons (see I Samuel 2:12-17, 22-36), and Israel was humiliated when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and put it in the temple of their pagan god Dagon (see I Samuel 4:1-11; 5:1-2).  It was in this atmosphere that Samuel grew to manhood (see I Samuel 3:1, 19-20).  Dedicated to the LORD from before his birth (see I Samuel 1:9-11), God placed His hand on Samuel for special ministry as a judge and prophet (see I Samuel 3:19-21).  But while the Ark of the Covenant was in the hands of the Philistines, it brought nothing but disaster to them (see I Samuel 5:3-10), so the Philistines put it on a cart pulled by two cows and sent it off by itself to see if it was the God of Israel who had brought great trouble upon the Philistines.  Five rulers of the Philistines followed the cart to see where the cows would go with the ark.  They all agreed that if the cows went toward Bethshemesh on the coasts of Israel, that would confirm to them that it was Israel’s God who was responsible for their trouble (see I Samuel 6:7-9).  Undoubtedly the cows were guided by divine providence because they headed toward Bethshemesh on their own while the five leaders of the Philistines followed to see which direction the cows took.  The cows pulling the cart carrying the ark came to Bethshemesh and the people there rejoiced to see the ark back in Israel (see I Samuel 6:11-14).  But the men of Bethshemesh wrongly looked into the ark (see Numbers 4:17-20: II Samuel 6:3, 6-7) so God killed more than fifty thousand of them (see I Samuel 6:19).  Realizing that God didn’t want the ark there in Bethshemesh with them, the men of the city sent messengers to Kirjath-jearim asking the inhabitants there to come and get the ark (see I Samuel 6:20-21).  Our lesson begins with chapter 7.


III. ISRAEL RECOVERS THE ARK OF THE COVENANT (I Samuel 7:1-2)

          A. The ark is returned (I Samuel 7:1).  Our first verse says “And the men of Kirjathjearim came, and fetched up the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.”  In response to the request from the people of Bethshemesh to come and get the “ark of the LORD” (see I Samuel 6:21), “the men of Kirjathjearim came, and fetched up the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill.”  After the inhabitants of “Kirjathjearim” went to pick up “the ark of the LORD” from Bethshemesh, they “brought it” back to “Kirjathjearim” and provided a proper place for it.  They didn’t have a public building prepared for “the ark,” so they placed it in “the house of Abinadab in the hill.”  This means that “Abinadab’s” house sat on the side of the highest ground, and was probably, the best “house” in their city.  It’s also possible that “Abinadab” may have been the most devout man there and therefore, his was the best place to keep “the ark.”  It’s interesting that when “the ark” was in Beth-shemesh, the men of the city set it on a rock exposed in the open field (see I Samuel 6:14-15).  Although Beth-shemesh appeared to be a city of priests (see Joshua 21:13-16), none of them received “the ark” into their house.  And since they didn’t treat “the ark of the LORD” with the reverence it deserved, God killed many of them (see I Samuel 6:18-19; I Chronicles 15:2).  On the other hand, “the men of Kirjath-jearim,” who were common Israelites, gave “the ark” the proper respect by placing it in a “house,” and it was probably the best-furnished room in “the house.”  Once “the ark” was placed in “the house of Abinadab,” the people “sanctified Eleazar his (Abinadab’s) son to keep the ark of the LORD.”  The word “sanctified” means “to set apart unto God.”  When used of people, it means “to be set apart for the service of God.”   In the Old Testament, the same Hebrew word “qodesh” is used for “sanctified,” “consecrated” and “holiness.”   These words have very little to do with inner moral quality except when they are used of God Himself (see Leviticus 11:45), or of the holy angels (see Daniel 4:13) not of humans.  We aren’t told why the people chose “Eleazar” and set him apart for the LORD’S service   It may be that he was a devout and focused young man.  It would be his duty to “keep” or guard “the ark,” making sure no one touched it or looked into it (see Numbers 4:15-20; II Samuel 6:6-7; I Chronicles 13:7-10; 15:2).  It must have been embarrassing for the priests that none of them were chosen to guard or “keep the ark of the LORD.”  According to the Law, only the Levites, the tribe of the priests were allowed to handle “the ark.”  Note:  The “ark of the LORD” was a sacred portable chest which had the mercy seat and cherubim built as part of it.  It was a gold covered wooden chest with two cherubim mounted on both ends, and between the cherubim was the mercy seat (see Hebrews 9:2-5).  This was where God told Moses that He would meet with him when He had any messages to give to him (see Exodus 25:16-22).  The “ark” was the most sacred object of the Israelites during the wilderness period after leaving Egypt.  It was also known as the Ark of the Covenant (see Numbers 10:33), the ark of God (I Samuel 3:3), and the ark of the Testimony or Law (see Exodus 25:22).  Prior to the Babylonian Captivity, inside the “ark of the Covenant” were the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 25:16, 21), the golden pot of manna which God miraculously preserved as a testimony to future generations (see Exodus 16:32-34), and the third item in the “ark” was Aaron’s rod that budded to prove that the Aaron was chosen by God (see Numbers 17:1-11).  Once the tabernacle was completed in the wilderness wanderings, the “ark” was to be placed behind the curtain that separated the holy place from the most holy place (see Exodus 26:33-34).  Whenever it was moved from place to place, only the Kohathites from the tribe of Levi could carry it (see Numbers 4:15) and they had to do it using the poles that were inserted through the four gold rings on each end of the “ark” (see Exodus 25: 12-14; 37:1-9).  No one knows what happened to the “ark” after Nebuchadnezzar’s armies destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. while taking the Israelites into captivity (see II Kings 25:8-15).  Although we may not know what happened to the “ark,” God does.  In John’s vision on the Isle of Patmos, he said that he saw “the ark of God’s testament” in His temple (see Revelation 11:19).

          B. Israel grieves after the LORD (I Samuel 7:2).  This verse says “And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.”  Here we are told that “the ark” was kept “in Kirjathjearim” for a long time; “for it was twenty years.”  This “twenty year” period seems to refer to how long “the ark” was “in Kirjathjearim” before “all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.”  The “ark” actually remained “in Kirjathjearim” until King David had it moved to Jerusalem some twenty more years after this incident (see II Samuel 6:1-12; I Chronicles 13: 1-14; 15:1-3).  In essence, it took the Israelites “twenty years” of living without something as important to them as “the ark of the Covenant” before they came to realize that they needed “the LORD.”  In reality, for Israel, it was out of sight and out of mind as long as “the ark” was in the home of Abinadab.  After “twenty years,” with the symbol of God’s presence hidden away in Abinadab’s house, finally “all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.”  The fact that they “lamented after the LORD” means that the people were sorrowful and regretful that it seemed that “the LORD” had abandoned them.  This sorrowful condition of penitence revealed that Israel was ready to repent and turn back to God as we shall see in the next verse.

 IV. ISRAEL’S REPENTANCE (I Samuel 7:3-6)

          A. Samuel’s proposal (I Samuel 7:3). This verse says “And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”  Encouraged by the people’s repentance spirit, “Samuel” boldly declared that it was necessary for them to “return unto the LORD with all your hearts.”  The fact that “Samuel” said “If ye do return” indicates that he was aware that the people were sorrowful for their rebellion and were willing to “return unto the LORD.”  In writing to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul said “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (see II Corinthians 7:10).  This was certainly true here in ancient “Israel’s” case.  But simply returning to “the LORD” was not enough; Samuel said that “Israel” needed to “return unto the LORD with all your hearts.”  This means that they couldn’t hold anything back from God.  Then Samuel told the people that there were at least two things they needed to do to show that they were serious about repenting and returning to “the LORD.”  First, he said “put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you.”  It was necessary for them to remove all “strange” or foreign gods.  “Ashtaroth” is singled out here just as Baalim is in verse 4.  “Ashtaroth” is the Hebrew plural for the goddess of fertility and sexual relations named Ashtoreth.  The Babylonians called her “Istar” and the Greeks called her “Astarte.”  She was the companion goddess to the male god Baal.  Therefore, all the female goddesses lumped under the name “Ashtaroth” were partners with all the male gods labeled Baalim, the plural of Baal.  Note:  The problem of worshiping false gods and even keeping idols around seemed to be a persistent one in ancient Israel.  It was not that the Israelites wanted to abandon Yahweh completely, but they had the idea that they could worship and serve other gods and goddesses at the same time.  Joshua had made it clear that this was not acceptable (see Joshua 24:18-20), but later generations kept slipping back into this practice.  We can turn again to Paul’s writing to the church in Corinth to get the proper perspective on this subject.  He wrote, “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be (many) that are called gods, whether in the heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many) but to us there is but one God, the Father of whom are all things, and we in Him, and one LORD Jesus Christ, by whom are all things and we by Him (see II Corinthians 8:4-6).  Second, Samuel said “and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only.”  Repentance also meant that “Israel” was to commit to serving “the LORD” and serving Him alone.  They had fallen into the habit of dividing their devotion between “the LORD” and false gods.  Of course God would have none of that!  He demanded complete and exclusive commitment.  If He was not “LORD” of all, He was not “LORD” at all.  If the people did those two things, Samuel promised them that God “will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”  In other words, “the LORD” would deliver Israel from the oppression of “the Philistines” who inhabited Canaan’s coastal plain.  They had dominated southern “Israel” for many years due to their sin and rebellion.  But in order to be delivered physically, “Israel” had to first deal with their spiritual problems.

