I Samuel 7

 

 

1 “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.”

At Kirjath-jearim the people reverently undertook the charge of

the ark, and carried out their arrangements so carefully that no further

calamity occurred. On its arrival they placed it in the house of Abinadab

in the hill. More probably at Gibeah, as it is translated in II Samuel 6:3-4.

In Joshua 15:57 a village of this name is mentioned in the tribe

of Judah not far from Kirjath-jearim (ibid. v. 60), and probably

Abinadab, who lived there, was a Levite, and so his house was chosen, and

his son Eleazar sanctified to keep the ark. The names of both father and

son are common in the Levitical genealogies, and none but a member of

this tribe would have been selected for so holy a duty. If, however, the

translation in the hill be preferred, we may suppose that it was because

lofty heights were still considered fit places for Jehovah’s worship, or there

may even have been a “high place” there, of which Abinadab was the

keeper. What exactly were the duties of Eleazar we cannot tell, as the

word to keep is very indefinite; but probably, after the fearful ruin at

Shiloh, all regular services and sacrifices were in abeyance until the return

of happier times. Even here it was the men of the city who sanctified

Eleazar, and not a priest.

 

 

THE REFORMATION OF ISRAEL (vs. 2-6).

 

 

2 “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.”  The literal translation of this verse is, “And

it came to pass, from the day that the ark rested at Kirjath-jearim, that the

time was long; for it was twenty years.” The words dwell wearily upon the

length of this mournful period, during which. Israel was in a state of

subjection to the Philistines, with its national life crushed to the ground,

and its strength wasted by unjust exactions and misrule. For though the

Philistines gave up the ark, there was no restoration of the national

worship, nor did they abandon the political fruits of their victory at Ebenezer.

But quietly and calmly Samuel was laboring to put all things right. It

was the principle of the theocracy that Jehovah punished His subjects for

their sins by withdrawing His protection, and that on their repentance He

took again His place at their head as their king, and delivered them.

(This statement is worthy of notice by the United States today.  I have

no doubt that God works on the same principle in the 21st century! – CY –

2016)  Samuel’s whole effort, therefore, was directed to bringing the people to

repentance. What means he used we are not told, nor what was his mode

of life; but probably it was that of a fugitive, going stealthily from place to

place that he might teach and preach, hiding in the caverns in the limestone

range of Judaea, emerging thence to visit now one quarter of the country

and now another, ever in danger, but gradually awakening, not merely

those districts which were contiguous to the Philistines, but all Israel to a

sense of the greatness of their sins, and the necessity of renewed trust and

love to their God. And so a fresh spiritual life sprang up among the people,

and with it came the certainty of the restoration of their national

independence. All the house of Israel lamented after Jehovah. The word

used here is rare, and the versions all differ in their translation of it. Really

it is a happy one, embracing the two ideas of sorrow for sin, and also of

returning to and gathering themselves round Jehovah. The Syriac alone

retains this double meaning, by saying that “they all cast themselves down

after Jehovah,” i.e. that they sought Him with deep humility. Gradually,

then, a change of heart came over the people; but the removal of the ark to

a more fit place, and the restoration of Divine service with ministering

priests and Levites, could take place only after the Philistine yoke had been

broken. From ch.13:19- 22 we learn how vigilant and oppressive

that tyranny was; and the heart of the writer, in inditing this verse, was full

of sorrow at the thought that the repentance of Israel was so slow and

unready, and that therefore it had to wait twenty years before deliverance

came.

 

 

Fitness for Service (vs. 1-2)

 

The facts are:

 

1. At the request of the terrified men of Beth-shemesh the men of Kirjathjearim

    bring the ark to their high place.

2. Arrangements are made in the house of Abinadab for the due care of the ark.

3. The time of the sojourn of the ark in this place, up to the date of Samuel’s test

    of repentance, was twenty years.

4. Towards the close of this period the people long for the full restoration

    of the Divine favor. A new stage was being entered on in the process of

    restoration to full privileges, and God must have men fitted to the

    occasion. The ark could not go to Shiloh for evident reasons; so far as the

    Divine will could be gathered from the controlled action of the kine,

    Bethshemesh was the place for it in which to rest. But the profane conduct of

    the officials proved that the privilege must be forfeited, and the unmitigated

    terror of the survivors indicated that they possessed not the spiritual

    qualifications for the respectful, loving guardianship of Israel’s glory. For

    some reason the men of Kirjath-jearim had a reputation which justified the

    belief that they dared and could safely convey and keep what their

    neighbors dare not touch. Their actions justified this belief.

 

  • NEW FORMS OF SERVICE ARE CONSTANTLY ARISING IN THE

UNFOLDING OF GOD’S PURPOSES. There was once a need of

workmen to build the ark, of men to bear it, of kine to bring it back, and

now of men to carry and keep it in all decency and order. Emergencies are

inherent in the outworking of the Church’s mission. Ages bring their

demands. Education, national affairs, assaults on truth, openings for the

gospel in foreign lands, and many other things, call for new lines of action

or modifications of old. And thus it will be till the world is brought to Christ.

 

  • THERE ARE ALWAYS IN RESERVE THE MEN FITTED FOR

THE WORK GOD HAS TO RE DONE. If Beth-shemesh cannot supply

the men who know how to behave properly towards the sacred symbol,

there are others elsewhere. The qualities are being acquired parallel with

the providential processes that evolve the new demand. God takes care of

all sides of His holy cause. Those disqualified must yield the privilege of

new and important service to the qualified, and God knows where these

are. In every age He has His chosen, secret methods of laying hold of ability,

learning, strength of purpose, and whatsoever else may be required to do

His will.

 

  • THE FUNDAMENTAL FITNESS FOR GOD’S SERVICE ON

NEW OCCASIONS IS TRUE REVERENCE AND INTEREST. Many

minor qualities were requisite to the bringing and caring for the ark, but the

primary was that of proper reverence for the ark of God and due interest in

its sanctity and use The men of Beth-shemesh lacked this; for they lost true

reverence in terror and dread, and they were distrustful of their ability to

keep the ark with due honor to it and benefit to themselves. Here we have

in incidental contrast:

 

o       a religion characterized by dread, and

o       a religion of true reverence.

 

Ø      The religion of dread is a sense of infinite holiness and power unrelieved

by a recognition of other Divine attributes. The men of Beth-shemesh had

been struck with the awful holiness of Jehovah, and of His mighty power

expressing holiness in acts of swift judgment. Thus, generally, when

religion consists mainly in this there is a shrinking from God’s presence;

attention to ordinances under the sheer force of conscience. In so far as

Christian men — so called — know only such a religion they approximate

towards paganism.

 

Ø      The religion of true reverence is a sense of infinite holiness and power

toned by a trustful love. The men of Kirjath-jearim were not perfect, but

they had as correct views as their neighbors of the holiness and power of

Jehovah; and yet it is obvious, from the quiet, interested manner in which

they received and provided for the ark, that they in some degree loved and

trusted their God. In true reverence the awe created by ineffable holiness

and almighty power is mitigated by the remembrance that God is merciful

and gracious, and cares for His people, even in their self-brought sorrows.

When this reverence is perfected in Christian life by a due appreciation of

the august majesty and love seen in THE SACRIFICAL WORK OF

CHRIST the heart rests IN GOD with all the reverential love of a child.

Duty and privilege then are coincident.

 

 

Divine Reserve

 

The return of the ark was an outward sign of the returning favor of God,

and was so understood by the men of Beth-shemesh. But the full service of

the tabernacle, with the ark as its center and glory, was not established.

Nor were the Philistines deprived of their hold on Israel. The Divine power

was held in reserve. The set time to favor Zion in plenitude had not

arrived. The reasons for this are clear. The people were too degraded to

enjoy the full benefit of the services and festivals. A degenerate priesthood,

steeped in vice, cannot at once pass on to the holy duties of Jehovah’s

worship. A regenerative process requires time, and twenty years was not

too long for the old generation of priests to die off and give way to men

brought up under better influences. The general truth here set forth is, that

it is in the heart of God to do great things for His people, but that for good

reasons He holds Himself, so to speak, in reserve — veiling His glory,

bestowing His blessing sparsely. Indeed, there is even a wider application of

the truth than in relation to the Church. Take a few illustrations.

 

  • CREATION. The material and spiritual universe is the outcome of the

power and wisdom of God. But vast and intricate as it is, no one can

suppose that it is coextensive with all that is in His nature.. There are not

two infinites. The power and wisdom of God are in excess of what are

traceable in the works He has formed. There is A VAST RESERVE which for

aught we know may some time come out in an order of things not now

conceived or deemed possible. It is a crude philosophy which teaches that

God has done all He intends to do in the way of positive creation. Every

new spirit that comes into being is an evidence of the Divine reserve.

 

  • REVELATION. There is a varied revelation of God, but in each case it

may be said that, supposing we have learned all they teach, we “know only

in part” (I Corinthians 13:12).  For as there is more in God than in His

works and word, there is a reserve of truth which may yet be drawn upon.

In the gradual bestowment of revelation we see how God keeps back from

one age what He gives to another. Christ had many things to say once which

His disciples could not then bear to hear. (John 16:12)  There must be deep

and far reaching principles of the Divine government which underlie the at

present revealed facts of:

 

Ø      theTrinity,

Ø      atonement,

Ø      human responsibility, and

Ø      future punishment;

 

and these are kept out of full view till, perhaps, we become free from the flesh.

 

  • NATIONAL PROSPERITY. All true national prosperity is OF GOD!  (I

should think that this would greatly humiliate modern secularists.  CY – 2016)

If it comes not to men, it is because He withholds the blessings desired. The

absence of prosperity has a practical side; it means that God reserves good

because conduct and motive are not what He approves. There was nigh at

hand all the power and wisdom by which Israel should cease to depend on

Philistines for axes and coulters, but it came not forth. Had Israel in earlier

or later times been more true to God, he would have “fed them also with

the finest of the wheat” (Psalm 81:13-16).

