Saturday, June 30, 2012


We have completed our study of Unit I, “Justice Defined”, which explored the teachings of God’s Law. Now we will move forward to see how different leaders of Israel administered the justice when they allowed themselves to be used by God. This is the first of five (5) lessons in Unit II, “Justice Enacted”, and is a focus of Samuel as the leader of the children of Israel. 1 Sam 7:3-11, 15-17

Samuel was a judge, prophet, and priest. During the period of the judges, Israel fell into cycles that repeated itself again and again. There would be a period of prosperity and protection under God, a period of sin and idol worship, a period of punishment through captivity, and a period of repentance. God would raise up a judge for their deliverance. Today’s lesson actually focuses on the final cycle. A brief historical overview gives more insight.

I Samuel opens with an introduction to Elkanah, a Levite, who had two wives. The one (Peninnah) had children, but Hannah was desirous of a child. She was barren. Elkanah was a faithful country Levite priest and would take his entire family to Shiloh on an annual basis to worship.

Eli was the high priest. His sons, Hophni and Phineas, served in the tabernacle. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, had so taunted Hannah on a continuous basis for not having children that she began praying secretly and tearfully to the Lord for a child that she would return unto Him to serve as a Nazarite all the days of his life. Eli saw Hannah praying silently (1 Sam 1:14) and asked her if she were drunk. Eli knew at that time that sin had crept into the tabernacle and his sons would lay with women who assembled at the doors. He also knew they were committing other acts across Israel. 1 Sam 2:22 Hannah defended herself and received Eli’s blessing in the name of the Lord. The Lord then opened her womb and Samuel was born. She nurtured him until he was weaned and presented him with a sacrifice to Eli.

Now Samuel grew in the Lord, while Eli’s sons continued in their wickedness. God was not happy when Hophni and Phineas took of his offering (1 Sam 2:17). The people observed what Eli’s sons were doing and advised him. Although he attempted to reprove them, it did not go far enough. He did not lead, by example, as a servant of the Lord. In a vision the Lord spoke to Samuel, “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.” 1 Sam 3:13-14

God allowed Israel to wage war against their enemy, the Philistines. The children of Israel were smitten, but they never repented and asked for God’s help. 1 Sam 4:1 The exact timing of this is unknown, but it had to be after Samson’s death because Samuel was the last judge. At 1 Sam 4:3 the elders decided to let the Ark of the Covenant fight their battle. The Ark had become their idol. They had yet to repent and pray unto God. Instead they go to the tabernacle and request permission of Eli to take the Ark into battle, The Ark is the ever present reminder of God’s presence. But Eli should have consulted God. He should not have given permission for the Ark leave the tabernacle. He surely would not have sent his sons with it knowing they had a curse on them. The Israelite camp was overjoyed to have the Ark of the Covenant with them in battle.

The joy of the Israelite army was short-lived as they went down in defeat against the Philistines. The Philistines took the Ark as a battle prize. Many Israelites, including Hophni and Phineas, were killed in the battle and Eli was so overwhelmed with grief that he fell backwards and broke his neck. 1 Sam 4 Eventually the Ark made its way back to the Israelites, because God would not allow his Ark (symbol of His presence) to remain with the enemies to share honor with any other god (Dagod). See 1 Sam 5:2-5. The Philistines decided they did not like the plagues God placed on them and would send the Ark back home. 1 Sam 5:11-12 The Ark, as of today’s lesson, had not made its way back to a tabernacle. The presence of the Lord was not at Shiloh. But it was properly housed in a home in Kirajathjearim and appointed a caretaker. 1 Sam 7:1 We only hear of the Ark once more (1 Sam 14:18) before David comes to retrieve it (1 Ch 13:6). Samuel did not call for its return to the tabernacle during his lifetime. The people could not accept the power of the Ark…when in actuality they had misused it. It took the people twenty years after it was returned to Kirajathjearim before they realized they needed to call on the Lord. 1 Sam 7:2

“And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.” 1 Sam 7:3-4 The people recognized Samuel as a prophet because he had foretold the Lord’s judgment on the house of Eli before it actually occurred. Eli had raised him in the tabernacle and he was accustomed to all the priestly duties. Additionally, he was the son of a priest. Finally, the Lord is using him to administer justice as a judge. The children of Israel were serving Baalim, son of Dagon, the god of the sky who brought forth thunder and rain to fertilize the earth. They were also serving the strange god Ashtaroth, the female counterpart, the goddess of love and fertility. God is a jealous God (Ex 20:3,5) as was seen when He overthrew Dagod when the Philistines placed the Ark, representing His presence, next to Dagod for their people to honor and worship both. See 1 Sam 5:2-5 There is but one God, and His name is Jehovah. When they came to Samuel seeking assistance to get back to the Lord for deliverance from their enemies, he told them they MUST put away their strange gods and prepare their hearts to serve God totally in mind, soul, and spirit. The Israelites obeyed and destroyed their idols.

“And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.” 1 Sam 7:5-6 The children of Israel sincerely cried out their repentance unto the Lord. Then there were actions of sincerity to back up their words. So Samuel directed them to gather together for a national assembly in Mizpeh, located several miles north of Jerusalem. The purpose of the assembly was for Samuel to perform an intercessory prayer of deliverance for the nation. They were to fast and repent before God. Their repentance was symbolized by pouring out the water the water before the Lord. It was their confession of sin and request for mercy. Samuel was their leader and interceded as judge for them in the ways of justice, the ways of the Lord.

“And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.” 1 Sam 7:7-8 Somehow the Philistines heard of the great Israelite gathering in Mizpeh, but they did not know the purpose. Perhaps they felt the Israelites were gathering for war. Or perhaps they believed this to be another opportunity to attempt to annihilate God’s people. Whatever their reason, after they heard of the Israelite gathering at Mizpeh, they decided to go to battle. The children of Israel cried to Samuel, their intercessor unto the Lord, and asked him not to stop crying out to Him on their behalf. This indicates they were sincere in their repentance. They did not depend on the idols to save them. They did not depend on the Ark to save them. They believed Samuel could intercede in prayer to the Lord and they would be delivered.

“And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him. And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar.” 1 Sam 7:9-11 Acting as a Levitical priest, Samuel took a young sucking lamb and offered it to be wholly consumed unto the Lord as a propitiation for their sin. Samuel cried unto the Lord on behalf of the nation along with the young lamb. The Lord heard Samuel and answered. It was not simply granting the asked-for deliverance, but He answered in thunder which was the great voice of the Lord. Meanwhile, the Philistines were near when the thunder roared, and they were confused, smitten, and scattered. The Israelites were encouraged and chased and smote the Philistines out of Mizpeh all the way to Bethcar.

“And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.” 1 Sam 7:15-17 Samuel is believed to have lived to be a hundred years of age. He did not become a judge until he was approximately forty years of age. Even after Saul became king, Samuel administered justice. He judged within the circuit in the cities of Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpeh, all located in the tribe of Benjamin. But he always returned to the home of his father in Ramah, where he judged all of Israel and built an altar unto the Lord.

Chapter 7 of 1 Samuel is about revival of God’s people. They had to recognize the need for repentance of their sin(s), confess, and cleanse themselves. Then a lamb was offered for propitiation for the sins of the people and God accepted with roaring thunder. Do you see a similarity with the Lamb of God? The people were delivered and encouraged. But how soon do we forget of the goodness of God? Have you ever been delivered, only to forget?

Written by Deborah C Davis

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