1 Sam 7:1-17 – Samuel Judges Israel

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1Sam 7:1

  1. The ark of the Lord was a gilded chest that contained, among other things, the stone tablets with the commandments (Exodus 25:10-22).
  2. Many other peoples around Israel carried various symbols of their gods with them when they went into battle, and unfortunately Israel imitated this when they believed that they would be victorious as long as they carried the ark of the Lord (1 Sam 4:3). As a result, they lost both the battle and the ark for a period of time. What we can learn from this is that God cannot be controlled by symbols, relics, rituals or the like. It is not possible to say a spell and believe that these very words will heal, you do not become a Christian just because you carry a cross, God does not defeat the enemy just because you carry the ark. God blesses those who humbly believe in God and turn to him directly, not those who try to control God through various rituals.

1Sam 7:2

  1. After Israel had lost the ark, it was in the possession of the Philistines, which caused them great trouble (1 Sam 5) and eventually led to their being forced to return the ark to Israel (1 Sam 6).
  2. Instead of bringing the Ark to its proper place in Silo, the Ark is in Abinadab’s house for 20 years. It seems that Israel needed this long time to repent and come to terms with God.
    1. Although it is not explicitly stated in Samuel, it may also be that the city of Shiloh had already been destroyed by the Philistines at this point and that it was therefore not possible to bring the ark to Shiloh (Jer 26:6, 9, Ps 78:60).

1Sam 7:3

  1. Even though Israel had now gotten the ark of the Lord back, they still had problems with the Philistines. Here the prophet Samuel shows that God’s blessing does not depend on whether or not you have the ark, but on whether you have your heart set on the Lord.
    1. Previously, Israel had been more interested in God’s ark than God himself.
  2. Repentance is partly about turning to God in one’s “heart”, but also about getting rid of the “foreign gods”. Repentance begins in the heart, but does not stop there, but has concrete consequences in how one lives. But it is also important to remember that conversion without one or the other is a false conversion.
    1. This conversion, which began in the heart and eventually turned out in practice, has similarities with “faith and baptism”. To become a disciple of Jesus, one must first “believe in one’s heart” and then “be baptized”. The faith one has within is confirmed by being baptized.
  3. Every person who repents of a past life of sin needs to review his or her life and consider what needs to be made up and possibly left.
    1. There are always things in one’s life, culture and tradition that are either “ungodly”, “neutral” or “righteous”. If one has lived ungodly or worshipped other gods in the past, one must of course stop doing so if one wants to follow God, but there are also neutral things that one does not necessarily have to stop doing just because one repents.
      1. For example, there is not necessarily anything wrong with celebrating the Swedish holiday “Midsummer”, even if that holiday is not biblical. Gathering together, eating good food and celebrating that it is summer is not necessarily wrong, this is “neutral” so to speak. However, there are certain elements of Midsummer celebrations that seem undeniably derived from paganism, such as dancing around an “ungodly” phallus symbol. I would advise against this aspect of Midsummer celebrations. To make the celebration more “righteous”, one could, for example, treat the poor to good food or something similar.
  4. We also understand from this text that Israel’s problem was not the Philistines, but their own heart. No enemy is surmountable if one’s heart is turned to the Lord.
  5. Israel probably did not consider that they abandoned God when they began to worship other gods, since they continued to worship God. But God does not tolerate sharing his faith with anyone but himself and wanted Israel to serve him alone.
    1. Even today, it may be worth considering whether there is anything in life that you hold higher or as high as God, because then it risks acting as an “idol”. God wants to be number one in our lives and does not want us to allow anything else in our lives to be more important than Him. For example, if you only think about God on Sunday morning and then totally ignore God for the rest of the week, it might be worth considering what is most important in life.

1Sam 7:4

  1. “Baal” was a Canaanite god of weather and fertility and the name translates as “lord”.
  2. “Astarte” was a fertility goddess of the Phoenicians and the other peoples around Israel.
    1. The people of Israel probably prayed to these gods for good weather so that they would have good harvests and so that they would have good love lives. Income and love are probably what people today struggle to achieve as well. Of course, there is nothing wrong with wishing for a good income and someone to marry, but one should not seek help with this from the wrong direction. God has the power to give us what we need and there is no need whatsoever to ask any idol for help with this.
  3. Israel has had countless troubles with idolatry throughout its long history, but at least on this occasion it seems that they actually did get rid of the idols and turned to the Lord.

1Sam 7:5

  1. Mizpah was located in central Israel, not far from Jerusalem, and was the place where Jacob and Laban were reconciled, but also separated (Gen 31:49). It was also a place where Israel had previously gathered to go to battle after they had repented (Judges 20:1).
  2. Israel had repented and is now beginning the new life of prayer. Simply stopping doing wrong is not enough, one must also start doing right.

1Sam 7:6

  1. Pouring out water before the Lord symbolized that they poured out their heart and truly repented (Lam 2:19). The fact that they also fasted reinforces this symbolism (Joel 2:12).

1Sam 7:7-8

  1. The Philistines hear that Israel has repented and humbled itself before the Lord. Perhaps they saw this as a sign of weakness and thought it would be an opportunity to strike at Israel and defeat them.
    1. But what the Philistines did not understand was that a weak and humble Israel with God on its side is infinitely more difficult to defeat than a militarily strong Israel without God (2 Corinthians 12:10).
  2. However, even Israel had not fully understood this and is horrified when they hear that the Philistines are about to attack.
    1. When we are weak in ourselves but trust in the strength of the Lord, we are infinitely stronger than when we think we are so strong that we no longer need the Lord.
  3. Don’t let it come as a surprise that the devil attacks you when you are right with God. When you live far away from God, it’s no wonder the devil never attacks you, but that’s because you’re exactly where he wants you to be.
  4. In the past, Israel was confident when they trusted the ark of the Lord to give them victory, but then they lost (1 Sam 4). Now they have learned their lesson and understand that God cannot be controlled by carrying the ark with them. Now they repent and humble themselves before the Lord, asking for God’s help to win the victory.
    1. Instead of relying on a symbol or a ritual (the ark of the Lord), they now turn directly to God for help.
  5. Even if we are small and weak in ourselves, we are strong if God is with us. Even if we face an overwhelming enemy, we need not be afraid as long as God is with us.

1Sam 7:10

  1. Before Samuel prayed, he offered a sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of the people. In the same way, we can draw closer to God because Jesus, our sacrificial lamb, died on the cross and took away our sins.
  2. Previously, Israel had turned to the weather god Baal for help, but now that they have rejected Baal and turned to the Lord, God is showing them who is the real God and the only one who has real power over the weather.
  3. Although it was Israel who did the fighting, this victory was won by God, not by Israel. Without the thunderstorm and the confusion among the Philistines, Israel would never have won.

1Sam 7:12

  1. “Eben-Haezer”, also better known as “Ebeneser”, means “stone of help” and symbolizes that God helped Israel.
  2. The help stone symbolized that God had helped Israel so far, but also that he will help Israel in the future.
  3. There is a great difference in the use of symbols when comparing the ark of the Lord and this stone. Here Samuel shows that it is good to let a symbol remind us of God’s blessing, but it is not okay to think that the symbol itself automatically leads to blessing.

1Sam 7:13

  1. Samuel was not a mighty military man, he was just a man who turned to the Lord, yet he accomplished more than any wicked general could do.
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