          B. Israel’s penitence (I Samuel 7:4)). This verse says “Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.”  The Israelites, prepared by their circumstances and ready for Samuel’s leadership, heeded his exhortation to return to “the LORD” (see verse 3) for “the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.”  The words “did put away” indicate the removal and rejection of the foreign gods.  “Israel” was now determined to “serve” only God.  This was an important moment of decisive change for the nation and a clear turning away from evil.  Both names of these Canaanite gods “Baalim and Ashtaroth” appear here in the plural because of their many variations.

          C. Israel’s renewed worship (I Samuel 7:5-6).

               1. (vs. 5). This verse says “And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD.”  Following up on Israel’s repentance, “Samuel” called for a national convocation or a day of prayer for the nation.  Probably speaking to the different tribal representatives, “Samuel” told them to “Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord.”  The town of “Mizpeh” was in the tribal territory of Benjamin about seven miles north of Jerusalem and eight miles northeast of Kiriath-jearim.  The name “Mizpeh” means “place of watching” or “lookout post,” and implies a high vantage point.  Other sites had this name as well (see I Samuel 22:3).  It was not far from “Samuel’s” home at Rama and it seems to have been a common gathering place for “Israel” in those days (see Judges 20:1; I Samuel 10:17).  Samuel said that once everyone gathered at “Mizpeh…I will pray for you unto the LORD.”  He would “pray” for them that by the grace of God, they would be separated from their idols, and also that by the providence of God they would be delivered from the Philistines.  In the same way that “Samuel” prayed for Israel as their leader, ministers ought to also “pray” for those to whom they preach so that God by His grace will make their preaching effective. In addition, when we come together to worship our God, we must remember that it is as much our duty to join in public prayers as it is to hear a sermon.

               2. (vs. 6). This verse says “And they gathered together to Mizpeh, 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 children of Israel in Mizpeh.”  After all the people “gathered together to Mizpeh” they “drew water” from a well “and poured it out before the LORD.”  There is no other reference to this symbolic act in Scripture, but it probably signified Israel’s repentance for they made a public confession: “We have sinned against the LORD” (see Psalms 62:8; Lamentations 2:19).  And if we also confess our sins, we have the promise that our God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (see I John 1:9).  They also “fasted on that day” meaning that they abstained from food for a period of time, evidently to also show their sorrow for sin.  Jesus didn’t disapprove of fasting, but He didn’t command it to be done either.  Some Christians practice “fasting” as a means of focusing themselves on some urgent matter of prayer.  Some don’t practice it at all.  Therefore, fasting is neither right nor wrong.  It’s a personal choice by the believer.  It is also stated that “Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.”  This probably means that at this time and place “Samuel” began to exercise his authority as a judge.  He called the people to a proper relationship with God and demonstrated leadership in the crisis they were about to encounter.  We may also assume that this spiritual revival alerted the people to different matters that needed to be settled, and they may have wanted “Samuel” to hear their cases, order restitution where it was needed, and clear up any disputes (see Judges 4: 4-5).  Note:  One of the positive signs that spiritual renewal or revival is taking place in our time is the desire to seek reconciliation for wrongs committed against others.  When hearts are changed, and that’s what it takes, outward things tend to improve.  As believers draw closer to God, we automatically draw closer to each other.

