God’s presence, during the first 325 years of Israel’s occupation of the Promised Land, rested over the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle at Shiloh.
Unfortunately, during those years, Israel forgot God and embraced the culture’s idols – treating the Ark of God’s presence as nothing more significant than a good luck charm.
Then, in a battle with the Philistines, the Ark was taken captive and the glory of God departed from Israel.
But the Ark of God’s presence was too hot for the Philistines to handle. They couldn’t wait to get rid of it and send it back to Israel.
Now, all this time, nothing was heard from young Samuel for 20+ years after Eli the priest died and the ark of the covenant was captured.
I realize the Scripture is silent about those 20 plus years, but it seems to me that these were years of preparation for Samuel – the judge and prophet.
And when you do hear from Samuel, in 1 Samuel 7, he is calling the nation to return to the Lord with all their heart and put away their idols.
And they listened.
And the whole nation gathered to Samuel and did what he asked of them.
There are some lessons to be learned from this period in Samuel’s life:
LESSON # 1
Sometimes there is a time lag between God’s calling and anointing for ministry and deployment… a season of seeming obscurity while you are being prepared.
So, all Israel gathered at Mizpah in response to Samuel’s call and entered into a time of genuine repentance, sacrifice, intercession and worship.
You would think this repentance would result in a time of prosperity and protection from the Lord.
But you’d be wrong.
The Philistines heard of the gathering, were afraid it might threaten their domination over Israel, and decided it would be an ideal time to attack.
Returning and drawing near to God is no guarantee of immunity from the enemy’s assault. It might actually invite attack.
As the Philistines drew near to Mizpah, rather than marshaling the army and devising a battle strategy, the people of God said to Samuel, “Do not cease crying out to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:8)
Running to the Lord in prayer is our first line of defense against the enemy. Not planning. Not strategies. Not rallying the troops, but crying out to the Lord.
Intercession, sacrifice and worship were going on while the full force of the fierce Philistines was bearing down on the people of God.
“But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were routed before Israel.” (1 Samuel 7:10)
LESSON # 4
It is better to have God fight for you than for you to take the battle into your own hands.
Victories that God wins are easier to sustain.
“And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.” (1 Samuel 7:13)