1 Samuel 7:1-12
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…
The whole interest of this passage is moral. No stress is laid on the forms, or even the authorised 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.
I. 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 For twenty years the ark had been withdrawn, and under the yoke of the Philistines the spirit of Israel seemed to be quelled and stupefied.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 favourable 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.
II. REPENTANCE PREACHED AND PRACTISED. 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 (ver. 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 favour be gained by mere words and empty sighs.
III. 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.
IV. 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. 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, endeavouring 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.
V. 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." 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 the battles of principle, 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. It is a true and wise impulse which has often led Christians to commemorate a great deliverance or consolation vouchsafed to themselves by building a church, an hospital, or an almshouse, or by founding a mission, or 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. - F.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.