1Samuel 7:1-12

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 13, 2002


Last week we saw the Israelites facing a war with the Philistines.  When they lost the first battle, they thought they needed some help, so they brought the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh to their battlefield as a sort of “good luck charm”.  God wasn’t too pleased with this and as a result they people lost the battle and lost the Ark.  They lost the battle at a place that would one day be called “Ebenezer”.  The Ark was taken by the Philistines who first tried to put the Ark in the temple of their god Dagon, but kept finding Dagon fallen down on the ground before the Ark.  The Philistines were also struck with some kind of plague involving possibly hemorrhoids and a mice infestation.  As a result, the Philistines sent the Ark back to Israel by way of a driverless ox-cart.  When the Ark arrived in a field at Bethshemesh, some of the Israelites peeked inside the Ark, and some of them were killed as well.  As a result, the people of Bethshemesh asked for help from the people of Kirjathjearim, asking that they could come and take the Ark off of their hands.

:1-12  Victory at Ebenezer

How did Israel turn the place of defeat into one of victory?

:2  the ark abode in Kirjathjearim …twenty years

The Ark would actually be in Kirjathjearim for a lot longer than this, but this was how long it was at Kirjathjearim before Samuel speaks up.

During the reign of King Saul, the Ark would be brought to Gibeah (1Sam. 14:18), and then when David becomes king over all Israel, he will bring the Ark to Jerusalem (2Sam. 6).  It would be about a hundred years from this time in Kirjathjearim until it lands in Jerusalem.  But it would be at Kirjathjearim for twenty years before Samuel speaks to the nation.

:2  and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

lamentednahah – to wail, lament; (Niphal) to go mourning after

(1 Sam 7:2 NLT)  all Israel mourned because it seemed that the LORD had abandoned them.

The people are bummed with all the trouble that has happened in their life.

:3 If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then …

returnshuwb – to return, turn back

strange gods – it’s not that there are some “gods” that are strange and others that aren’t “strange”.  Anything other than Yahweh is a “strange” god.

Ashtaroth‘Ashtarowth = “star”.  This is the plural form, the singular is “Ashtoreth”.  This was the main female goddess that was worshipped by just about everybody at the time in some shape or form.  She was called Ashtoreth by the Phoenicians, Ishtar by the Assyrians, and Aphrodite by the Greeks.  She was considered the “moon goddess” and was thought to be married to some form of Baal, the sun-god.  Solomon brought the worship of her into Israel (1Ki. 11:33), Jezebel had 400 priests dedicated to serve her (1 Ki. 18:19), and she would still be a part of Israelite culture right up to Jeremiah’s day when she was called the “queen of heaven” (Jer. 44:25).

If we were to summarize the worship of Ashtoreth, it is everything pornographic.  They didn’t need Playboy magazine or Internet pornography, they had Ashtoreth.

During the twenty years that the Ark is at Kirjathjearim, Samuel doesn’t speak.  But now it’s time to say something, and when he does, it is to point out something about their “mourning”.


Repentance means action, not just sorrow

The people had been upset over their spiritual condition and the fact that it seemed that God was against them.  But they weren’t doing anything to change.
The church in Corinth was sort of Paul’s “problem child”.  In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he had to write some pretty harsh things.  But his message got through.
(2 Cor 7:8-11 NLT)  I am no longer sorry that I sent that letter to you, though I was sorry for a time, for I know that it was painful to you for a little while. {9} Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. {10} For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death. {11} Just see what this godly sorrow produced in you! Such earnestness, such concern to clear yourselves, such indignation, such alarm, such longing to see me, such zeal, and such a readiness to punish the wrongdoer. You showed that you have done everything you could to make things right.

Sorrow without change is worthless.


Victory comes from true repentance

If Israel wanted to have victory over the Philistines, they needed to get rid of the Ashtaroth.
You can’t make half-way changes.  God wants all of your heart.

Enclosed you will find a check for $150.  I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since.  If I still have trouble sleeping I will send you the rest.

Sincerely, A Tax Payer

Samuel said the guys couldn’t feel sorry during church and just wish things were better.  They needed to go home and throw away the Ashtaroth.
If you are really returning to the Lord, then make the appropriate changes.
Victory in one area of your life will affect other areas of your life. God didn’t just promise them victory over the Ashtaroth, but victory over the Philistines.  Getting rid of the Ashtaroth brought victory over the Philistines.

