Posted by: admin on Sat, Nov 19, 2011
from brother Earl Adams
1 Samuel 7:1-7:17
OPEN: The story’s told of an old Navajo Indian who had had the good fortune to have oil discovered on his land. He became a very wealthy man as a result, but wealth did not change him. He went on living just as he was before. In the meantime, the money piled up in the bank.
But every now and then the old man would visit the bank and say to the banker, "Crops all dried up; sheep all dead; cattle all stolen."
The banker would smile and take the old man into the vault, he’d sit him at a table and place several bags of silver dollars in front of him and leave him alone for awhile for the Indian to count his silver.
After a while the man would come out and say, "Crops fine; sheep all alive; cattle all back."
APPLY: Every once in a while, people need to be reminded of things.
Throughout the Bible God’s people are told to remember things
In Number 15:38-39 for example God tells Moses "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will REMEMBER all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.’”
* In Deuteronomy 8:2 Israel was told “REMEMBER how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart.”
* Deuteronomy 5:15 - “REMEMBER that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm…”
* Deuteronomy 15:15 “REMEMBER that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you.”
* Psalm 105:5 “REMEMBER the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced”
And in the New Testament Revelation 3:3 declares “REMEMBER, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent…”
Remember, Remember, Remember.
Now, in our text today we find that the Israelites needed to be reminded of a couple of things.
It tells us here that “… the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD. They took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the LORD. It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD.” I Samuel 7:1-2
Why did they mourn and seek God?
Because they remembered something… but we’ll discuss that a little later.
For right now let’s revue the events that led up to this story.
The bible tells us that before Samuel became the priest at the teabernacle- the tabernacle had been run by a priest named Eli and his sons. Eli’s sons – Hophni and Phineas – had stolen from the sacrifices and had slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.
God was understandably upset. And He told Eli he was going to replace him – and that, as a sign of His judgment, Eli’s sons would both die in a single day…
What happened was this:
The Israelites and the Philistines got into a fight on the plains of Aphek. Israel lost 4000 soldiers in the battle and they were losing badly. The elders of Israel decided it would be a good idea to bring ark of the covenant, and so they sent back to Hophni and Phineas to bring the Ark to the battle field, in the hopes that God would save them from defeat.
Well, that didn’t work out real well.
Not only did Israel lose 30,000 more soldiers but Hophni and Phineas died on the battlefield as well. And even worse – the Philistines captured the ark and took it home with them.
For the next few weeks the Philistines tried to show off their new trophy – the ark of God. Unfortunately for them God wasn’t into show and tell. Everywhere the Philistines took the ark – the cities became overrun with rats and the people in those cities were afflicted with tumors that were so severe that many of them died.
Panic set in… and NOBODY wanted the Ark of God anywhere near them. The Philistines ended up returning God’s ark to Israel along with a guilt offering of 5 golden tumors and 5 golden rats.
By the time we get to chapter 7 we’re told the ark has been back in Israel for 20 years… but the people are still feeling like God hasn’t come home with it. Notice what it says in 1Samuel 7:2 It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD.
Why are they mourning?
Because while God’s Ark has returned – God’s blessings had not!
God has a way of getting people’s attention
In Leviticus 26 God starts by telling the people about the blessings He wants to give them. But then He warns His people against rejecting His word and violating His covenant.
In Leviticus 26:14-16 He says: “But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it.”
Then He says… if that doesn’t get your attention
I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Leviticus 26:19
AND if that doesn’t wake you up “I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted.” Leviticus 26:22
And that’s just the first 3 punishments He promised to bring on Israel. Each successive punishment was intended to get their attention. To get them to repent. To get them come back to the God they’d deserted.
In Revelation 2:5 Jesus warns the church at Ephesus in much the same way:
“Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
Whether in the Old Testament or the New, God showed His willingness to make the lives of His people uncomfortable if they ignored Him and walked away. Hebrews 12 even tells us that God doesn’t discipline His people because He hates them… He disciplines us because He loves us.
Hebrews 12:7 advises us “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”
If He didn’t love you, He wouldn’t discipline you.
The whole purpose of God’s discipline is to help His people REMEMBER.
To help them remember what they’ve left behind.
To make them homesick for God’s blessings.
And that’s what God had been doing to Israel for 20 years.
For 20 years, Israel was under the judgment of God. They had been worshipping the idols of the pagan nations and sacrificing offerings to a fertility goddess called Ashteroth. NOW, after 20 years, Israel’s finally REMEMBERS what God could be like.
That was the first thing God wanted His people to remember: that their God was better than anything else this world could offer. Despite the story about the Navajo Indian,.what God has offered is better than anything you can find in a bank vault.
o It’s better than anything you could get out of a liquor store or a bar.
o It’s better than anything in relationships or friendships.
o Better than anything you could find with position or power.
Those things may satisfy for a while… but in the end they leave us with an empty feeling, and a dry taste in our mouths.
Jesus said: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19). Israel had spent 20 years learning the futility of putting their treasures in front of gods who could not satisfy their needs, and they were tired of it.
And so Samuel tells the people "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.” (1 Samuel 7:3)
In other words: If you’ve really come to the point of repentance – change your lifestyle!
Repent and turn your life around.
In telling Israel this, Samuel did what every good Christian preacher or teacher should do. We’re to go beyond statistics, and warm fuzzy stories. We’re to give the people solid steps to make the necessary changes in their lives.
ILLUS: But not every supposed preacher believes in that. About 4 years ago, Dr. Robert Schuller (Crystal Cathedral) brought a message of self-esteem Christianity to the platform of the 61st Annual Convention of the national Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
He declared “There are some things in the Bible I cannot swallow but you get saved NOT by the Book but by the blood. Keep your message positive.(His major focus is increasing people’s self-esteem) Understand God is a God of grace and glory so forget the matter of justice.”