 

  • CHURCH PRIVILEGES AND USEFULNESS. “Glorious things” are

spoken of Zion. (Psalm 87:3) The Church inherits a wondrous destiny. She is

to be the envy of the world. Her “feet” are to be “beautiful;” her garments

“white;” her influence as the “light” and “salt.” And all this not by virtue of

what may be in the Church of herself, but because of the power and grace of

God within her. If she is “in the dust,” we ask the cause; the first answer is,

because God stays His hand, keeps the residue of the Spirit, holds Himself in

reserve. The second answer is, that this Divine reserve is in consequence of

the Church having backslidden from her God and disqualified herself from

being a vehicle for the full flow of the blessing that is to ENRICH

MANKIND!  The Divine light is to shine from “golden candlesticks.”

 

  • PERSONAL RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. Personal religion is, in one

sense, the passing into and dwelling within the soul of the power and love

of Godby the Holy Spirit. It is the proper heritage of a believer to enjoy

a sense of the Divine favor not known to the unbelieving. A vision of God

sweet and blessed comes to the pure in heart. Christ manifests Himself as He

does not to the world. But the backsliding soul does not share in the full

bliss. “Why art thou cast down?” is often asked (Psalm 42:5,11).  The answer

is, there is not the spiritual fitness for perfect fellowship. Some “idols” have

been cherished. Divine reserve is a discipline to cause the heart to lament

after God.

 

GENERAL LESSONS:

 

Ø      There is ample ground for believing that all things shall be subdued unto

Christ.  (I Corinthians 15:24-28)  His great power is yet to be put forth.

Ø      Inquiry should be made as to the existence of anything in motive,

conduct, or spirit which keeps the Church from enjoying the full exercise

of the power of God.

Ø      We may profitably reflect on what might be ours in private life if by our

devotedness to God we secured more of the “residue of the Spirit.”

                        (Malachi 2:15)

 

3 “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.”  At length everything was ripe for a change,

and the reformation wrought privately in their hearts was followed by

public action. Samuel’s secret addresses had no doubt been watched with

anger by the Philistines, but he now ventures upon open resistance; for this

public summons to Israel to put away its idols by a national act was a

summons also to an uprise against foreign domination. We must suppose

that the people had often assured Samuel in his wanderings of the reality of

their repentance, and of their readiness to stake everything upon the issue

of war. As a statesman, he now judges that the time has come, and

convenes a national assembly. But everything would depend upon their

earnestness. They were virtually unarmed; they would have to deal with an

enemy long victorious, and who held the most important posts in their

country with garrisons. Terrible suffering would follow upon defeat. Was

their faith strong enough, their courage desperate enough, for so fearful a

risk? Especially as Samuel is never described to us as a warrior or military

hero. He could inspire no confidence as a general. He himself makes

everything depend upon their faith, and all he can promise is, “I will pray

for you unto Jehovah” (v. 5).

 

4 “Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and

served the LORD only.”

Then the children of Israel did put away [the] Baalim and

[the] Ashtaroth. This must have been done by a public act, by which at

some time previously arranged the images of their Baals and Astartes were

torn from their shrines, thrown down, and broken in pieces. Of course this

was an overt act of rebellion, for these deities were especially Phoenician

idols, and subsequently it was the Phoenician Jezebel who tried so

fanatically to introduce their worship into Israel in Ahab’s time. To cast off

the Philistine deities was equivalent to a rebellion generally against

Philistine supremacy. Baal and Astarte, the husband and the wife,

represented the reproductive powers of nature, and under various names

were worshipped throughout the East, and usually with lewd and wanton

orgies.

 

5 “And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto

the LORD.”  Gather all Israel to Mizpeh. Mizpah, for so the place should

be spelt, means a watch tower (Genesis 31:49), and so is a not

uncommon name for spots among the hills commanding an extensive

outlook. This was probably the Mizpah in the tribe of Benjamin, distant

about five miles from Jerusalem (see Conder, ‘Tent Work,’ 1:25); and

though Samuel may have partly chosen it as a holy place (Judges 11:11;

20:1), yet the chief reason was probably its lofty situation, 500 feet above

the neighboring tableau, which itself was 2000 feet above the sea level. It

was thus difficult to surprise, and admirably adapted for warlike purposes.

The gathering of the people at Mizpah was the necessary result of the

public insult offered to the Philistine gods, and virtually a declaration of

war, as being an assertion of national independence.

 

6 “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.”  They… drew water, and poured it out before Jehovah.

While the drawing of water was a joyful act (Isaiah 12:3; John 7:37-38),

as symbolizing the winning from the depths below of the source of life

and health, the pouring it out before Jehovah expressed sorrow for sin, and

so it is explained by the Chaldee Paraphrast: “They poured out their heart

in penitence like water before the Lord” (compare Psalm 22:14). It might

here also signify weakness and powerlessness, the being “as water spilt

upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (II Samuel

14:14). They further expressed their sorrow by fasting, enjoined “for the

afflicting of their souls” upon the great day of atonement (Leviticus

16:29, 31; 23:27, 32; Numbers 29:7). And to these symbolical acts they

joined the confession of the mouth, acknowledging that “they had sinned

against Jehovah.”  And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh. That is,

he now became the acknowledged ruler of Israel in things temporal, both civil

and military, as he had previously been in things spiritual by virtue of his office

as prophet. This was, of course, the result of the decisive action he had

taken in summoning this national convention; but the words strongly

suggest that there was some direct appointment, or at the very least a

national acknowledgment of Samuel’s authority, especially as they precede

the history of the defeat of the Philistines. He had summoned the people

together as Nabi, prophet, and when he said, “I will pray for you unto

Jehovah,” there was the implied meaning that he would be with them only

in that capacity. But when the time came to appoint a general, who would

act under him as Barak had acted under Deborah, the great chiefs,

probably, who saw in him the prime mover of all that was being done,

urged him also to take the command, and upon his consent he became also

Shophet or judge.

 

 

A National Revival (vs. 2-6)

 

The history of religion in the world is largely a history of a series of

declensions and revivals:

 

Ø      the former being due to the downward tendency of human nature,

Ø      the latter to the gracious interposition of God.

 

Of this fact the period of the judges affords an illustration. The revival which took

place at its commencement (Judges 2:1-5) is specially worthy of notice;

another, and more important, occurring toward its close, is here described.

 

It was:

 

1. Needed on account of the condition of the people of Israel. The great

    defeat which they suffered twenty years before (v. 2; ch. 4:1-2; 6:1)

    checked their prevailing sin, especially as manifested in:

 

Ø      sacerdotalism,

Ø      formalism,

Ø      superstition, and

Ø      presumption;

 

    but it by no means cured it.  Superstitious veneration for sacred objects passed

    rapidly, as commonly happens, into unbelieving irreverence (ch. 6:19) and

    spiritual indifference; whilst participation in the false worship and corrupt

    practices of the heathen continued, and even increased (v. 4). The law of God

    was made void and His presence withdrawn.

 

2. Effected, under God, by the influence of one man — Samuel. Nothing is

    expressly said concerning him during these twenty years; but he appears to

    have retired from Shiloh to Ramah, his native place, and it is not likely that

    he remained there altogether inactive for so long a time. The statement of

        ch. 3:20-21; 4:1, must be considered as, to some extent, in the future.

    The oppression of the Philistines was not such as to interfere

    with him, nor was his activity of such a kind as to cause them much

    concern. His holy example and quiet labors doubtless contributed greatly

    to the keeping alive of true piety in the hearts of a faithful few; and when

    the time came for more public effort he stood ready — in the full maturity

    of his powers, above forty years of age — to utter the word of the Lord,

    and to take the leadership of the nation. “During the long oppression of a

    stormy time the nation at last gathered more and more unanimously around

    Samuel, like terrified chickens around the parent hen” (Ewald).

 

3. Marked by features of a peculiar nature. Every great religious revival

    that has been recorded in sacred history or has occurred in the Christian

    Church has had a character of its own, determined by the wants of the age.

    And this revival was characterized by the restoration of the moral law to

    commanding influence on the conscience of the people by means of the

    prophetic ministry. The office of hereditary priest became secondary to that

    of inspired prophet, and was even absorbed in it for a while; for Samuel,

    although not a priest, acted constantly as such in offering sacrifice; and the

    Levitical law lay in abeyance, or was modified in practice under his

    direction. “As Moses established the theocracy, Samuel restored its

    fundamental principles to the supreme place in the national life, and thus in

    a true and noble sense was its second founder.” The revival he was the

    chief instrument in effecting:

 

Ø      involved a more complete separation from idolatry,

Ø      laid the basis of higher internal unity, and

Ø      was followed by prosperity and independence.

 

In the description of it we observe:

 

  • A GENERAL CONCERN ABOUT THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD.

“And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord” (v. 2).

 

Ø      Occasioned by the experience of the long and bitter effects of transgression.

 

Ø      Implying a sense of misery in the absence of God. The idols to which

men give their affections cannot satisfy the heart (Hosea 2:7-8; 5:15,

6:1). “It is well to feel worn and fatigued with the fruitless search after

happiness, that we may welcome our Deliverer” (Pascal).

 

Ø      Consisting of an intense longing after His favor and fellowship. The

phrase, “lamented after the Lord,” is taken from human affairs, when one

follows after another and entreats Him with lamentations until He assents.

An example of this is the Syrophenician woman” Matthew 15:22-28).

(S. Schmid).  The sorrow thus felt was a “godly sorrow;” a sorrow which

comes from God, is felt for God, and tends to God, and which works genuine

repentance, effectual deliverance, and lasting satisfaction (II Corinthians

7:10).