V. ISRAEL’S DELIVERANCE (I Samuel 7:7-12)

          A. The Philistine threat (I Samuel 7:7-8).
               1. (vs. 7). This verse says “And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.”  The meeting of “Israel” at “Mizpeh” didn’t go unnoticed.  “The Philistines” had received a report “that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh.”  Apparently, “the Philistines” suspected that the Israelites, who so often were divided by tribal jealousies, were finally beginning to unite to throw off their yoke of “Philistine” oppression.  Therefore, they sent a fighting force against “Israel” while they were still unprepared.  We are told that “the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel.”  As noted earlier, “the lords” were the rulers and leaders of “the Philistines.”  They led this massive army against God’s people.  “And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.”  The Israelites who had just restored their spiritual fellowship with God now found themselves facing a severe threat.  They were not prepared for battle, for they reacted with fear.  We are told that “they were afraid of the Philistines.”  The Israelites were terrified of the approaching “Philistines” and their rejoicing turned into grief.  It is on these kinds of occasions of despair that people turn to the LORD as we shall see in the next verse.  Note:  It’s interesting that while the Israelites were confessing their sins and turning back to God at Mizpeh, they were faced with trouble from the Philistines.  Herein is a lesson for believers today.  Although we may be in God’s way doing His will, we may still be faced with hardships.  Whenever we sin and begin to repent and reform, we can expect that Satan will gather all of his forces against us, to oppose and discourage us.  It is typical for Satan to pose a threat to God’s people when we are repairing relationships with Him and with one another.  But “we are not ignorant of his devices” (see II Corinthians 2:11).  If it happened to Jesus (see Matthew 3: 13-17; 4:1-11), it will certainly happen to us.  But if and when it does, we can depend on God to come to our aid (see Psalms 18:2, 17-19; 34:19).

               2. (vs. 8). This verse says “And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.”   Since “Samuel” was the Israelite’s earthly connection with God, the people “said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us.”  This words “cease not to cry” implies that they begged “Samuel” to call out to “the LORD” for them as long as it would take so “that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.”  Although “Samuel” was not a military man, nor a mighty man of valor, yet being afraid of “the Philistines” for whom they knew they were no match, “Israel” pleaded with “Samuel” to pray for them.  They had no weapons so they were unprepared for war.  They had come together to fast and pray, not to fight.  “Samuel’s” prayers were the only weapons they had, but prayer proved to be the only weapon they needed.  And they had good reason to expect God to answer because “Samuel” had promised to to pray for them (see verse 5), and he also promised that God would deliver them from “the Philistines” (see verse 3).  Note: Undoubtedly, “Samuel” must have felt obligated before God to pray for his people.  On a later occasion, he said “For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people.” Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way” (see I Samuel 12:22-23).

          B. Samuel’s intercession (I Samuel 7:9).  This verse says “And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the LORD heard him.”  In response to the people’s request for prayer, “Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD.”   The words “sucking lamb” refer to a “lamb” that was still young enough to be nursed by its mother.  Offering this young “lamb” to the LORD as a “burnt offering” was in line with the Law that stated it had to be at least eight years old (see Leviticus 22:27).  It was a “burnt offering” because the whole animal was burned up “wholly” or completely which signified complete devotion to the LORD.  Notice that “Samuel” didn’t propose a political or military solution to their problem.  Instead, he resorted to a spiritual solution—an act of worship, trusting God to intervene as He saw fit.  This should remind us that in the crises of life we need to turn our problems over to God and let Him answer in His own way.  Not only did “Samuel” perform an act of worship with the “offering,” he also “cried unto the LORD for Israel” just as the people had requested he do (see verse 8).  In response to “Samuel’s” act of worship and prayers, we are told that “the LORD heard him.”  These words affirmed that Samuel’s prayer was effective, and the remaining verses tell exactly how God answered his prayer.  Note:  Some scholars find that there is a problem with “Samuel” offering a sacrifice both here and on other occasions (see I Samuel 9:12-13; 16:2) because he was not a descendant of Aaron and therefore, not from the priestly line.  The Law stipulated that only the priests who were descendants of Aaron could perform the service of offering sacrifices (see Leviticus 1:10-13; 6:8-13).  But “Samuel” was a Levite (see II Chronicles 6:27-28, 33-34) so he was from the tribe that was charged with worship functions.  Undoubtedly, this was good enough for God to allow “Samuel” to offer the sacrifice.

