1 Samuel
1-2 The Ark at Kiriath-jearim 3-4 The Israelites Serve the LORD Alone 5-9 Samuel Prays for the People 10-14 Israel Rout the Philistines 15-17 Samuel Judges Israel
The Ark at Kiriath-jearim

1And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the ark of the LORD and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD. 2From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.

Fear of the ark is not necessary as long as one does not look into the ark. The truth of the Lord Jesus is not to analyze, but to worship. Although the people as a whole are not ready to ask for the ark, the ark can go to some who appreciate it.

Why didn’t Samuel pick up the ark? He sees how the people are doing. He understands that he lives in a transitional period. He knows that God in His time will bring the ark to the place He has chosen. Samuel is waiting for God’s time, for David. David is, forty years later, the first one to look for and find the ark (Psa 132:66Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah,
We found it in the field of Jaar.

God Himself has delivered the ark from the power and land of the Philistines. He can only deliver His people from the power of the Philistines when they have taken their right place before Him. Before that time, twenty years elapse. After twenty years the people go to the LORD, not to complain, but to confess their condition. The absence of God often makes one feel the value of Him Whose presence one has not appreciated. All this time Samuel also waited. He has waited for the time when the Spirit of God can work among the people.

The first thing the Spirit does is to discover the people to themselves. Waiting time is not lost time. This work of God’s Spirit will be the result of Samuel’s constant intercession. Samuel remains in the shadows in the years of his life which, seen from his age, are for others, even today, the most ambitious.

The people do not ask for the ark as a symbol, but for the LORD Himself. With this they are the mass of modern Christianity with their longing for and trust in images of saints and other follies far ahead.

The Israelites Serve the LORD Alone

3Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” 4So the sons of Israel removed the Baals and the Ashtaroth and served the LORD alone.

When the work of God’s Spirit reveals itself, Samuel comes. Now it is time for action. Samuel speaks the word of the prophet. He points to the wrong things, which are the cause of the Philistines ruling over them. The Philistines are a rod of discipline in the hand of God for His people.

In what Samuel says to the people, we see that conversion has three characteristics:
1. the removing of the foreign gods, that is separation from evil,
2. direct the heart to the LORD to be taught by Him about the cause of evil and to come to the right mind of a broken heart and a defeated spirit and
3. to serve Him alone, that is, to dedicate oneself completely to Him.

If these characteristics are present, we can count on deliverance from the yoke of the enemies.

What happens here under the last judge, did not happen during the whole time of the judges. In Christianity something has been done away with that which is wrong, but by no means everything. This only happens in the case of such a complete self-judgment as Israel here. The people give up their wrong connections, break them and become free to do the work of the LORD, or better, to let this work be done first with themselves. We also see such an attitude in the beginning of the church.

Samuel Prays for the People

5Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah and I will pray to the LORD for you.” 6They gathered to Mizpah, 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 sons of Israel at Mizpah. 7Now when the Philistines heard that the sons of Israel had gathered to Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the sons of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8Then the sons of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it for a whole burnt offering to the LORD; and Samuel cried to the LORD for Israel and the LORD answered him.

Now comes the next step. The people are called to “Mizpa”, not to Shiloh. Here something new begins. Mizpa means ‘watchtower’. The people will be focused on the new, what lies in the future, but of which they do not yet know what it means. The new begins with prayer. So it is always with a revival. The origin always lies in fervent prayer. Moses and Samuel are the great intercessors for God’s people in the Old Testament (Psa 99:66Moses and Aaron were among His priests,
And Samuel was among those who called on His name;
They called upon the LORD and He answered them.
; Jer 15:1a1Then the LORD said to me, “Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go!).

The man who speaks to the people on behalf of God is also the man who goes to God on behalf of the people. The man in whom the Word of God dwells and who uses it faithfully also knows how to use the privilege of priestly intercession. What he did first personally and in secret, he now wants to do in public with the whole. General need, general danger and above all a general turning to God brings the people together. All other meetings in this case are useless.

The drawing and pouring out of water is also something that has not happened before. That does not mean that it is wrong. It is not a sin offering, but the spirit of the sin offering is present in this act. We have to be able to judge that, not whether something fits our idea of what is right. God’s Spirit is free in His work (cf. Jn 3:88The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”), and we should not want to impose our insights upon Him in doing so.

In 2 Samuel 14 the meaning appears: “For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again” (2Sam 14:14a14For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him.; cf. 1Sam 1:1515But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD.; Psa 62:9a9Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie;
In the balances they go up;
They are together lighter than breath.
; Lam 2:1919“Arise, cry aloud in the night
At the beginning of the night watches;
Pour out your heart like water
Before the presence of the Lord;
Lift up your hands to Him
For the life of your little ones
Who are faint because of hunger
At the head of every street.”
). The poured out water represents what man is naturally in his weakness. Once water is poured out, it cannot be gathered. In Psalm 22 it is applied to the Lord Jesus as He pours out His life in death (Psa 22:1414I am poured out like water,
And all my bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax;
It is melted within me.
). It then seems to be over with Him. But God has, as it were, gathered this water and raised Him up from the dead. By this we can now “joyously draw water from the springs of salvation” (Isa 12:33Therefore you will joyously draw water
From the springs of salvation.

The confession “we have sinned against the LORD” is a general confession and therefore vague. Under that general confession, forms of specific evil may be hidden that have not yet been uncovered and have yet to be judged according to God’s holy Word. This is what Samuel then does when he leads them. He leads by declaring the Word of God to them. The praying Samuel is also the teacher. His teaching is supported by his prayer.

The Philistines misjudge totally what is happening in Israel. They think that the people gather together to fight against them. But Israel is afraid of the Philistines. Although the enemy judges it wrong and can’t do anything else, they are also right. Humbling before God is in reality also a declaration of war to the enemy. Humility impresses the enemy, he has no control over it. Humility cannot be overcome, for in it the Lord is on the side of His people.

The enemy becomes active when the people of God connect with God. The enemy does not tolerate any action that puts the people of God in a position that acknowledges God. In their need, the Israelites call upon the prophet of God and the intercessor with God to pray for them. They have a strong faith in Samuel’s intercession because they know that he is a holy man of God. They appeal to an intercessor because they understand that intercession will be more useful to them than the largest army.

Samuel has already prayed, but the people want him to continue. They know and recognize the power of the “prayer of a righteous man”, for it “can accomplish much” (Jam 5:16b16Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.). They know that their salvation must come from the LORD, that He alone can save them and that He must be sought for it. They recognize the connection of Samuel with the LORD.

This is a much better attitude than when in their pride they thought they could fight and use the ark for that (1Sam 4:1-31Thus the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped beside Ebenezer while the Philistines camped in Aphek.2The Philistines drew up in battle array to meet Israel. When the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield.3When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.”). Now they see their own powerlessness and resort to prayer. Similarly, a praying Josaphat, surrounded by women and children (2Chr 20:3-5,133Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.4So Judah gathered together to seek help from the LORD; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the LORD.5Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD before the new court,13All Judah was standing before the LORD, with their infants, their wives and their children.) and a praying Hezekiah, dressed in a sackcloth (Isa 37:11And when King Hezekiah heard [it], he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth and entered the house of the LORD.) are more dangerous to the enemy than when they are surrounded by soldiers dressed in war costume.

Samuel brings a burnt offering. It is a suckling lamb, a newborn lamb that still drinks from its mother, a picture of extreme weakness. The only other place where it is still found is in a scene describing the kingdom of peace (Isa 65:25a25The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,” says the LORD.). Because of this suckling lamb Samuel approaches God to intercede for the people. The lamb is also offered to restore the people and bring them back into the favor of God.

The Lord Jesus is “crucified in weakness” (2Cor 13:44For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God [directed] toward you.). We needed Someone so insignificant because we were so insignificant. God does not despise the weakness of faith, but descends in grace to our level of weakness. The Lord Jesus lived in complete dependence on God, completely dedicated to Him, and as a Baby He was dependent on His mother’s care. This is the way by which God has prepared salvation for man.

Israel Rout the Philistines

10Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel. 11The men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car. 12Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” 13So the Philistines were subdued and they did not come anymore within the border of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14The cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even to Gath; and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. So there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.

The enemy attacks when the offering is brought. At the same time, for this very reason, God intervenes and acts for the benefit of His people, who do not have to do anything themselves. The enemy does not know God’s thoughts about His Son. God appears in majesty when, in the picture of the burnt offering, the glory of the Lord Jesus is presented to Him and He sees His people in His Son.

The people may be quiet and see the salvation of the LORD, just as with the passage through the Red Sea (Exo 14:13-1413But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.14The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.”). The LORD acts with a mighty thunder for His people, an action of which Hannah prophesied (1Sam 2:1010“Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered;
Against them He will thunder in the heavens,
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His anointed.”
). His voice confuses the enemy. The victory is that of the LORD. He is to be honored for this, and not to the people.

The people may receive the results of the work God has done for them. “Beth-car” means “house of the lamb”. Until that place the enemy is defeated. It shows in the picture that victory extends as far as the power of the sacrifice of the lamb goes. In practical terms, this means that the enemy will be kept more and more at a distance if we learn to know Christ, from Whom this lamb speaks, better and better. There the peace of the house is found for which the lamb laid the foundation. In that house the lamb is the basis and in that house the lamb is central.

“Ebenezer” means “stone of help”. With this name Samuel indicates that they have experienced God’s help with every step they have taken in God’s way. This stone becomes a remembrance of the help of the LORD. The erection of the stone is like the testimony Paul gives for Agrippa: “So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day” (Acts 26:2222So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place;). This may also be our testimony every time we realize that with God’s help we have again overcome difficulties on the way of faith.

The place where first the ark was captured by the Philistines and they defeated Israel (1Sam 5:11Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod.), is now the place of testimony for the LORD because He defeated the Philistines for them. The Philistines might think that a man in prayer is the same as a people who superstitiously bring the ark into the army. But Samuel is not Hophni and Pinehas. The faith of the man of God in the offering represents the people to God in the value of that offering. It is not an outward sign, but inner faith. With this God connects Himself and by virtue of this He delivers His people from their enemies.

There is probably no victory by Israel as special as this one. The LORD had humiliated them, nearly exterminated them. All trust in their own strength was gone. And now, through a wonderful intercession of Samuel, He exalts them, and humiliates the proud oppressors in the dust. God brings peoples and individuals to the extreme humiliation to show them His grace and mercy. He does so by a sudden release from their destruction, when all human help has clearly failed.

As long as Samuel is in power, the hand of the LORD is against the enemy. In picture this shows us that as long as we submit to God’s Word, the Lord will fight for us against the enemy, so that he will have no chance to harm us. And not only that. We also receive back certain spiritual blessings that we have lost through our unfaithfulness. That is what we see here in Israel. Israel is getting back lost territory.

That they make peace with the Amorites, however, is not a matter of faith. They have returned to God, but their works are unfortunately not perfect. An excuse that times have changed does not apply if God has determined a matter to be wrong (Deu 7:1-21“When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you,2and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.).

Samuel Judges Israel

15Now Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16He used to go annually on circuit to Bethel and Gilgal and Mizpah, and he judged Israel in all these places. 17Then his return [was] to Ramah, for his house [was] there, and there he judged Israel; and he built there an altar to the LORD.

Samuel is not characterized by sitting on a chair, as we read from Eli (1Sam 4:1313When he came, behold, Eli was sitting on [his] seat by the road eagerly watching, because his heart was trembling for the ark of God. So the man came to tell [it] in the city, and all the city cried out.). He works diligently and has no time to become fat like Eli. Like a father to his people, he visits his children in different places. He teaches them for the good of their souls.

The four cities mentioned here are, as it were, the four stations in the life of the people of God. Our life also take place between these ‘stations’.

1. Bethel” means “house of God”. In this we recognize “the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1Tim 3:1515but in case I am delayed, [I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.), in which we find ourselves. It is the house where God lives and where we may live with Him (Eph 2:1919So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,). The awareness of His presence will sanctify our lives. His house is characterized by holiness. In Bethel Jacob met God (Gen 28:10-1910Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran.11He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place.12He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.13And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants.14Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.15Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”16Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”17He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”18So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top.19He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz.; 35:1-151Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”2So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments;3and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”4So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.5As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.6So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him.7He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother.8Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried below Bethel under the oak; it was named Allon-bacuth.9Then God appeared to Jacob again when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him.10God said to him,
“Your name is Jacob;
You shall no longer be called Jacob,
But Israel shall be your name.”
Thus He called him Israel.11God also said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Be fruitful and multiply;
A nation and a company of nations shall come from you,
And kings shall come forth from you.
12“The land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac,
I will give it to you,
And I will give the land to your descendants after you.”
13Then God went up from him in the place where He had spoken with him.14Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He had spoken with him, a pillar of stone, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.15So Jacob named the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel.
). Do we know this truth and is it always in our minds? It is a truth which concerns all believers, all saints.

2. Gilgal” means “rolled away” (Jos 5:99Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.). Every year Samuel comes and preaches there. This shows us in picture that the people are told that they must constantly live in self-judgment. We must remain aware that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom 7:18a18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good [is] not.). We put the meaning of ‘Gilgal’ into practice by rolling away the reproach of the world, which means that we give up every connection with it. It is our realizing that we have been judged in the judgment that has come over Christ: “in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Col 2:1111and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;). That is also where the judgment of the world was carried out. This should be expressed in the prophetic service.

3. “Mizpa” means “watchtower” and suggests that after each decay God is gracious to make a new beginning. We must not stand by what has been removed, the flesh, otherwise we will slide back into its power. That is why Mizpa follows Gilgal. We must remain vigilant and sober, so that the enemy does not take us by surprise again. God offers a view – the function of a watchtower is to look forward – to a new beginning, a wonderful future. Mizpa teaches the believer to look forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus and to organize their lives accordingly.

4. “Rama” means ‘height’. Samuel doesn’t travel there, but lives there. It shows that it is about living on the spiritual heights we have in the letter to the Ephesians. In practice, it means that we keep seeking “the things above” (Col 3:11Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.). To this place of residence we must come after our journey along the previous places. It leads to a separated heavenly walk on earth, “for our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil 3:2020For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ;).

In the place where he lives, he builds an altar. Samuel is also a real priest. He is not so busy with his service that he forgets his personal fellowship with God in worship and prayer and intercession. This spirit that works in the people of God can only be a blessing.

Service is important and necessary, but is only fruitful if it comes from personal fellowship with God. Otherwise service in an activity of the flesh. In that case success is followed by pride and if success fails discouragement and abandonment will follow. It is to be desired that every servant of Christ has his ‘altar’ in connection with his work for God and His people.

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