I Samuel 7

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted on I Samuel. I’m still reading through it and trying to meditate on it as I go.

Chapter 7 opens with the men of Kiriath-jearim going to Beth-shemesh to retrieve the ark of the LORD. Eleazar is consecrated to have charge of it. (It is many years later that David goes to get the ark from Kiriath-jearim at the house of Abinadab on the hill and Uzzah’s great sin is promptly dealt with.)

20 years later, Israel is lamenting before the LORD. 20 years! What was happening in that time? They were serving other gods and the Ashtaroth. They were oppressed by the Philistines. Finally, they lamented.

20 years is a long time and a short time. 20 years is half of the time that Israel was sentenced to wander in the desert. 20 years is half of Eli’s tenure as judge. 20 years is a generation. The babies and toddlers that were around for the debacle of the ark’s departure are now grown. They have grown up in a culture of frantic worship of whatever god will serve them best. What was told to these children? Deut. 6:4? I don’t know. Were they taught the great stories of God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt but then observed their parents worship at the Ashtaroth. Were they taught the great commandment Thou shalt have no other God before me? Were they taught to honor God?

So 20 years later, we can imagine an older generation of people who might be tired, restless, frantic, fruitless, fearful, hopeless, oppressed, … and a younger generation who might be all of those things and also jaded, cynical, pragmatic, self-absorbed and ready for a change. I don’t know if repentant comes to mind when I imagine them. And yet… I Sam. 7:3 – And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

And praise God – they did repent of their sin. Their deeds of repentence included putting away the Baals and the Ashtaroth and serving the LORD only. Samuel prays to the LORD for them while they are all gathered at Mizpah. Sin was confessed, repented of. Immediately, they are tested when the Philistines again gather against them but they turned to the LORD, through Samuel. The LORD answered Samuel’s prayer and thundered with a mighty sound against the Philistines (remember Hannah’s prayer 2:10) and the Philistines are confused, routed, pursued, and struck down.

Samuel took a stone and set it up and named it Ebenezer “Till now the LORD has helped us.” And for all the days of Samuel, the LORD was against the Philistines. Cities were restored and there was peace. Samuel would judge Israel for all the days of his life.

So I go back to the 20 years. 20 years is long enough for me to give up on praying for someone (to my shame!). 20 years is long enough to convince me that someone or situations can’t change – and again to my shame! 20 years is long enough for me to think that God wouldn’t forgive me after all this time. But praise be to God, 20 years is just 20 years. God can change and resurrect anyone at any moment after anything. Who am I to say that time compounds the sinfulness of my sin? My original (born-with) sin is the vilest, foulest, most condemning thing and he forgave that in Christ because his grace is greater than all my sin!

I want to be faithful in each moment and not lament the forgiven past or worry about the future and trust God to work amazingly in each moment because He is God.

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