:4 Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth

For twenty years the people were caught in that cycle of “mourning” but never really changing. This time they finally get it and they turn to the Lord.

:5 Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray …

MizpehMitspeh – “watchtower”; also called “Mizpah”. About three miles south of where Israel gathered last time for battle, at Ebenezer.  About seven miles north of Jerusalem.  It seems to be a common place of gathering the nation. This was the place in Judges 20-21 where Israel gathered to battle against the tribe of Benjamin.  It would be the place where Saul would be presented to the people as king (1Sam. 10:17).

:6  drew water, and poured it out before the LORD …We have sinned against the LORD.

drew water, and poured it out – it seems that this is somehow tied to their confession as a people.  It is like a symbol of weeping before the Lord. The Jewish Targum (a sort of paraphrased translation) states “they poured out their heart in repentance, as water”.



Don’t make excuses or blame it on others.
Own your own sin.  Acknowledge that you are to blame.
The story is told that one day Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, visited a prison and talked with each of the inmates. There were endless tales of innocence, of misunderstood motives, and of exploitation.  Finally the king stopped at the cell of a convict who remained silent.  “Well,” remarked Frederick, “I suppose you are an innocent victim too?”  “No, sir, I’m not,” replied the man.  “I’m guilty and deserve my punishment.” Turning to the warden, the king said, “Here, release this rascal before he corrupts all these fine innocent people in here!”
Release starts with confession.

:6  And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.

This is the beginning of Samuel’s ministry as the last “judge” over Israel.  He is God’s leader, giving instruction and leadership to the nation.

:7  the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh

The Philistines aren’t going to let the Israelites have these national gatherings.  They smell trouble.  They want to stop things before they get out of hand.  The enemy doesn’t want you following God.

:8  Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us

ceasecharash – (Hiphil) to be silent, keep quiet.  Don’t be silent before God

Samuel had told the people (vs. 5) that when they got to Mizpeh, he would pray for them.  Now they say to him, “Whatever you do, don’t stop praying for us!!!”


Victory comes in much prayer

God works through prayer.
(James 5:16 KJV)  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Prayer is the way in which God becomes involved in the solving of our problems.
Why God Loves Prayer by E.M. Bounds
God has ordained prayer as a means through which He will carry out His gracious designs on earth and execute and make efficient His plan of redemption.  Prayer is a specific divine appointment whereby God will do things through His people as they pray that He would not otherwise do.  While we in our weakness and poverty wait, trust, and pray, God undertakes the work.  But if prayer moves God to work in this world’s affairs, then prayerlessness leaves us the mere creatures of circumstances.  It leaves us in this world with its tremendous responsibilities and difficult problems, and with all of its sorrows, burdens and afflictions, without help from God.
Jesus Christ commits Himself to the force of prayer.  “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).  And again:  “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7).  To no other energy is the promise of God committed as to that of prayer.  Upon no other force are the purposes of God so dependent as upon that of prayer.  Christ presses us into the presence of God with these prayer promises, not only by the assurance that God will answer, but that no other being but God can answer.  He said:  “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you” (John 16:23b).  This all-comprehensive declaration not only urges us to pray for everything great and small, but it focuses all our attention on God – for who but God can cover the unlimited scope of universal things and can assure us of receiving the very thing for which we pray?  It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who makes demands on us to pray, and it is He who puts Himself and all He has so fully in the answer.
Prayer puts God’s work in His hands and keeps it there.  It looks to Him constantly and depends on Him implicitly to further His own cause.  Prayer is but faith resting in, acting with, leaning on, and obeying God.  This is why God loves it so well and why He so highly esteems people of prayer.
Problems at home – I wonder how many marriages could be turned around if we just learned how to pray together more.  I wonder how many problems with difficult children would melt away if we could really learn to pray together and for each other.  Perhaps this is just because I’m not that great of a counselor, but I have found that often the best times when troubled people are in my office are when people simply pray.
Yet sometimes the hardest person to pray with is the one closest to you.  Satan doesn’t want you coming to God together on your knees.  He will make it as hard as he can.

