Does it seem like even small progress in your Christian life takes a long time? You're not alone!
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1 Samuel 7 (ESV)
1 And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill.
And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord.
2 From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed,
some twenty years,
and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.
3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel,
“If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart,
then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you
and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only,
and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.”
6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there,
“We have sinned against the Lord.”
And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.
7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel.
And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines.
8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel,
“Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us,
that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.”
9 So Samuel
took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord.
cried out to the Lord for Israel,
and the Lord answered him.
10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering,
the Philistines drew near to attack Israel.
But the Lord
thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines
and threw them into confusion,
they were defeated before Israel.
11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car.
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen
and called its name Ebenezer;
for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”
13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel.
And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath,
and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines.
There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.
16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah.
And he judged Israel in all these places.
17 Then he would return to Ramah,
for his home was there,
and there also he judged Israel.
And he built there an altar to the Lord.
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1 Samuel 7 Summary
The Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant, the physical representation of God's presence on earth, after the Israelites had tried to use it as a magic weapon. Yet when the Philistines tried to subordinate the Lord by adding him to their collection of gods, they were afflicted with tumors and rats.
So finally the Philistines admitted defeat, sending the Ark back along with gifts to atone for their theft.
So everything was hunky-dory and good times were had by all? Nope.
Twenty years of melancholy ensue. Nothing of significance happens. It took two decades for Israel to realize what it meant to fully repent and give up their dependence upon the world's ways (the gods Samuel instructed the people to put away (v3) were economic tools as much as they were religious idols).
But the difference in Israel's attitude is noticeable. Once again, the Philistines are ready to attack, and once again the Israelites call out for help, but notice the difference from their cry twenty years earlier:
Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies. (4:3)
versus 20 years later:
Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines. (7:8)
It took 20 years to accomplish that little - but very important - grammatical change in the hearts of God's people. Be reminded that sanctification often takes a long time. Make every effort to speed that process up in your life, but also don't forget to be patient with yourself and others.
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I've come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
The opening phrase of the second verse of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing sounds weird to our modern years, but in today's chapter we're reminded what it means.
Look back often at the Ebenezer's in your life: baptisms, professions of faith, quiet times at the Lord's Table, and others to be reminded of how it's by His help you've come through life.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father God thunders with a mighty sound against His enemies (v10)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God for the Ebenezers in your life, and pray for strength on the long, slow road of sanctification.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: