1 Samuel 7:2-13
When we return to the Lord, it is easy to expect a free pass from difficulty for a time. We think, “Now that God is for me (Romans 8:31), life will be easy.” Part of the problem is a muddled evangelistic presentation that makes promises that God does not. Another source is that self-centeredness is the attitude of the times. We suppose we have denied ourselves (Mark 8:34), when we have only taken the initial step of a lifelong journey in self-denial. God does not call us to a life of ease. Salvation involves service of the living God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). To be saved is not to be given assurance of party time in this world (John 16:33).
From a Biblical perspective, then, we can understand that after a revival, we might experience crisis (7:7-11). The enemies of God and his people are always seeking opportunities (7:7). From their point of view, the Philistines probably sensed danger in the religious assembly of Israel. The children of evil are shrewd in their observations. In our day, they know that a renewed church would upset their evil plans, so they strike constantly at us. Notice carefully that this crisis came when the people were returning to the Lord. How often evil seems to accompany what is good. God does not automatically make trouble disappear when we repent. He uses troubles to give us occasion to exercise our renewed faith. A change of mind on your part does not require God to dissolve all your troubles in an instant. He has an eternal plan. If you find yourself asking, “Then why bother to repent?” perhaps you should consider that you have not yet changed your mind. Your eternal relationship with God is the primary issue, not the disappearance of your temporary crisis.
So then, the crisis became an opportunity to express their faith in God (7:8). They sought the means of prayer in old covenant fashion, looking to a mediator like Samuel or Moses on other occasions. In the new covenant, our only mediator is the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). The key was that they relied on the Lord to rescue them. When we stop saying, “How are we going to handle this problem?” and pray and ask, “Lord, we trust you to handle this problem”, then we have made spiritual progress.
God helped his people (7:9-11). He helped his people while the old covenant sacrifice was being offered. God didn’t wait until the ritual was finished. God is free to act when he pleases. God used an extraordinary means—thunder. If you’ve ever lived around the Great Lakes in the summer, you know how awesome thunder can be! When God himself pushed the “thunder” button to rout an army, it must have been spectacular! How easily are the most supposedly bold people overwhelmed by lightning and thunder or ice and snow! All scoffers can try jousting with hurricanes and tornadoes, if they please. The men of Israel had only to do a mop-up operation. Where did they get their weapons? There were probably many to pick up that the Philistines had thrown down in their panic.
Hope was the outcome (7:12-13). They looked at the past. It is wise to stop and remember what God has done. Hopefully, you concluded last year by taking time to thank God for all the benefits he gave you in 2016. It is wise to be God-focused in our remembrances. “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” We need to approach our every gathering with Christ’s followers as being “in the presence of God”. This rejuvenates all our worship.
God’s past work induced them to look toward the future. The stone acted as a means to keep on recalling how God had helped them to this point. I have seen God help Sharon and I year after year. Up to this point, we can say, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” My brothers and sisters in Christ, since God has helped us up to this point, year after year, don’t you think he is able to help us again in 2017? God’s faithfulness in the past and present is a sign pointing to his help in the future. God has more grace and greater grace to lavish upon us!
So join with me! Let us joyfully raise up a figurative Ebenezer, a stone of help, as we begin 2017! Let us have hope in God, for we will still praise him together! Let us confidently expect the exceeding riches of God’s sovereign grace to be poured out on us, his dearly loved people. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, David