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The First Book of Samuel (16)

J Riddle, Cheshunt

Chapter 7.1-17 THE PHILISTINES DEFEATED (cont)

3) Invasion (v.7)

Spiritual progress always attracts the enemy. It poses a threat to Satan’s interests, and he will do everything possible to reduce God’s people to weakness and subservience. The Philistines attack! It is remarkable, but not altogether surprising, how often progress is immediately tested. Hezekiah’s sweeping and successful reforms were followed by an Assyrian invasion: "After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities" (2 Chr 32.1). The reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah, was followed by backsliding. If your spiritual life is healthy, be particularly careful and prayerful. You are in the direct line of attack!

4) Intercession (vv.8-9)

"And the children of Israel said unto Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. 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." Let’s look at these two important verses as follows.

How Israel spoke to Samuel (v.8)

God’s people were deeply conscious of their inadequacy, but they recognised that Samuel was a man in touch with God, and could represent them before Him. Later generations also knew this to be the case (see Ps 99.6; Jer 15.1). James reminds us that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (Jas 5.16). Samuel’s priestly ministry reminds us that we have a "great high priest" who has "entered…heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Heb 4.14; 9.24). We should now notice:

The urgency of their request. "Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us." They were in earnest. Their national survival was at stake. Twenty years before, the Philistines had proved utterly superior in battle, and had evidently retained their mastery over Israel. Emerods and mice had not brought a long-term change in their attitude to God’s people. No wonder they were "afraid of the Philistines". But at least they recognised their peril. So often we fail to even realise that danger exists. The spiritual forces which oppose us vary their tactics, but their overall objective is to rob us of spiritual power and effectiveness. Notice, too, that their sense of urgency prompted them to request ongoing prayer. "Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us" (see Col 4.2).

The basis of their request. Their cry was based on a proper relationship with the Lord. They had "put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only" (v.4). Hence their request, "Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us". Twenty years before they said, "Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies"(4.3). But now it is "the Lord our God...he will save us".

The specific nature of their request. There is nothing like danger to focus our prayers! "Save us out of the hand of the Philistines." They had certainly got their priorities right! The early church did the same. "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word" (Acts 4.29).

How Samuel spoke to the Lord (v.9)

Samuel displayed the same urgency. He "cried unto the Lord", and we must carefully notice the basis on which "the Lord heard him". Samuel’s intercession rested on the excellence of the sacrifice he offered. "And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt-offering wholly unto the Lord." In the case of the sin-offering, the sin of the offerer was transferred to the offering, but in the case of the burnt-offering, the excellence of the offering was transferred to the offerer. It reminds us that we are "accepted in the beloved" (Eph 1.6). Like our prayers, Samuel’s intercession was accepted because of the worthiness of Christ. Let us remember that the value of His death extended backwards through time, as well as forward to our own generation and beyond. We are not therefore surprised to read, "…and the Lord heard him". When we pray "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ", we are stating the ground on which God hears and answers our prayers. It is not some kind of suitable postscript to our prayers.

5) Intervention (vv.10-14)

Read these verses. Centuries before, God "cast down great stones from heaven upon them (the southern Canaanite kings)...they were more which died with hailstones then they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword" (Josh 10.11). Israel’s God was "the Lord of hosts" (1 Sam 1.3), "Who governs all the powers of heaven, both visible and invisible, as He rules in heaven and earth". In the Old Testament, He used hail (Josh 10.11), thunder (1 Sam 7.10), and stars (Judg 5.20) to defeat the enemies of His people. On other occasions He used angels (2 Chr 32.21). The final intervention in world affairs will be quite different. He will intervene personally and directly (Rev 19.11-21).

Notice the sequel to divine intervention. There was remembrance of God’s help (v.12), repression of the enemy (v.13), and restoration of territory (v.14). The Amorites were the most powerful of the Canaanite tribes. The peace with Israel was probably recognition by the Amorites of Israel’s new strength. These were the results of renewed devotion to God. It gave Israel victory over their enemies, and ongoing strength. It will yield the same results for us too. These three things were accompanied by regularity of ministry (vv.15-17). We will, however, make this our final major point, and call it:

6) Itinerancy (vv.15-17)

Samuel was an itinerant preacher. "He went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places." These places were fairly close together in the south of the land. There are at least three things to notice here.

The duration of Samuel’s ministry

He "judged Israel all the days of his life". What a marvellous testimony! It is remarkable particularly because we do not have a detailed record of his work after the defeat of the Philistines at Mizpeh, and events leading to the anointing of Saul. His record was "on high". We must emulate Samuel, and serve God faithfully, whether or not our service is noted on earth.

The circuit of Samuel’s ministry

His annual "circuit" took him to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpeh. These are all places that we should visit regularly!

We should visit Bethel, and listen to Jacob (read Gen 28.16-17). There wasn’t a brick in sight, but it was "the house of God"! It was a sacred place. God was there (1 Tim 3.15). The "house of God" is still a sacred place! Remember, the "house of God" today is the "people, not the steeple!" (David Newell).

We should visit Gilgal. It was there that circumcision was reinstituted (Josh 5.1-9). Paul sums up its significance: "We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil 3.3). Circumcision was a sign of no confidence in self, and complete confidence in God: hence the removal of part of the literal flesh. We need to be constantly reminded that "without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb 11.6). We ought to spend considerable time at Gilgal.

We should visit Mizpeh. This was the place of victory over the enemy. But it was a divinely-achieved victory. "The Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines." This just reminds us that "greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 Jn 4.4). It also reminds us of 1 Corinthians 1.29. We must never forget that victory can only be accomplished by divine power. Let us raise our "Eben-ezer"!

The base of Samuel’s ministry

Samuel was based at home! "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." So he lived at Ramah, he served at Ramah, and he worshipped at Ramah. Ramah means "the high place". Our "high place" is heaven itself, and we must "seek those things which are above", and set our "affection on things above" (Col 3.1-2). Sadly, we shall see in ch.8 that godliness does not run in the blood.

To be continued.


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