 

Ø      Felt by the nation as a whole. “All the house of Israel.” And wherever

such concern is felt it is a sure sign of God’s returning favor. “They

inclined after the Lord; they groaned, complained, bemoaned themselves in

their following the Lord, as a child followeth his departing parent; they

called, cried, and lifted up their voice after the Lord by earnest prayer and

supplication. Why?

 

o        Because God is infinitely more worthy than all ordinances;

His presence is valuable in itself.

o        God purposely withdraws, that men may lament after Him;

as when a mother steps out of a child’s sight, and when she

seems to be gone the child raises a cry after her.

o        Because sincere lamenting after the Lord may occasion His

return” (O. Heywood, 3:419).

 

  • AN EARNEST ATTENTION TO THE WORD OF THE LORD (v. 3).

The word was:

 

Ø      Revealed in former days, and included in the law of Moses

(Deuteronomy 6:14). There is not generally so much need of new truth

as that the old should be vitalized. (Jeremiah 6:16)  How much of dead

truth lies in the mind of every man!

 

Ø      Spoken with new power; opportunely, faithfully, and with holy zeal, by

the prophet who had been commissioned to utter it. THE PREACHING

OF THE WORD IS NECESSARY and important in every genuine revival

of religion. That word is a fire, a hammer, and a two-edged sword

(Hebrews 4:12).

 

Ø      Adapted to the condition of the people.

 

o        To test the sincerity of their desires and purposes. “If,” etc.

o        To instruct them in their duty. “Put away the strange gods”, ...

prepare your hearts = “Fix your hearts towards, or in trust in,

God”  (Hebrews 13:9).

o        To encourage them to hope for deliverance. “And He will deliver

you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

o        Listened to in a right spirit; with fresh interest, reverence, self-

application, and a determination to put it into practice. When

the heart is prepared the truth is invested with new meaning

and power; as words written on paper with invisible ink are

clearly perceived when held to the fire. “Faith cometh by

hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

 

  • A SINCERE RENUNCIATION OF SIN AGAINST THE LORD

(v. 4), which was:

 

Ø      A proof of their genuine repentance; “a heart broken for sin, and from

sin.”

 

Ø      Shown with respect to the transgressions to which they were specially

addicted — the worship of Baalim (images or modifications of Baal, the

principal male divinity of the Phoenician and Canaanitish nations — the sun

god) and Ashtaroth (images of their supreme female divinity, “the queen of

heaven,” the Syrian Venus Astarte), and the corrupt practices connected

therewith (Judges 2:11, 13).

 

Ø      Combined with positive acts of obedience and piety. They not only

ceased to worship false gods, but also “served the Lord alone”

(Matthew 6:24). Sin is most effectually broken off “by righteousness”

(Daniel 4:27); an old affection most effectually expelled by a new one.

The heart cannot rest without some object of love and trust. And if, “when

the unclean spirit is gone out of a man,” it be not immediately replaced by a

pure spirit, it is sure to return “with seven other spirits more wicked than

himself” (Matthew 12:43-45).

 

Ø      Made by men individually and in private; whereby they become

prepared to make a national profession, and to receive the Divine blessing.

God can bless men only by “turning every one of them from his iniquities”

(Acts 3:26).

 

  • A PUBLIC CONSECRATION TO THE SERVICE OF THE LORD

(vs. 5-6). At the word of Samuel a national assembly was gathered

together at Mizpah for the purpose of openly expressing and confirming

the general feeling; and there under the open sky they “yielded themselves

to the Lord” (II Chronicles 30:8) with:

 

Ø      Solemn vows of obedience to the law of their God. “They drew water

and poured it out before the Lord.” “We take this act to have been a sign

and symbol, or rather confirmation of an oath — a solemn vow. To pour

out water on the ground is in the East an ancient way of taking a solemn

oath — the words and promises that had gone forth from their mouth

being as water spilt upon the ground that cannot be gathered up again”

(Kitto).

 

Ø      Sincere humiliation on account of former disobedience. The symbol just

mentioned is interpreted by some as denoting the pouring out of their

hearts in penitence. They also “fasted on that day, and said there, We have

sinned against the Lord.”

 

Ø      Prayers and supplications for Divine mercy and help. “I will pray for

you.” “Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us,” implying that

Samuel had already prayed for them. He gave expression to their desires,

and made intercession on their behalf. “So Moses prayed for the people at

Rephidim and for Miriam, so Elijah prayed at Carmel, so Ezra prayed at

the evening sacrifice, so the high priest prayed for the house of Israel on

the day of atonement, and so does our Lord Jesus Christ ever live at God’s

right hand to make intercession for us” (‘Speakers Commentary).

 

Ø      Devout acknowledgment of the prophet of the Lord as their leader and

judge. “And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpah.” On that day

he commenced his public labors as judge, and a great moral and spiritual

reformation was inaugurated. It was a day long remembered (II Chronicles

35:18: “There was no passover like to that kept in Israel from

the days of Samuel the prophet”), and such a day as every godly man

desires to see in this land (Psalm 85:6; Hosea 14:1-3; Habakkuk 3:2).

 

 

Confession of Sin (v. 6)

 

“We have sinned against the Lord.” When any one has done wrong to

another he ought to make acknowledgment and reparation to him

(Matthew 5:23-24). We are directed to “confess our faults one to

another(James 5:16); and there are cases in which we may derive

benefit from confessing our sins against the Lord to a godly man. The

passage just referred to, however, affords no ground for “auricular

confession (confession to a human priest); nor does the commission

given to the apostles (John 20:23), since (in addition to other reasons)

it simply conferred authority to declare the ordinances of the kingdom

of heaven, and especially the terms or conditions according to which

sins are remitted or retained; and the practice of such confession is most

injurious. But we ought all to confess our sins to God. Every wrong done

to men is a sin against God, and there are multitudes of sins against Him

that do not directly affect our fellow men. “In many things we all offend.”

(James 3:2)  And the word of God often enjoins the confession of all our

offences before Him, and declares it to be the necessary condition of

obtaining forgiveness.  Consider:

 

  • WHAT IT IMPLIES.

 

Ø      That we see the essential evil of sin. “Sin is the transgression of the law”

(I John 3:4). More generally, it is whatever is contrary to the character

and will of God. As He is the only perfect Being, and deserves and claims

the supreme love of men, so the root of sin consists in the absence of such

love, and the departure of the heart from its true rest; and whenever man

departs from God he falls into:

 

o        selfishness,

o        vanity, and

o        misery.

 

Sin is aversion to God and devotion to self (see Tulloch, ‘Christian Doctrine

of Sin’). “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,” etc. (Psalm 51:4).

 

Ø      That we are convinced of the just desert of sin. “Howbeit, thou art just

in all that is brought upon us, for thou hast done right, but we have

done wickedly.”  (Nehemiah 9:33).

 

Ø      That we are resolved upon an entire renunciation of sin. This

determination springs from a real hatred towards it, and is associated with

hunger and thirst after righteousness.” (Matthew 5:6)  Confession is of

the nature of a solemn oath of abjuration. “Whoso confesseth and

forsaketh his sins shall find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

 

  • HOW IT SHOULD BE MADE.

 

Ø      Under a due impression of the greatness of our sin.

 

o        In order to this we must contemplate the holy love of God, His just

requirements, His merciful blessings and boundless claims; above all,

we must stand before the cross and behold that great sight (Luke 23:48).

There is no better way to obtain the gift of tears for having offended

God than meditation on the greatness of God’s goodness and of His

love which He has shown to man.

 

o        We must, in the light that shines upon us, consider the particular

transgressions we have committed in:

 

§         thought,

§         word, and

§         deed against:

ü      God,

ü      our neighbor, and

ü      ourselves, sins of:

* omission and

* commission, and

 

the sinful disposition revealed by them and pervading our whole life

(Luke 18:13). General confessions of sin without personal and

particular application are of little worth. “Usually, the more particular

we are in the confession of sin, the more comfort we have in the sense

of pardon” (Matthew Henry).

 

o        In this manner we shall, by Divine grace, be filled with self-abasement,

godly sorrow, and true repentance. “That which makes manifest is

light;” and in proportion to the brightness with which the light of truth

shines upon us will it manifest our sin (I John 1:8); just as a sunbeam

darting across a room shows us the floating dust that was not seen

before (Job 42:5-6).

 

Ø      In sincere, frank, and unreserved acknowledgment of our sin; without

any attempt to cover, excuse, or palliate it. “Pardon my iniquity, for it is

great (Psalm 25:11; 32:3-5).

 

Ø      With a turning of the heart to God in faith and prayer and acts of

obedience. “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous

in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5).

 

“Repentance is heart’s sorrow

And a clear life ensuing”

(Shakespeare).

 

  • BY WHOM.

 

Ø      Each individual (Luke 15:21). “God be merciful to me a sinner”

(Luke 18:13).

 

Ø      Each family. “Every family apart” (Zechariah 12:14).

 

Ø      The whole people. Those who have united in sinning must unite in

confessing their sin (ch. 12:19; Ezra 9:6-15; Daniel 9:4-19).

“We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

 

  • WHY IT IS NECESSARY.

 

Ø      That we may give glory to God. By it we act in accordance with His will,

justify Him in His dealings with us, and give to Him the honor which is His

due. “Give glory to God, and make confession unto him” (Joshua 7:19).

 

Ø      That we may be prepared to receive pardon, peace, and salvation. Until

we open our hearts to God He will not open His heart to us. We must cease

to have fellowship with idols in order that we may have fellowship with the

holy One, and become the habitation of His Spirit (II Corinthians 6:16).

 

Ø      That we may have confidence in the fulfillment of His promises. This is

conditioned by our fulfillment of His requirements, without which our

confidence is vain. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just

to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

(I John 1:9). “And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,

Jesus Christ the righteous” (I John 2:1).

 

 

    ISRAEL’S DELIVERANCE FROM

THE TYRANNY OF THE PHILISTINES

(vers. 7-14).

 

7 “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.  8 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.”  When the children of Israel heard it,

they were afraid of the Philistines. This was perfectly natural, and implied

no intention on the part of the Israelites not to fight it out. No dominant nation

would permit a subject race to hold such a meeting as Samuel’s at Mizpah without

having recourse to arms; but the Philistines acted with such promptness and

vigor as brought home to the assembled Israelites not merely the

conviction that they would have to fight, but that they must do it at once,

and with the combined forces of the enemy. In spite, nevertheless, of their

fears, they determine to await the attack, and that this decision was taken

in faith their own words prove. For they say, Cease not to cry unto

Jehovah our God for us, that He will save us out of the hand of the

Philistines. The words literally are, “Be not silent from crying,” etc. Let

him mediate for them with God, and they will await the onslaught of the foe.

 

9 “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.” And Samuel took a sucking lamb. Samuel now appears as

priest, and makes intercession and atonement for them. The lamb was at

least seven days old, for so the law required (Leviticus 22:27), but

probably not much older; for the word, a rare one, occurring elsewhere

only in Isaiah 65:25, means something small and tender: this then he

offered for a burnt offering wholly unto Jehovah. The Authorized Version

translates in this way because chalil, “whole,” is masculine, while olah,

 “a burnt offering,” is feminine; but chalil had in course of time come to be

used as a substantive (Leviticus 6:23; Deuteronomy 13:16; 33:10), and is

really here in opposition to olah, and so the two together signify “a whole

burnt offering,” and clearly indicate that the lamb was entirely consumed by

fire. Olah means that which ascends, and symbolized devotion and

consecration to God. Chalil intensified this signification, and showed that

all was God’s, and no part whatsoever reserved for the priest or the

offerer. And thus then Samuel’s burnt offering implied that the people gave

themselves unreservedly to Jehovah. And Jehovah heard him. Really,

“Jehovah answered him,” by the thunder mentioned in v. 10. For thunder

was regarded as God’s voice (ch. 2:10), and in Psalm 29. we have a poetic

description of its majesty and power. Express mention is also made in

Psalm 99:6 of Jehovah having thus answered the prayers of Moses

(Exodus 19:19), and of Samuel.

 

10  “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.

11 And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the

Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar.”

 As Samuel was offering, etc. We have here a detailed and lively

description of the whole event. The lamb is still burning upon the

altar, and Samuel still kneeling before it, when the Philistine hosts appear

upon the lofty plateau just below the hill of Mizpah, and marshal

themselves for battle. It seemed as if Israel’s case were hopeless, and many

a heart, no doubt, was bravely straggling against its fears, and scarcely

could keep them down. But as the enemy drew near the electric cloud

formed in the heavens, and Jehovah thundered with a great voice (so the

Hebrew) on that day upon the Philistines. Alarmed at so unusual a

phenomenon, the Philistines hesitate in their advance, and Samuel, seeing

their consternation, gives the signal for the charge, and Israel, inspirited by

the voice of Jehovah, rushes down the hill upon the foe. Full of enthusiasm,

they forget the poorness of their weapons, and the weight of their

impetuous rush breaks through the opposing line. And now a panic seizes

the Philistines; they attempt no further resistance, but flee in dismay from

the pursuing Israelites. Their course would lead them down a huge valley

1000 feet deep, at the bottom of which was a torrent rushing over a rocky

bed; nor was their flight stayed until they came under Beth-car. Of this

place we know nothing, but probably it was a fastness where the Philistines

could protect themselves from further attack.

 

12 “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.”

We saw on ch. 4. I that the place where Israel then suffered defeat, but which

now received a more happy name, was an open plain, over which the people

now chased their then victorious enemies. Here, then, Samuel set up a memorial,

according to Jewish custom, and called its name Help stone. In giving his reason

for it, hitherto hath Jehovah helped us, there is a plain indication of the need

of further assistance.  There was a long struggle before them, and Jehovah,

who had aided them so mightily at its beginning, would also help them unto

the end. The memorial stood halfway between Mizpeh and Shen, both which

names have the article in Hebrew, because one signifies the watchtower,

the other the tooth. It was a steep, pointed rock, but is not mentioned elsewhere.

Dent, the French for tooth, is a common name for mountains in the Alps

and Pyrenees.

 

 

Steps of Return to God (vs. 1-12)

 

The whole interest of this passage is moral. No stress is laid on the forms,

or even the authorized appurtenances, of religion. The ark, of which we

have heard so much, and which had been treated with a singular mixture of

superstition and profanity, plays no part in the history. It is left for years in

a quiet retreat. Israel had backslidden from the Lord. The steps of their

return have a meaning and a moral lesson for all generations.

 

  • THE FEELING OF A GREAT MORAL AND SPIRITUAL WANT.

“The house of Israel lamented after the Lord.” For twenty years the ark

had been withdrawn, and under the yoke of the Philistines the spirit of

Israel seemed to be quelled and stupefied. Even Samuel appears to have

held himself in reserve till a time should arrive more favorable for the

moral suasion and admonition of a prophet. And heathen worship crept

over the land. But at last conscience began to stir, the soul of the people

was weary, and there rose a wistful, sorrowful cry after the God of their

fathers. This surely is always the beginning of a backslider’s restoration, he

wearies, and is ashamed of his own ways; feels his folly and wickedness,

and then sighs after a forfeited blessedness — laments after the Lord.

 

  • REPENTANCE PREACHED AND PRACTICED. When the time

came for the people to hear him with an awakened conscience, Samuel

addressed all the tribes with a voice of moral authority that recalls the

admonitions of Moses and the last words of Joshua (v. 3). And the

people obeyed his word, showing their repentance in the most thorough

and practical way by “putting away Baalim and Ashtaroth.” So must every

true prophet or preacher of righteousness summon men to repentance, and

testify to them that God will not take their part while their hearts are

disloyal to Him. It is useless to lament after the Lord and still retain false

gods. Our God is not mocked, nor can his favor be gained by mere words

and empty sighs.  (Galatians 6:7-8)

 

  • A NEW ORDER BEGUN. At Mizpah, after solemn public confession

of sin against Jehovah, “Samuel judged the people of Israel.” He seized the

opportunity to institute a more authoritative and vigorous administration of

public affairs. He knew well the need of establishing order and discipline

under the sacred law. And the people consented. So when there is sincere

repentance a new order begins. The authority of the law of the Lord over

conscience and life is acknowledged, and there is evinced a new obedience.

 

  • A FIGHT FOR HOLY LIBERTY. The Philistines had no objection to

the Israelite worship of Baal and Astarte; but so soon as they heard of their

return to the service of Jehovah and of the increased authority of Samuel,

they mustered their forces to attack them. (Thus today, in the world anything

goes EXCEPT JESUS! – CY – 2016)  And the faith of the penitent

tribes was not yet sufficiently established or assured to prevent their being

“afraid of the Philistines.” They stood their ground, however, and asked

Samuel to pray for them to the Lord. So they got the victory. When a

backslider returns to God, endeavoring to regain his self-respect, and to

resume his place as a well doer, he finds that evil rises up within him and

fights hard for the mastery. As Pharaoh would not let the people go and

the Philistines would not let them restore religion or regain national

independence without a struggle to keep them down, so does sin strive to

retain under its yoke the sinner who is escaping through repentance. But let

faith appeal to God along with the burnt offering of entire consecration to

Him. He gives the victory to the weak.

 

  • GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF HELP FROM GOD.

Samuel knew the value to a nation of inspiriting recollections, and

therefore set up a stone or pillar to commemorate the great victory. But he

was careful to make it a witness not to Israel’s prowess, but to Jehovah’s

timely help. It was Ebenezer, the stone of help. It said “Te Deum

Landamus.”  (God, we praise you!)  The spiritual life has its Ebenezers, —

many of them. Nations are ready enough to raise proud pillars and triumphal

arches to celebrate their feats in war. Europe has ever so many columns, streets,

squares, and boulevards, and bridges named after battles. Let us remember:

 

Ø      the battles of principle,

Ø      the fights with temptation through which we have passed.

 

When we have failed, ours is the shame. When we have overcome,

TO GOD BE THE GLORY!   We recommend not remembrance only, but

some stone of remembrance. (Recently, at the University of Louisville,

a Confederate statue has been removed because of “political correctness”,

a form of denial of the past.  Much of American culture today is

based on show and falsehood, and double standards.  – CY – 2016)  

It is a true and wise impulse which has often  led Christians to commemorate

a great deliverance or consolation  vouchsafed to themselves by:

 

Ø      building a church,

Ø      an hospital,

Ø      an almshouse, 

Ø      founding a mission, or

Ø      some institution of learning or benevolence.

 

Such a stone of remembrance helps him who rears it to resist the tendency

to let religious impressions and memories fade from the mind, and it

proclaims to others that some men, at all events, have proved God as

the Hearer of prayer and the Helper of the needy.

 

 

Ebenezer (vs. 3-12)

 

The facts are:

 

1. Samuel calls on the people to prove their desire to return to God by

    putting away idols and preparing their hearts for a blessing.

2. A response to the call is followed by a summons to Mizpah for prayer

    and humiliation.

3. A rumored approach of the Philistines excites fear, and an urgent

    request for Samuel’s intercession with God.

4. While Samuel is engaged in worship God discomfits the assailing

    Philistines by thunder.

5. The victory is commemorated by raising the stone Ebenezer.

 

This paragraph is to be considered in relation to Israel’s true goal in life —

to fulfill the Messianic purposes of their existence as a chosen people.

