June 27, 2017
THE GEORGIA CAPITOL DEVOTIONAL - 27 June 2017
Ever since the Philistines “took the ark of God” (1 Sam 5:1), they experienced nothing but difficulty as its custodians. The disasters were intense, and therefore, the Philistines returned the Ark (7:1). The people of Beth-shemesh “raised their eyes” while they were harvesting their wheat, and rejoiced to see the return of the Ark. The city was near a powerful Philistine population, and because of the Kohathites (one of the three divisions of the tribe of Levi) it was an appropriate location for returning the Ark of the Lord.
The Israelites erected a silent monument and witness of the Ark’s return (6:17-18). However, the rejoicing of the Israelites would soon end. While the Ark and the articles of gold were displayed on the large stone, “some of the men of Beth-shemesh . . . looked into [or gazed at] the ark” (6:19). According to Numbers 4:5-6, the Ark should have been covered by Aaron’s sons, and the Kohathites who carried it were never to touch or look upon the Ark (Exod 25:13-15; 37:5; Numb 4:17-20). The men of Beth-shemesh responded with two questions (1 Sam 6:20). The first was appropriate: “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God?” As opposed to humbling themselves before God, the second question reveals the desire to remove the Ark and the power of God from them (6:21‑7:1; cf. Mark 5:1-20). The danger for modern readers is to repeat the same error of the Israelites. We must reverence God’s holiness, and know and live his Word so that we do not repeat the same error of conforming the holy God to our expectations.
The people of Kiriath-jearim were custodians of the Ark for twenty years (and would remain so until David brought the Ark to Jerusalem; 2 Sam 6:2-3, 12). They did not mourn any longer “because the Lord had struck the people” (1 Sam 6:19); rather, “all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord” (7:2). If God was to help the nation, they must repent before the Lord (cf. Gen 35:2-4; Josh 24:14-15).
Israel had been defeated numerous times in battle now, and was discouraged. Their repentance would be difficult because the “foreign gods” had influenced their lives (cf. Judg 2:13). Truly there is no other means to regain God’s favor than holy and humble repentance. There certainly is application here to our nation. The lost battles do not need to be physical, but can be judicial, legislative, and moral. Only by committing our hearts to the Lord and serving Him alone can we experience true revival.
The Philistines “heard that the sons of Israel had gathered to Mizpah” and decided to attack. The Israelites were not prepared. The sincerity of their repentance is evident in verse 8 because now they relied entirely upon the Lord. Genuine repentance is not only being sorrowful over sin but also making a confession of sins, renouncing all that displeases God, and trusting in the will of the Lord alone. Samuel interceded on behalf of Israel (1 Sam 7:9), and the Lord answered the prayer of repentant Israel. God “thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel” (7:10).
Samuel erected a stone memorial, and named it “Ebenezer” (“Thus far the Lord has helped us”). The victory over the Philistines was not complete, but indicated that God was with his people and therefore Israel needed to remember this deliverance. In chapter 6, the Philistines had their distress removed, but it seems they were only relieved that the ordeal had ended. They were not any wiser or humbler as a consequence of their difficulties. God’s people will remember the past and express thanksgiving for the Lord’s help; it is entirely appropriate to remember God’s past deliverance because this will encourage hope for the future. By God’s “good pleasure” we will “safely arrive at home.” Throughout Samuel’s life, the Philistines would be subdued, the cities taken from Israel were restored, and there was peace (7:13-14). Good and godly leadership makes all the difference!
Samuel traveled an annual circuit in Benjaminite territory, “judging Israel all the days of his life.” The threefold usage of the verb shāphat (translated “to judge”) for Samuel’s ministry indicates more than merely administering justice. The prior usage of this verb in 7:6 indicates a spiritual dimension to his judging. The context in verse 6 is the national lament, confession, and repentance. The judging was a responsibility involving the legislative and spiritual direction of the nation. Samuel not only judged legislative issues, but also provided reproof, correction, and instruction. He prioritized worship of God for the purpose of his own family and for the benefit of the nation (7:17). The spiritual person uses his or her abilities, influence, and wealth for living under God’s lordship, and also for influencing others (in eternal and spiritual matters).
P.S. Reminder: due to the Fourth of July being on the first Tuesday (and only for the month of July), the Capitol Commission Bible Study will be held on the third Tuesday: 18 July 2017.
Your Capitol Missionary-Pastor,
Ron J. Bigalke, Ph.D.
Capitol Commission Georgia
Capitol Commission is prepared to encourage and enable local churches to participate in reaching our capitol communities for Christ (1 Tim 2:1-4). We only need to hear from you, if you have not already contacted us. We also seek to enlist individuals, businesses, and churches to become strategic partners with us in this ministry (2 Cor 8:3-6). Our success as a ministry is based upon God blessing all facets of the ministry, which certainly includes partners in this ministry. We earnestly desire to engage those who desire to participate in the ministry by offering their time and talents (Matt 25:20). If you have not already done so, join us and experience the joy of bringing hope, light, transformation, and truth to those who constitute our capitol communities.