:9 And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD:

sucking lamb – a lamb that is still nursing, literally a “milk lamb”

burnt offering – a picture of complete dedication to the Lord.  With other sacrifices, only certain parts of the animal were burnt on the fire, and the rest was eaten by those bringing the sacrifice.  But with the burnt offering, the complete animal was burnt, the complete animal was given to the Lord.


Victory comes with complete dedication

(Rom 12:1-2 KJV)  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. {2} And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
In 1954, a man named Robert Boyd Munger wrote a little booklet/tract called, “My Heart Christ’s Home”:
In the story, he describes what it’s like after you invite the Lord Jesus into your life.  He talks about Jesus coming to settle down and make Himself at home in our lives like a guest staying in our house.
As a guest, Jesus visits different rooms in the house, such as when He goes into the “study”.  Munger writes,

“In a sense, it is the control room of the house. He entered with me and looked around at the books in the bookcase, the magazines upon the table, the pictures on the walls. As I followed His gaze I became uncomfortable. Strangely, I had not felt self-conscious about this before, but now that He was there looking at these things I was embarrassed. Some books were there that His eyes were too pure to behold. On the table were a few magazines that a Christian had no business reading. As for the pictures on the walls - the imaginations and thoughts of the mind - some of these were shameful. Red-faced, I turned to Him and said, “Master, I know that this room needs to be cleaned up and made over. Will You help me make it what it ought to be?” “Certainly!” He said. “I’m glad to help you. First of all, take all the things that you are reading and looking at which are not helpful, pure, good and true, and throw them out! Now put on the empty shelves the books of the Bible. Fill the library with Scripture and meditate on it day and night. As for the pictures on the walls, you will have difficulty controlling these images, but I have something that will help.” He gave me a full-size portrait of Himself. “Hang this centrally,” He said, “on the wall of the mind.””

Then Mr. Munger describes Jesus going through other rooms, the “dining room” where all his appetites and desires are met.  Jesus then goes into the “Living Room”, a quiet secluded place where he and Jesus spend time together in the morning, until Munger finds himself too busy and starts neglecting his guest.  Then Jesus goes into the “Work Room” and the “Rec Room”, cleaning up other parts of his life until He gets to the “hall closet”, where a foul odor is coming from.  That’s where we hide things from Jesus, pretending they don’t exist in our lives.  But Jesus wants to clean out the closet. 

Jesus wants free reign in the whole house.  Complete dedication.  The burnt offering.

:9  Samuel cried unto the LORD  … and the LORD heard him

God heard Samuel’s prayers.  God will hear your prayers.

David wrote,

(Psa 34:6 KJV)  This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

David also wrote,

(Psa 32:6-7 KJV)  For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. {7} Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

:10 And as Samuel was offering  … the Philistines drew near

The Philistines don’t want to give the Israelites a chance to get their army together and they attack while Samuel is in the middle of offering up his sacrifice.


The enemy loves to distract you.

He loves to interrupt this message with thoughts of what you have to do when church is over.  He loves to interrupt your prayer time with phone calls, things to distract you.

:10  the LORD thundered with a great thunder … discomfited them

discomfitedhamam – to move noisily, confuse, break, consume, crush, destroy, trouble

God stepped in because of Samuel’s prayers and God started the victory.

:11 And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued …

There are going to be times that God will bring the victory all by Himself.  But there are also going to be times that we have a part in the victory, in “chasing those Philistines” out of our life.

:11  until they came under Bethcar.

BethcarBeyth Kar – “house of the ram” or “house of the lamb”. They had sacrificed a lamb.  Now they pursue the Philistines as far as the “house of the lamb”


Victory in the Lamb

It may not seem to make sense that something as harmless as a Lamb could ever bring victory to anyone.
Satan will be defeated by the Lamb.
(Rev 12:10-11 KJV)  And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. {11} And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
The antichrist and his kingdom will one day be defeated by the Lamb.
(Rev 17:14 KJV)  These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Victory comes from Jesus.  He is the Lamb.

:12  called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.

Ebenezer‘Eben ha-‘ ezer – “stone of help”


Remember the Lord’s victories

Let today be one of those markers.  Let today be the day when you make a choice to follow the Lord and allow Him to give you victory.