Schuller continued, “Repentance is NOT a healthy response.”
Did you hear that? “Repentance is NOT a healthy response?”
That’s pure heresy.
That’s the false gospel of Satan from the very pit of Hell.
Repentance is the ONLY healthy response for God’s people when they’ve messed up.
If you don’t recognize yourself as a sinner
If you’re not willing to repent
THEN you CANNOT be saved.
As Paul wrote “Christ Jesus came into the world (not to increase my self-esteem) to save sinners— of whom I am the worst.” 1Timothy 1:15
Samuel was a Godly prophet. He was there to give the people hope. But the only hope they’re going to have is if they realize they’d messed up and they needed to repent. They needed to change.
Their self-esteem was low because it deserved to be low. They’d sinned and shut themselves off from the blessings of their God.
AND 1 Samuel 7:4 and 6 tells us that the people did just that: “…the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.… On that day they fasted and there they confessed, "We have sinned against the LORD."
After 20 years, Israel’s finally REMEMBERED what God could be like. And they came back to God to once again truly become HIS people, and so God had Samuel gather Israel together at a place called Mizpah.
Now we need to understand what’s happening here.
God has chosen the spot for Israel’s repentance.
And God brings His people together at Mizpah for a religious service.
And everyone is there to hear what they need to do to please God and receive His blessings.
But, there’s something a bit odd about Mizpah. Apparently, it’s not all that far from the border of Israel’s mortal enemy - the Philistines. In fact, we’re told that Israel’s gathering at Mizpah got their attention... and the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them.
There’s an old saying that you should never bring a knife to a gunfight.
In other words: if you’re going to fight you ought to at least make sure you have the right weapons. BUT here the Israelites are being faced with imminent danger and nobody thought to bring any kind of weapon to the meeting.
Do you think God knew this was going to happen?
You can bet on it.
Did you catch the promise God made to His people if they’d put away their pagan gods and Ashtereths? Samuel promised that if they did this, and committed themselves to the LORD and served him only, “.. HE WILL DELIVER YOU OUT OF THE HAND OF THE PHILISTINES.” 1Samuel 7:3
God called His people to a religious gathering at Mizpah so that He could do something on that day that Israel would remember for years to come.
The Philistines have come to the Israelites to attack and destroy Israel’s power. The people of Israel responded by becoming anxious and scared.
But not Samuel.
Everybody else may be frightened… but in I Samuel 7:9 we read:
“Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel’s behalf, and the LORD answered him.”
There’s no panic.
No tearing of his cloak and sitting in sack cloth and ashes.
Samuel just offers a sacrifice.
His response to the crisis is almost casual.
And in his confidence declares to the people – your God is big enough to handle any problem. Even this one!
Was He? Was God big enough?
Yes He was.
In verse 10 we’re told that “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.”
Israel chased the Philistines all the way back home and probably picked up the weapons their enemy cast aside in their panic.
When battle was over Samuel wanted to make sure Israel NEVER forgot what God had done. He erected a stone pillar and called it Ebenezer – which means “Stone of Help” And there he declared “Thus far has the LORD helped us." 1Samuel 7:12
(Sing the 2nd verse of the older version of “Come Thou Fount” where the words are “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come…”)
Do you know what Samuel was doing?
He was erecting a mile-marker.
You know what a mile-marker is don’t you? It’s that post along the road that tells you how many miles you’ve traveled.
What Samuel was doing was erecting this mile marker; “Thus far has the LORD helped us.”
He was declaring “When you begin to be afraid and think God doesn’t care look at this stone and remember what God did HERE.
Now.. here’s your lesson for this morning:
In this life we need to remember at least two things:
1. We need to REMEMBER that God is the only place we’re ever going to be satisfied
2. When you’re faced with an impossible situation… and you’re at the edge of despair call to your mind a time when God has been faithful. Remember what He’s done in your life… or remember what He’s done for the people of the Bible.
One of the beauties of Scripture is that God could have simply made a collection of rules and regulations. But instead, He filled it with stories of men and women down thru time who God worked with. You can look back and see how God was there for Abraham, Moses, David, Esther, Hannah, Samuel and others.
And when you look back over those stories remember you have something they didn’t… you have the blood of Jesus covering your lives.
CLOSE: There was the story of a single woman who became a missionary to China, but when the Japanese army invaded during WWII, she was forced to flee. But she loved the orphans she worked with so much that she couldn’t bare to leave them behind. So, with only one assistant to help her, she led more than 100 children over the mountains to reach freedom.
In the book "The Hidden Price of Greatness," the authors tell us the unknown (and true) story of the struggle which Gladys Aylward fought with herself:
During Gladys’s harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng, she grappled with despair as never before. After passing a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. But a 14 year old girl in the group reminded her of one of the stories the orphans loved from Scripture… the story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.
"But I am not Moses," Gladys cried in desperation.
"Of course you aren’t," the girl said, "but Jehovah is still God!" (Russ Lawson on Heartlight.org 4/3/09)
What saved Gladys Aylward from plunging into the depths of despair was “remembering.”
And remembering is something we do here every Sunday morning. We pass plates filled with grape juice and unleavened and we remember one of the greatest things God has ever done for His people. We remember that God loved us SO MUCH that He gave us His only begotten Son
Now turn with me to Romans 8:32.
Underline this in your Bibles. Memorize it for the times when life goes sour. Understand that God want to remind us: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all— how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
The key thing to remember is that that promise is true - not because of who you and I are - but because Jehovah is still God.
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