Associated with this ulterior object, and subservient to it, was the full

favor and blessing of God. This, again, was to be indicated by the

restoration in developed form of the holy services and festivals connected

with the ark and the sanctuary. The turning point in THE DEGENERACY

had come in a sense of desolation and misery consequent on the recent

defeat and the capture of the ark. The return of the ark gently fanned the

flickering flame of hope, but as yet the goal was far distant, and the

conditions of attaining to it were very unsatisfactory. The narrative

sketches, in the instance of Israel, an outline of true effort towards the

goal of life, and the encouragements to persevere in the effort. The

Christian Church and the individual soul have each an issue of life to

attain to. It is also true of them that they start from a relatively low and

unsatisfactory position, and will succeed in their endeavor only as they

observe conditions inseparable from their position.

 

  • THE MEANS AND CONDITIONS OF REALIZING LIFE’S PURPOSE.

Confining attention to those involved in this portion of history,

we find them to be:

 

Ø      A hearty renunciation of all that is alien to the mind of God. Idols had

to be put aside. Man is attached to idols. They may be:

 

o        feelings entertained,

o        passions gratified,

o        favorite motives cherished,

o        customs cultivated,

o        aims kept in view,

o        objects unduly loved.

 

The “covetousness” which clings to forbidden things is “idolatry.” In so

far as these things absorb our feeling and receive our attention after that

God has indicated that they ought not, so far do we set them up as deserving

regard and love in preference to Himself. The Church and the individual

must search and cast aside all that is alien to the mind of God.

 

Ø      Confession of sin and humiliation of spirit. No soul can attain to its

goal, no Church can do its work and acquire purity and freedom, apart

from sincere confession and deep humiliation for what is past. Israel’s

gathering at Mizpah to acknowledge their guilt and bow before God, as

though they were “like water spilt on the ground” (v. 6; compare

II Samuel 14:14), was a great step towards recovery of strength and joy.

Seasons may arise when special services shall alone give due expression

to the sense of shame and sorrow for the past; but daily sin needs to be

confessed and the spirit to be chastened before the holy One whom we

serve. Power for holy deeds grows out of true penitence.

 

Ø      Adaptation of the mind to a better course in the future. The “preparing”

of “the heart” unto the Lord implies a self-control, a searching of the seat

of feeling, a cleansing process by such spiritual helps as God may give, a

fitting one’s self internally for a higher mode of life than yet has been

known. (Instead of being a “knave” which I ran across recently.  No

offense but we should beware we are not living as what people might

call as a synonym of a knave, namely:  a dishonest or unscrupulous man.

Synonyms: scoundrel · villain · rogue · rascal · weasel · snake ·

snake in the grass · miscreant · good-for-nothing · reprobate · lowlife ·

creep · nogoodnik · scamp · scalawag · jerk · beast · rat · ratfink · louse ·

swine · dog · skunk · heel · slimeball · xxxxxxx  XXX · scumbag ·

scumbucket · scuzzball · scuzzbag · dirtbag · sleazeball · sleazebag ·

hound · cad · blackguard · knave · varlet · whoreson another term for

jack in cards – I got this from Bing and Oxford Dictionaries – CY – 2016))

Internal, carefully sought reformation is a guarantee of improved

external acts. Most of us are not in a mood adapted to THE GRAND

FUTURE WHICH GOD HAS IN RESERVE!   WE ARE TO SEEK IT!

Fellowship with God more pure, and close, and constant is not the result

of accident, but is the issue of an earnest endeavor.  (Our attitude should

be “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee; my soul thirsteth

for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no

water is; To see thy power and thy glory, as I have seen thee in the

sanctuary.  Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips

shall praise thee.  Thus will I bless thee while I live:  I will lift up my

hands in thy name.  My soul shall be satisfied.....” – Psalm 63:1-5 – CY –

2016)

 

Ø      Special prayer for power to live a better life. The cry of Israel’s heart

was a prayer for more than human aid to help them to perfect the

renunciation of false gods and the contrition due for sin. And the aid of

the prophet’s powerful intercession was to give more effect to their own cry.

(Thus we are taught to pray for one another! – CY – 2016)  Life, to be blessed

in issue, must be one of prayer — an incessant cry for help to live. And, also,

recourse must be had to the true Intercessor, who is “touched with the feeling

of our infirmities.”  (Hebrews 4:15) The Church has not duly appreciated

this means of accomplishing its purpose in the world. In so far as the individual

Christian is a man of prayer, and looks daily to the Intercessor, will he press on

till he attains to “the mark and prize of His high calling.” (Philippians 3:14)

 

Ø      A due recognition of THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST.   Not without reason

was the “sucking lamb” offered when Israel sought the Lord. The “way to

God” was clearly recognized. And the life of man will be right and will

press on to a safe and blessed issue only so far as the Lamb of God is

recognized as “THE WAY!” The Church can fulfill her mission in the world

only by faithfully exhibiting the cross of Christ to the guilty and desponding.

 

Ø      Determined conflict with the natural enemies of God and man. Israel

had to fight Philistines. Only on condition of supplementary acts of

confession and worship, by earnest conflict with the foe, could they secure

peace in their borders, and finally answer their Messianic purpose of

existence. In like manner the Church and the individual must “war a good

warfare.”  (I Timothy 1:18) The militant character should be maintained as

long as there is an enemy to Christ in the heart as in the world.

 

  • THE ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRESEVERE TO THE END. The

raising of the stone “Ebenezer” was an act retrospective and prospective.

The hopes inspired in the mind of Samuel when first he undertook the

work of reformation were being justified by events, and he desired the

people to share in his expectations. In so far as fidelity has been shown by

the Christian Church or by the individual in complying with the

requirements of life’s true issue, so far is there in every instance a ground

of confident expectation. For consider:

 

Ø      The primary basis of confidence. In Israel’s case the return of the ark

within their borders was a pledge of mercy for the penitent. They were not

lost without remedy. And in the more glorious manifestation of God in

Christ we have the pledge that there is MERCY FOR ALL, and that all

energy spent conformably to the object of His presence among men will

be crowned with success.

 

Ø      The consciousness of being on the side of right. There is in even the

fallen a remnant of the original sense of right which furnishes a ground of

appeal, and assures of responsibility. The guiltiest man in Israel knew that

to forsake Jehovah was wrong. In turning unto the Lord and seeking His

favor the people were sustained by the deep conviction of right in hope of

attaining the desired good. The moral support of such a consciousness is

great to every one. The soul that seeks holiness and eternal life may look

on with hope. A voice within declares that, being on the side of eternal

right, we must, so far, win.    The struggling Church of Christ feels the

force of the same conviction which gives the foretaste of victory.

(I must say that in the last fifty years, America’s  endeavor to be like Israel

in their degeneracy,  the proponents of this perverted change use the

argument about “being on the right side of history” when in reality, they

are neither on the right side of history, but are in a much greater danger of

being on the wrong side of ETERNITY! - CY – 2016)

 

Ø      The manifest improvement in one’s condition proportionate to desire

and effort. In so far as Israel’s desire and effort were sincere and carried

through, to that degree did the personal, domestic, and national life rise

above the baneful circumstances resulting from former sins. Every good

feeling, every tear of penitence, every casting away of idols, left its mark

on the surface of society, and indicated what might be expected if only the

reformation be carried through. God gives according to our work.

Likewise all Christian desire and effort succeed so far as they are genuine.

The acquired results of fidelity to God confirm the truth that everything

promised shall in due time be realized. Each step in the ascent heavenwards

is to a clearer view of the summit of our ambition.

 

Ø      The assured sympathy of the Great Intercessor. Perhaps nothing gave

downcast Israel so much encouragement of final restoration to God, with

its ulterior consequences, as the effort of Samuel, the chosen prophet, to

assure them of his full sympathy. He was their friend, and in him they found

solace and hope. As a prefigurement of the one true Intercessor, we see

here what reason we have for boldness. The pains which Christ has taken

to assure every earnest soul personally, and the Church collectively, of His

deep sympathy are most extraordinary. By word, deed, tears, sorrow,

death, yes, by resumed life and outpouring of the Spirit, He would have us

know that we are not alone. The past may be black and full of sadness, but

with him as Helper and Friend who may not hope on?

 

Ø      The cooperation of Providence. Providence works for men in forms

adapted to their mental and spiritual condition. Whether the thunder which

discomfited the Philistines was a special exertion of Divine power out of

the ordinary course of atmospheric changes, or a coincidence brought

about by Him who, in the primary settlement of nature, foresees His own

relations to His people, and harmonizes physical and moral lines, the result

abides. God fights for those who fight for righteousness. Providence does

not always favor the search after wealth, or pleasure, or ease, but it does

always favour the Christian in his conflict with sin. A “besom (a broom

made of twigs tied around a stick) of destruction” is being formed for use

against the forces of evil. (Compare “.....He that cometh after me...whose

fan is in His hand,......will throughly purge His floor, and gather His

wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable

fire.” – Matthew 3:11-12 – CY – 2016)  ) Never in the history of the world

has a case arisen in which defeat has come on any soul that has sincerely

trusted in God and conformed to His requirements. They that “trust in the

Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved.”  (Psalm 125:1)  The

battle is not to the strong, but to those who are under the cover of the

Almighty hand.

 

  • THE GROUNDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT, WHEN FAIRLY

BROUGHT BEFORE THE MIND, OPERATE IN TWO WAYS.

 

Ø      Retrospectively. The retrospective survey, which brings the mind in view

of facts bearing on the future, also awakens gratitude for what has been

already accomplished. It was with no formal thankfulness that Samuel

inscribed “Ebenezer;’’ and the poor wayward people, whose sins had borne

such bitter fruit, caught his spirit as they reflected on the mercy that was

proved, by recent events, not to be clean gone forever. Sinful hearts, when

penitent, love to look back on even the slightest sign of God’s love and

care. The development of gratitude itself is the introduction of a new and

helpful power in the sore conflict with sin and sorrow. If only men would

consider, by careful retrospection, WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR THEM!

Men too often dwell on their own deeds and failings, and so nourish

despondency. “Be ye thankful” is apostolic exhortation. And, despite all

defections, blunders, and disasters of the Church, how tenderly and wisely

He has led, chastened, and worked with the people called after His holy

name.  Powerful reasons still exist for the contending hosts to raise their

cheerful, grateful “Ebenezer.”

 

Ø      Prospectively. “Hitherto” is relative. There is a future term in the

thought; and its use, as the result of a survey of grounds of encouragement,

means that the heart is bracing itself for new exertions. Samuel would

work on, devising in cheerful spirit new means of further raising the

people, while they would avail themselves of his assistance to regain lost

joys and honors. A higher tone, a more vigorous effort, would mark the

coming years.

 

o       We should study more carefully the formative power of a

frequent consideration of the mercies of God and what

He has done for us!

 

o       If we honor God to the extent of our spiritual attainments,

POWER WILL COME for doing Him still greater honor.

 

 

The Stone of Help (v. 12)

 

The setting up of memorial stones was one of the earliest methods adopted

for the purpose of recording interesting and important events. These

memorials consisted of a single block or of a heap of stones; they generally

received some significant name, or were marked with a brief inscription,

and they sometimes became centers around which the people gathered, and

were replaced by more imposing structures. The earliest instance

mentioned in the Bible was at Bethel (Genesis 28:18). Other instances,

Genesis 31:45; Exodus 17:15; Joshua 4:9, 21-24; 24:26-27. This

memorial was set up:

 

  • ON THE OPPORTUNE RECEPTION OF DIVINE HELP. Looking

backward on the past, let us remember:

 

Ø      How much that help has been needed by usin sorrow, labor,

conflict, danger, which our own strength was wholly inadequate to meet.

 

Ø      How often it has been afforded when we were at the point of despair.

But why, it may be asked, should God have allowed us to arrive at such a

point?

 

o        To teach us the very truth concerning ourselves, and deliver us from a

vain confidence in ourselves. “This unfortunate self-reliance forms

within us a little favorite sanctuary, which our jealous pride keeps

closed against God, whom we receive as our last resource. But

when we become really weak and despair of ourselves, the power

of God expands itself through all our inner man, even to the most

secret recesses, filling us with all the fullness of God” (A. Monod).

 

o        To produce in us humility and submission, to excite us to fervent

prayer, and to strengthen and perfect our faith.

 

o        To afford occasion for a more impressive manifestation of His

power and grace.

 

Ø      How completely it has been adapted to our need and accomplished our

deliverance. Here we are this day, after the trouble and conflict, ourselves

monuments of His mercy! “We went through fire and through water: but

thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place” (Deuteronomy 8:2;

Psalm 66:12; 77:10; Acts 26:22).

 

  • IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF DIVINE HELP. Looking

upward to heaven, let us reflect:

 

Ø      How plainly the Source of our deliverance now appears. “Hitherto hath

the Lord helped us.” “Not with thy sword, nor with thy bow” (Joshua

24:12). His arm alone has brought salvation nigh. We see it now more

clearly than we did before, and as we meditate upon it our hearts overflow

with thankfulness. We have not always recognized the Source of our

mercies, and therefore often omitted to be thankful; but who can fail to see

these signal tokens of His power? “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,

but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake!”

(Psalm 115:1).

 

Ø      How much we owe to the God of our salvation. EVERYTHING!

 

Ø      How we can best testify the gratitude of our hearts. “What shall I render

unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me?” (Psalm 116:12).

 

o        Loud songs of praise.

o        Renewed vows of consecration.

o        Earnest written or spoken words for God.

o        Large gifts of what He has given.

o        Fresh acts of piety and beneficence.

 

These shall be the memorial we now set up.

 

  • AS A PERMANENT RECORD OF DIVINE HELP. Looking

forward to the future, let us consider:

 

Ø      How helpful the record may be to ourselves in times of conflict and trial.

For such times will come; we are liable to forget what has occurred; and

it will remind us of Him who changes not, and incite us to faith and prayer.

 

Ø      How useful it may be to others in similar circumstances. What He has

done for us He can do for them, and seeing it they “may take heart again.”

 

Ø      How conducive it may be to the glory of God. As often as we behold it

we shall be stirred to fresh thanksgiving. When we are gone it will still

endure. Others will gather around it, and ask the meaning of the “great

stone which remaineth unto this day” (ch. 6:18), and, on being

told, WILL GIVE GLORY TO GOD!   So his praise shall be perpetuated

from generation to generation, until it merge into THE ANTHEM OF

HEAVEN!

 

  • CONCLUSION.

 

Ø      Let us be thankful for the memorials of Divine help which others have

left for our benefit. They are among the greatest treasures the earth

contains, and meet our view wherever we turn.

 

Ø      Let us do something to add to these treasures, and further enrich the

earth.

 

Ø      Above all, let us seek to be ourselves the everlasting monuments of

THE DIVINE POWER AND GRACE!

 

13 “So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the

coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines

all the days of Samuel.” So the Philistines were subdued. Not completely,

for we find that they had garrisons in Israel when Saul was made king; but it

was a thorough victory for the time, and was followed up, moreover, by an

invasion of Philistia, in which Samuel recovered the towns which had been

wrested from Israel upon the western borders of Judah and Benjamin.

Moreover, the enemy came no more into the coast of Israel. That is, all

invasions ceased. And the hand of Jehovah was against the philistines

all the days of Samuel. This, of course, includes the reign of Saul, till

within four years of his death; for Samuel continued to be prophet, and to a

certain extent shophet, even when Saul was king. The words, moreover,

imply a struggle, during which there was a gradual growth in strength on

Israel’s part, and a gradual enfeeblement on the part of the Philistines, until

David completely vanquished them, though they appear again as powerful

enemies in the days of King Jehoram (II Chronicles 21:16). It is certain,

however, that fifteen or twenty years after this battle the Philistines were

again in the ascendant (ch. 13:19-23), and it was this which made

the Israelites demand a king (ch. 9:16). But it is the method of

the Divine historians to include the ultimate results, however distant, in

their account of an event (see on ch. 16:21; 17:55-58); and Israel’s freedom

and the final subjugation of the Philistines were both contained in Samuel’s

victory at Mizpah.

 

14 “And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were

restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the coasts

thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And

there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.”

From Ekron even unto Gath. Not that Israel captured these

two towns, but they mark the limits upon the borders, within which the

Philistines had previously seized towns and villages belonging to Israel, and

which Samuel now recovered. There was peace between Israel and the

Amorites. In Israel’s weakness the remains of this once powerful

Canaanitish stock had probably made many a marauding expedition into

the land, and carried off cattle and other plunder; now they sue for peace,

and unite with Israel against the Philistines.

 

 

The Victory of Ebenezer (vs. 7-14)

 

Whenever a people is set right in its relation to God and purified from its

sin, it is certain to obtain victory over its enemies and enjoy prosperity and

peace. Israel was now restored from its apostasy, and on the very spot

where it experienced an overwhelming defeat twenty years before it gained

a signal triumph. We have here:

 

  • THE GATHERING OF THE ENEMY (v. 7).

 

Ø      So long as the yoke of the ungodly is patiently borne they remain quiet,

and do not deem it needful to harass the victims of their oppression.

 

Ø      The revival of piety and activity seldom fails to call forth the fierce

opposition of evil men. The spirit of good and the spirit of evil are contrary

the one to the other, and the more intense the former becomes, the more

intense also becomes the latter. The “prince of this world” dislikes to be

deprived of his captives, and therefore seeks to prevent sinners from

coming to the Lord (Luke 9:42), and hinders saints from working for

Him (I Thessalonians 2:18).

 

Ø      The purpose for which the pious assemble is not always understood by

their enemies; their meeting for prayer is sometimes mistaken for an

organizing of a political or military attack upon them; and their union for

any purpose whatever is instinctively felt to bode them no good, and

regarded as a sufficient ground for their dispersion. “Now we see here:

 

o        How evil sometimes seems to come out of good.

o        How good is sometimes brought out of that evil.

 

Israel could never be threatened more seasonably than at this time, when

they were repenting and praying; nor could the Philistines have acted more

impoliticly for themselves than to make war upon Israel at this time, when

they were making their peace with God” (Matthew Henry).

 

  • THE PREPARATION FOR THE CONFLICT (vs. 7-9).

 

Ø      Mistrust of self. “They were afraid of the Philistines.” Their experience

of defeat and oppression had taught them their own weakness and cured

their presumption. The consciousness of human weakness is the condition

of receiving Divine strength (II Corinthians 12:10; Hebrews 11:34).

 

Ø      Trust in God. “Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us,” etc.

(v. 8). Their need impelled them to look to God, whom they called their

God, with reference to His covenant, and from whom they expected

deliverance according to the promise previously given to them (v. 3).

“They have found their God again, after whom they had till now sighed and

mourned” (Erdmann). Their urgent request of Samuel was an evidence of

their reliance on Jehovah and the proper way of seeking His aid, for Samuel

was not only a spokesman for God to men, but also a spokesman for men

to God, and he proceeded to exercise the priestly function of mediation by

offering sacrifice and making intercession.

 

Ø      Self-dedication, of which the whole burnt offering was the expression

and appointed means, the sign of complete consecration of the whole man,

and here of the whole people; the sucking lamb being a symbol of their

new life now freely devoted to God. Samuel acted as priest at Mizpah and

elsewhere by Divine commission under peculiar circumstances; the regular

priesthood being in abeyance, the ark separated from the tabernacle, Shiloh

desolate, and no other place chosen by God “to put His name there;” and as

preparatory to the time “when in every place incense shall be offered to my

name, and a pure offering” (Malachi 1:11). “A most important part of

the prophetic office was to maintain the spiritual character of the Hebrew

worship, and to prevent the degeneracy of the people into such ritualism as

they had fallen into at the time our Lord appeared” (Kitto). “Let, then, thy

oblation be without earthly affection or self-will of any kind. Look neither

to earthly nor heavenly blessings, but only to the will and order of God, to

which thou shouldst submit and sacrifice thyself wholly as a perpetual

burnt offering, and, forgetting all created things, say, ‘Behold, my Lord and

Creator, each and all of my desires I give into the hand of thy will and thine

eternal providence. Do with me as seemeth good to thee in life and death,

and after death; as in time, so in eternity’” (Scupoli).

