Read 1 Samuel 7
1 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. 2 The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.
Samuel Subdues the Philistines at Mizpah
Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. 3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.
5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.
7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. 8 They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.
10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.
12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
13 So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. 14 The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to Israel, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
15 Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.
1 Samuel 7 is a chapter where we see anxiety turn to peace. The Israelites had turned from God and disobeyed His commands, worshipping other gods and disobeying the Lord’s instruction to keep the ark of the covenant in the temple (they instead put it in Abinadab’s house). Turning from God led to a frenzy. The Philistine enemy was still approaching, the Israelites were fearful for their lives, and they did not have much direction.
Then, Samuel spoke up. He told the Israelites to direct their hearts to the Lord and serve Him only, and He would deliver them out of the hand of the Philistines (v. 3). To do so would require them to put their idols of worldly value away. Baals were thought to bring good weather, wealth, and crops; and Ashtoreth were thought to bring fertility. The empty promises of these false gods were distracting the people from their true God. They walked away from what was enslaving them and poured out water to symbolize their souls’ emptiness and need. They prayed to the Lord, confessed, and fasted. These actions showed the Lord that He was greater than all other things, and they were ready to serve Him only.
Though they were now right with God, they were still afraid of their enemy. The Philistines were a big threat, but thankfully, we have a bigger God. The Israelites’ fervent prayers for protection were answered. “The Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel” (v. 10). God fought the battle for them as Israel prayed for deliverance. The same is true for us. Though we may not always hear God at work through a booming voice, He is always working on His peoples’ behalf. He graciously fights our battles with us and for us as we turn to Him. Samuel marked this truth with an Ebenezer stone – a stone of help. The Ebenezer stone was a reminder for how God alone delivered His repentant and humble people.
Now that the Lord defeated the enemy in battle and His people relied on Him, the cities were restored. There was peace. We would think that the people would now be content in God alone, but as we read on in the coming days, the story looks a little different.
- The people were either in a state of straying away from God or drawing closer with repentance; what state are you in today?
- Are there any areas of your life where you are trusting in worldly values and empty promises?
- Ebenezer stones were a reminder of God’s help. Think back to ways the Lord has helped you and spend time in prayer thanking Him for His deliverance.
As Samuel continues to judge the Israelites, he continues to erect the Ebenezer stone to remind the people of God’s power and protection. To read more about the Ebenezer stone, check out this resource from GotQuestions.org.
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