          C. The LORD intervenes (I Samuel 7:10). This verse says “And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.”  It seems that at the very moment that “Samuel was offering up the burnt offering” to God, that “the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel.”  But before they could attack, “the LORD” stopped them in their tracks.  He sent a great series of “thunder” claps and maybe even a storm with “great” sounding “thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them” meaning that they were thrown into total confusion.  This was a special demonstration of Yahweh, the God of Israel, showing His anger with “the Philistines.”  No doubt, “the Philistines” realized that Israel’s God, not their god Dagon or his alleged son Baal was controlling the elements of nature.  Once “the Philistines” were “discomfited” or thrown into confusion by the thunderous sounds from above, “they were smitten before Israel.”  This means that the enemy was completely routed by the Israelites.  How they did it is revealed in the next verse.  Here, we are reminded of the words of Isaiah: “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (see Isaiah 65:24).  While “Samuel” offered the sacrifice (and was evidently praying as he did it) God heard, and answered with “great thunder.”  God showed that it was “Samuel’s” prayer and sacrifice that He had respect to (see Genesis 4:4), letting “Israel” know that He graciously accepted their humble dependence on the prayer of faith from the mouth and heart of “Samuel” their godly leader.  Note:  This verse brings to mind the earlier prophetic prayer of Hannah, Samuel’s mother when she prayed saying “the adversaries. . . shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven” (see I Samuel 2:10).  These words from Hannah are immediately preceded by the statement that “not by might shall a man prevail” (see I Samuel 2:9).  This confirms that human strength in any circumstance does not matter when the LORD decides to act.

          D. Israel pursues the Philistines (I Samuel 7:11). This verse says “And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar.”  After being thrown into confusion and panic, “the Philistines” started to run from the scene, but “the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines.”  The Israelites chased them from “Mizpeh” slaughtering them along the way “until they came under Bethcar.”  This seems to mean that the Israelites “smote” the enemy until they came to a place below “Bethcar” whose location is unknown today.  But the wording here may give a hint that “Bethcar” was high up with a road running below or “under” it.  Note:  This episode in Israel’s history teaches us the importance of trusting God for deliverance from even the most difficult circumstances.  Too often we tend to see those situations with our human eyes as being nearly impossible to overcome.  We will use all of our resources and ingenuity to try to solve the problem.  Our minds reel with vain schemes and we are overly anxious about how things will work out.  Yet, in all of this we fail to commit our cause to the transcendent power and wisdom of God.  Israel’s victory shows us that the LORD honors the trust of a repentant and dependent people.

          E. Samuel’s act of dedication (I Samuel 7:12). Our final verse says “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.”  This victory was so significant for Israel that “Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer.”  He set up a memorial “stone” as a reminder of the spiritual renewal and great victory of Israel.  “Samuel” set the “stone” up “between Mizpeh” and a place called “Shen.”  He called the “stone” memorial “Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us,” which is the meaning of “Ebenezer,” “the stone of help.”  This memorial site that “Samuel” named “Ebenezer,” is a different site from the one mentioned in I Samuel 4:1, and I Samuel 5:1.  But the “Ebenezer” in this verse brings to mind an earlier episode, when the Israelites wrongly presumed that by carrying the ark into battle their God had to give them the victory.  However, that was not the case.  Since there was no power in the Ark of the Covenant, Israel suffered a resounding defeat to the Philistines who also took possession of the ark (see I Samuel 4:1-11).  Now, God gave His people a great victory over the same enemies.  “Samuel” set up this memorial “stone” with “the name Ebenezer,” or “the stone of help,” not only to commemorate Israel’s victory there, but also as a reminder of what can happen when we presume something about God (see I Samuel 4:3) and what happens when repentance is shown to God (see I Samuel 7:4).  Now we see the spiritual change in Israel take place.  Where they once tried to depend on foreign gods, now they said “Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.”  In other words, they declared that the LORD had been with them all the way “Hitherto” or “to this place,” or “to this hour.”  Certainly, God was true to His promise to Israel’s ancestors in Deuteronomy 4:30-31, “When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.”  Note:  The Ark of the Covenant was sacred and precious, but it had no power in and of itself.  Power belonged with Yahweh (see Psalms 62:11).  Our Holy Bible is also sacred and precious, but the physical book has no power in itself.  The ark and the Bible are simply means to an end, not the end in themselves.  We can be sure that Samuel didn’t want the Israelites to ever reverence the “stone” called “Ebenezer” as if it were magical or worthy of worship.  The “stone” didn’t do anything to cause the Israelites to prevail over the Philistines.  It was merely a memorial to what God had done.

VI. Conclusion. Samuel was God’s man in charge. He served Him faithfully as a good leader for God’s chosen people.  Samuel interceded for them, urging them to keep their part of the covenant with God.  The LORD desires us to intercede for those around us who are in need.  He wants us to pray for the needs of people in other lands whom we have not even met but whose needs we learn about through missionaries or outreach organizations.  Just as Samuel prayed for a seemingly impossible victory, we too can pray that God would work for us in unusual ways for His honor and His glory.  God loves to answer the prayers of those who belong to Him.  Would that be you?           

***The Sunday School Lesson, Union Gospel Press Curriculum; The Bible Expositor and Illuminator***


Rev. Poleon L. Griffin

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