 

Ø      Prayer. “And Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel with a piercing and

prolonged cry. And with his prayer their own rose up to heaven. “By

prayer (if thou use it well) thou wilt put a sword into the hand of God, that

He may fight and conquer for thee.” A praying army is irresistible. What

victories have been achieved by prayer! “The forty years’ domination of the

Philistines over Israel (Judges 13:1) could not be overthrown by the

supernatural strength of Samson, but was terminated by the prayers of

Samuel” (Wordsworth). Samson only began to deliver Israel (Judges

13:5); Samuel completed the work.

 

  • THE RECEPTION OF HELP (vs. 9-10).

 

Ø      It came in answer to prayer. “And the Lord answered him.”

 

Ø       It came at the moment of their greatest extremity. “And as Samuel was

offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against

Israel.” But man’s extremity is God’s opportunity (Genesis 22:11-14).

 

Ø      It came in an extraordinary manner. “The Lord thundered with a great

thunder on that day.” It was, as it were, His voice in answer to prayer. The

ordinary forces of nature operated in such a manner as to make it plainly

appear that they were directed by His hand (ch. 2:10).

 

Ø      It was most effectual. They were discomfited and smitten before Israel

(Job 40:9; Psalm 77:18).

 

  • THE PURSUIT OF THE FOE (v. 11).

 

Ø      The sense of the presence of God inspires His people with fresh

confidence and courage, and without it they can do nothing.

 

Ø      The help of God does not render their cooperation unnecessary. It

rather calls for the putting forth of their strength. He gives them strength

that it may be employed against the enemy, and in the faithful and zealous

use of it He gives them more strength, and crowns their efforts with success.

 

Ø      Victory over the enemy should be followed up to the utmost (Judges 8:4).

“They smote them until they came to Beth-car.” How often from not

following up a victory are its advantages lost!

 

  • THE MEMORIAL OF THE VICTORY (v. 12).

 

Ø      The help which is derived from God should be gratefully ascribed to Him.

 

Ø      Thanksgiving to God should be expressed in a definite and permanent form.

 

Ø      One deliverance is an earnest (pledge; down payment) of another.

 

Ø      The memorial of past deliverance should incite to future confidence, and

the continued use of the means in connection with which it was achieved.

“Hitherto”; for all Jehovah’s help is only hitherto — from day to day, and

from place to place; not unconditionally, not wholly, not once for all,

irrespective of our bearing” (Edersheim). More conflicts have to be waged,

and it is only in:

 

o        mistrust of self,

o        trust in God,

o        self-dedication, and

o        prayer

 

that they can be waged successfully. “The life of man is nothing else but a

continual warfare with temptation. And this is a battle from which, as it

ends only with life, there is no escape; and he who fights not in it is of

necessity either taken captive or slain. Because of this warfare thou must

watch always, and keep a guard upon thy heart, so that it be ever peaceful

and quiet” (Scupoli).

 

  • THE MAGNITUDE OF THE RESULT (vs. 13-14). A true revival

is always followed by beneficial and lasting effects.

 

Ø      The power of the enemy is broken. “The Philistines were subdued, and

came no more into the coasts of Israel.”

 

Ø      A sure defense is afforded against every attempt they may make to

regain their dominion. “The hand of the Lord was against them all the days

of Samuel.”

 

Ø      Lost territory is restored (v. 14). Along the whole line, extending

north and south, from Ekron to Gath.

 

Ø      Far reaching peace is established. “And there was peace between Israel

and the Amorites.” “When a man’s ways please the Lord He maketh even

his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7). The battle of

Ebenezer may be considered one of the decisive battles of the world,

inasmuch as it introduced a new order of things in Israel and contributed

in an eminent degree to its subsequent prosperity and power. “The revival

of religion has ever had a most important bearing on social and moral

improvement. The return of man to God restores him to his brother.

Restoration to the earnest and hearty performance of religious duties

towards God leads to a corresponding reformation in relative and political

duties. Those countries in the world which have had the greatest religious

reforms have advanced most in liberty, civilization, and commerce. They

are not trodden by the iron heel of despotism, and they possess the greatest

amount of domestic quiet. It was the revival of religion which secured the

Protestant succession to England, and many of the liberties which we now

enjoy. It was the revival of religion that gave such a martyr roll to the

Scottish Covenanters, and led to the revolution settlement of 1688. In

Israel every revival of religion was succeeded by national prosperity and

political independence” (R. Steel).  (I must say that, in turning our back

on God as a nation, that we are losing liberty, trade, and becoming more

uncivilized!  CY – 2016)

 

 

 

SAMUEL’S CONDUCT AS JUDGE

(vs. 15-17).

 

 

15 “And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.  16 And he went from

year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel

in all those places.” And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. As

long as Samuel lived there was no clear limitation of his powers as shophet

compared with those of Saul as king. In putting Agag to death (ch. 15:33)

he even claimed a higher authority, and though he voluntarily left as a rule all

civil and military matters to the king, yet he never actually resigned the supreme

control, and on fitting occasions even exercised it. It was, however, practically

within narrow limits that he personally exercised his functions as judge in settling

the causes of the people; for Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh were all situated in

the tribe of Benjamin. Both Bethel and Mizpah were holy spots, and so also,

probably, was Gilgal; and therefore we may conclude that it was the famous

sanctuary of that name (see ch. 11:14), and not the Gilgal mentioned, in

II Kings 2:1; 4:38. For this latter, situated to the southwest of Shiloh, near the

road to Jerusalem, had no religious importance, and would not, therefore,

 attract so many people to it as one that was frequented for sacrifice. Probably,

too, it was upon the occasion of religious solemnities that Samuel visited these

places, and heard the people’s suits.

 

17 “And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he

judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.”

His return was to Ramah. We have seen that Elkanah was a

large landholder there, and Samuel had now apparently succeeded to his

father’s place. And there he built an altar unto Jehovah. This old

patriarchal custom (Genesis 12:7) long continued, and it was only

gradually that local shrines and worship on high places were superseded by

attendance upon the temple services at Jerusalem. At this time there was

especial need for such altars. The established worship at Shiloh had been

swept away, the town destroyed, the priests put to the sword, and the ark,

though restored, was resting in a private dwelling. Probably Samuel had

saved the sacred vessels, and much even of the tabernacle, but no mention

of them is here made. We see, however, both in the erection of this altar

and all through Samuel’s life, that the Aaronic priesthood was in abeyance,

and that he was not only prophet and judge, but also priest. In thus

restoring the priesthood in his own person he was justified not merely by

his powers as prophet, but by necessity. Gradually, with more prosperous

times, matters returned to their regular channel; but even when Ahiah, the

grandson of Eli, was with Saul (ch. 14:3), he was employed not

for the offering of sacrifice, but for divining with the Urim and Thummim.

On a most important occasion the offering of sacrifice is spoken of as

undoubtedly Samuel’s right, and when he delayed his coming no mention is

made of a priest, but Saul is said to have offered the victim himself (ch. 13:9).

It is plain, therefore, that we must not tie down the priesthood too tightly to

the house of Aaron; for throughout there lies in the background the idea of

a higher priesthood, and with this Samuel was invested, as being a type of

Him who is a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedek (compare ch. 2:35).

 

 

First Fruits of Repentance (vs. 13-17)

 

The facts are:

 

1. Israel enjoys freedom from the oppression of the Philistines and regain lost cities.

2. Their restless ancestral enemy the Amorite is quiet.

3. Samuel quietly and happily attends to his civil functions.

4. Ramah, the home of Samuel, is blessed with an altar to Jehovah.

 

The mention of these suggestive facts immediately after the reference to the call

to repentance and its response exhibit the natural results of the efforts of

prophet and people. A fruitful theme is given.

 

  • IN RELATION TO ISRAEL THESE FRUITS WERE MOST

IMPORTANT; just such as a nation might well prize. An active, powerful

foe was held in restraint. Territory and cities were restored to the

government and general influence of a true man of God. Their fathers’ foe,

who disputed the march of Joshua, and ever lay as a savage beast by their

side, was controlled by an unseen hand.  (“When a man’s ways please the

Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”  - Proverbs

16:7)  An orderly and beneficent civil administration, diligently maintained

on religious principles, was enjoyed by the various districts, and the

residence of the ruler of the people was conspicuously a center of religious

influence. Blessed fruits of national repentance! When will nations learn the

clear lessons of this precious book of God?

 

  • IN RELATION TO THE RELIGIOUS LIFE OF CHRISTIANS

THESE FACTS ARE FULL OF SIGNIFICANCE. It is not wise to seek

out spiritual meanings from every simple historic fact in the Old Testament.

Plain history is not given as a religious enigma to be solved by some

transcendental insight. Yet there are analogies between national and

individual life, and principles of holiness and righteousness work in the

same directions in both. As there is a Babylon both spiritual and historical,

so there is the Philistine and Amorite of our great warfare. As treasures

change hands in Israel’s conflict, so there are valuable possessions in man

which may be dominated by opposing powers. Thus, then, we may

consider some of the firstfruits of repentance in Christian life.

 

Ø      The great world power is largely subdued and cast off. The man who in

his life has passed through what Israel did in answer to Samuel’s call finds

that the evil influences of the world around have less hold on him. They are

repressed. Their force has been weakened, if not annihilated.

 

Ø      Faculties once governed by unhallowed tendencies are restored to the

rightful ruler. There are, so to speak, cities — seats of power and resource

— in every man’s nature. While in a sinful course of life these are

dominated largely by principles alien to God, and adverse to true

self-interest:  true repentance brings every faculty, thought, and desire into a

willing subordination to Him whose right it is to reign.  (Ezekiel 21:27)

The soul is a “holy land” in which Christ is King.

 

Ø      Deep seated, corrupt passions are quieted. There are ancient, very

corrupt passions of a fleshly character embedded in human nature. These

Amorites of our experience are unusually powerful during a life of sinful

indulgence. They grow fat and flourish. One of the first consequences of

the new life is to tone them down. The causes of their extreme activity and

restlessness are partially removed. A strong hand holds them down in

comparative quietude. Their destiny, like that of Israel’s cruel foe, is to be

utterly destroyed; but even now, compared with former almost irresistible

aggressions, there is peace with them.

 

Ø      A considerable degree of prosperity and order is maintained. The

reformed soul has law administered within itself. Every interest, every

claim of striving powers and tendencies, is considered and decided in

harmony with the law of Christ.  (“But I keep under my body, and

bring it into subjection...” - I Corinthians 9:27)  The intellect does not

absorb the time and energy due to the culture of the emotions, and vice versa.

To some degree the inner man is in an orderly, prosperous condition. He is

an improved being.

 

Ø      The holy, elevating power of devotion is cherished at the center of

influence.  Samuel’s home was the center of influence in Israel, and it was

made by express arrangement conspicuously devout. There is in our nature

a seat of supreme influence. The faculties and tendencies of the soul act in

subordination to the commanding affection of life. True repentance issues

in the heart becoming the seat of a powerful influence dominating all else.

There is an altar there on which the inextinguishable fire burns, filling with

its heavenly, glory the entire man. “Old things have passed away; all things

are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17)  Are these fruits found in all lives

called Christian? They ought to be, and are, if “Christian” is more than a

name.

 

 

Samuel the Judge (vs. 15-17)

 

The “judges” of Israel were deliverers from oppression, leaders in war,

perpetual dictators in national affairs, and supreme arbiters in judicial

matters. “All that was greatest in those times was certainly due to them,

and some of their names shine eternally like bright stars in the long night of

a troubled age” (Ewald, ‘History’). Of these judges Samuel was the last

and greatest. His superiority appears in:

 

1. The character he possessed. He was free from the vices into which some

of the most distinguished amongst them fell, and surpassed them in the

virtues they exhibited. He had higher conceptions of God and His law, held

more intimate communion with Him, and was altogether of a nobler type of

human excellence. His constant aim was to do the will of God; he was

upright in heart and life, humble, patient, generous, and full of disinterested

zeal and holy energy in seeking the true welfare of men. In these respects

he approached as nearly, perhaps, as any of the servants of God under the

old covenant the perfection of Jesus Christ who was “without sin.”

 

2. The method he pursued. As he effected the deliverance of Israel not by

the sword, but by “the word of God and prayer,” so he continued to make

use of the same means as the most effective in preserving their liberty and

increasing their strength and happiness. His method was moral rather than

physical. He taught them “to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with

their God” (Micah 6:8). His policy was one of peace, and he relied on

God to restrain the aggression of surrounding nations, and afford

protection against their attacks. Nor was his trust misplaced.

 

3. The work he accomplished. Idolatry, which was rebellion against the

Divine King, was banished. The principles of the theocracy were

confirmed. Order, justice, and peace were established; and closer unity

prevailed among the tribes, based upon their common loyalty to their King.

“This was the great achievement and crowning point of his service to Israel

and the God of Israel; the scattered and disunited tribes became again a

nation. The rival tribes Ephraim and Judah make common cause against the

common enemy, and the more distant tribes do not seem to withhold their

allegiance” (Milman). The labors of Samuel as judge are here summed up

in a few sentences, suggestive of some things wherein he was an instructive

example to rulers, statesmen, magistrates, and “all that are in authority.”

(I Timothy 2:1-2)  Notice:

 

  • HIS SUPREME CONCERN FOR RELIGION. Samuel was first a

prophet, then a “faithful priest,” finally a ruler and judge. “His judicial

work not only proceeded from the prophetical, but was constantly guided

by it. For we may presume not only that he gave legal decisions with

prophetical wisdom, but also that, in general, he conducted the affairs of

the people as a man who had THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD!  (Nagelsbach).

At the different places to which “he went from year to year in circuit:”

 

o       Bethel,

o       Gilgal, and

o       Mizpah,

 

he probably taught the word of God and offered sacrifice, combining his

prophetic and priestly with his judicial work. At Ramah he built an altar

to the Lord, “testifying thereby the power from which alone he could

receive either the authority or wisdom to judge.” The position of Samuel

was peculiar, and his work unusually comprehensive; but it may be observed

of every good civil magistrate that:

 

Ø      He is qualified for his office by his possession of reverence for God. “He

that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (II Samuel

23:3). He feels his responsibility to the supreme King and Judge, by whose

providence he has been placed in authority, and has constant regard to His

will.

 

Ø      His personal piety pervades his public activity. The one is not separated

from the other, but is its animating spirit, and thereby he seeks to afford in

his judgments a reflection of THE PERFECT JUDGMENT OF GOD!

 

Ø      His highest desire, knowing that “righteousness exalteth a nation”

(Proverbs 14:34), is to see the people all righteous. That end, he is

persuaded, cannot be attained by force; but, as a godly man, he ever

seeks it by moral means; and, in his public capacity, he endeavors to

do something towards it by restraining the violence of the wicked and

protecting the good in their labors “unto the kingdom of God.”

 

  • HIS FAITHFUL ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE. In the theocracy

the laws were already given, and Samuel’s judicial work consisted in

arranging for their proper administration, in which he doubtless availed

himself of the method formerly appointed (Deuteronomy 16:18-20),

reserving to himself the proper interpretation and application of them in

more difficult and important cases. For this purpose he went to different

centers of the land at stated times, and “judged Israel in all those places.”

He has been not inappropriately called the Hebrew Aristides. Like him,

the faithful magistrate:

 

Ø      Strives to bring justice within easy reach of every man.

 

Ø      Administers it wisely, impartially, fearlessly, without respect of persons

(Exodus 18:21-22; II Chronicles 19:5-7; Jeremiah 22:3).

 

Ø      Devotes himself disinterestedly and diligently to the common weal (ch.

12:3). “The Hebrew judges were not only simple in their manners,

moderate in their desires, and free from avarice and ambition, but they

were noble and magnanimous men, who felt that whatever they did for

their country was above all reward, and could not be recompensed; who

desired merely to be public benefactors, and chose rather to deserve well

of their country than to be enriched by its wealth” (Jahn, ‘Hebrews Com.,’

sect. 22).

 

  • HIS WISE PROVISION FOR EDUCATION. During the period of

his judgeship Samuel appears to have established one or more “schools of

the prophets,” in which he taught young men sacred knowledge, and, in

connection with it, reading, writing, and music, thus preparing them to give

instruction to the people, which the Levites had failed to do (ch. 10:10; 19:20).

So a wise statesman, seeing that “for the soul to be without knowledge is not

 good  (Proverbs 19:2), and that “the people are destroyed for lack of

knowledge(Hosea 4:6,14),  adopts proper means for:

 

Ø      the education of the young,

Ø      the diffusion of knowledge, and

Ø      the advancement of the race (Psalm 78:5-8).

 

“Education is the debt which one generation owes to another” (J.S. Mill).

The schools of the prophets “were hearths of spiritual life to Israel.

Their aim was not to encourage a contemplative life (like the cloisters), but

to arouse the nation to activity. Every prophetic disciple was a missionary”

(Hengstenberg).

 

  • HIS CONSISTENT CONDUCT AT HOME. “And his return was to

Ramah; for there was his house; and there he built an altar unto the Lord”

(v. 17). There, also, he continued his judicial labors. The faithful

magistrate, whilst he does not allow his public duty to interfere with proper

attention to his duty to his own household, seeks to make the latter helpful

to the former. He exemplifies in his private life the conduct he openly

commends to others, and “walks in his house with a perfect heart”

(Psalm 101:2). Though he be not a Nazarite, he is simple, self-denying,

and unostentatious in his habits; and though he be not wealthy, he is kind

to the poor, hospitable to friends (ch. 9:24), and liberal towards

the Lord (I Chronicles 26:28: “all that Samuel the seer had

dedicated). He recognizes the presence and claims of God in his home,

sanctifies it by prayer (Job 1:5), endeavors to make it a center whence

holy influences emanate to all, and does all things to the glory of God

(I Corinthians 10:31). “The indispensable basis afforded by the home

and its eternal sanctity no superior religion and legislation should seek to

destroy, or even to disturb; and, on a comprehensive survey, we cannot fail

to recognize that there is no other ancient nation in which, during the days

of external power, domestic life remained for a long period so vigorous;

and, secondly, during the gradual decline of the external power, became so

little weakened and corrupted as was the case with Israel” (Ewald,

‘Antiquities’).

 

  • HIS LONG CONTINUANCE IN OFFICE. “And Samuel judged Israel

all the days of his life” (v. 15). “Simple words, but what a volume of tried

faithfulness is unrolled by them!” He pursued his course till he was “old

and gray headed” (ch. 12:2) — nearly twenty years from the

victory of Ebenezer. The appointment of a king relieved him of a portion of

the burden; but he still continued to exercise his prophetic office, and, “as

last judge, he held in his hands the highest control of the theocracy and the

kingdom.” He devoted his last years to the training of youthful disciples for

future service; and when at length he died, “all the Israelites were gathered

together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah.”

(ch. 25:1)  His protracted labor was an evidence of his public spirit,

indomitable energy, and efficient service, and the principal means of raising

the nation to its subsequent power and glory.

 

 

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