1 Samuel 7:3-17 Wholehearted Repentance Brings Restoration & Prosperity
1 Samuel 7:3-17
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.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at 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 people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath, and Israel delivered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. 15 Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17 Then he would return to Ramah, for his home was there, and there also he judged Israel. And he built there an altar to the Lord.
The people of Israel lamented because of the oppression of their enemies. However, the people lamented without the resolve to put off sin and serve God wholeheartedly. Hence, their act of lamenting did not bear fruit for their nation until Samuel called them to total consecration and repentance as a community. The Lord acted swiftly by protecting the Israelites and restored their cities that were lost during the tenure of Eli as high priest. Believers who vacillate between light and darkness must decide who they would serve. By playing church on Sunday and immediately returning to the life of normalcy and sin will not do much for the believer. Salvation and eternal life stems from nothing less than a comprehensive regeneration of the heart to love God and His ways.
Direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines – The people were under the bondage of idolatry, they worshiped Ashtoroth who was goddess of fertility and war. Baal was also the Canaanite god of fertility and the father of Baal was Dagon. Idolatry had become such a draw because the people were promised wealth and peace without commitment towards holy living. Besides there were the pleasures of the flesh offered by the evil spirits. The sad reality is that the people were forced to return to the Lord only because the foreign gods could not protect them from the Philistines. Nevertheless, God is merciful to forgive them when they return to Him. Samuel laid down conditions for their return: firstly, they must return to God with their whole heart by putting away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth. Secondly, they must submit under God’s authority and obey His instructions: serve the Lord only.
We have sinned against the Lord – Samuel called the people to repentance at Mizpah. Drawing water and pouring it out is associated with fasting and have the desire to do serious business with God. Samuel’s act of judging led the people through the process of soul searching, of repentance and rededicating their lives to God. The people recounted their initial commitment to God and the consequences of their rebellion against Him. The process of repentance involves identifying the root of their sinful nature and resolves to put off the evil inclinations of their hearts.
And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him – The Philistines having caught wind of their gathering at Mizpah was amassing themselves for an onslaught on the Israelites. The people in desperation entreated Samuel to call on God for protection. As Samuel cried out to God, God answered Him promptly. As the Philistines were approaching the Israelites, God thundered with a mighty sound and threw the Philistines into confusion and they were defeated by the Israelites.
Till now the Lord has helped us – Samuel set up a stone monument to help the people remember that God has graciously helped them and accepted them as His own. Besides that, the cities that they have lost during Eli’s tenure as high priest were restored back to them.
- True repentance involves putting off the lust of the flesh, the pride of life and being filled with His Spirit. Lust connotes fleshly desires that feed the pleasures of the flesh. These pleasures include perverted sexual fulfillment through pornography, sexual promiscuity, gay lifestyle and substance abuse. The lust of the flesh pertains to fulfilling the appetite of the eyes and physical stimulus of the body. True repentance involves completely removing the above fleshly elements from a person’s diet. He has to adjust to a new pattern of fulfillment and pleasure through the Spirit and not through the flesh. The pleasures of the Spirit are peace, joy, love and the blessedness of walking accurately in God’s will.
- True repentance involves total submission under God as Lord and to be His instrument to accomplish God’s plans on earth. This portion seems to be the more difficult part for most people. Many could agree to refrain from doing evil, but to live according to God’s direction and to live for His purposes alone is quite something else. To serve the Lord does not pertain to fulfilling God’s personal needs, for God has no needs. But rather it is a commitment to live a God-centered life and to accomplish His calling and purpose in our lives.
- Repentance at a community level can drive revival at a national level. Samuel called all Israel to assemble at Mizpah and there they fasted and repented as a community. Repentance and regeneration is a community endeavor. Without mutual accountability as a community, there can be little change in one’s lifestyle and mindset towards God-centered living. Community culture is powerful in moving individual believers towards repentance and change. Community driven repentance has power to drive revival at a national level.
- True repentance restores our relationship with God and restores divine blessings into our lives. Selective repentance will not suffice for it can never produce enduring peace and prosperity. The Israelites were constantly being attacked by the Philistines, but only after the Israelites repented as a nation did God rescue them the Philistines and restore to them the land. Hence, Samuel said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” Selective repentance is tiresome for one has to constantly vacillate and traverse between two worlds. One cannot enter the Kingdom of God and experience its abundance unless he recognize God as His King and submit under His authority. God’s love is expressed through an ever-open door of His Kingdom. Unless we acknowledge God as Lord and give Him total control over lives, we remain outside of His blessings.
- Are you constantly wavering between two worlds? What are the things that matter to you in the two worlds? Consider the divine favor and opportunities that may be lost because of your indecision.
- Repentance is not a one-time effort but a continual process through which we become more and more like Christ in His purity, love, wisdom and confidence. List the traits and virtues that you wish to see in yourself in 2015 and discuss it with your mentor.
Dear Lord, I make a resolution to cut off all addictions of lust, selfish ambitions and the pursuit of material gains in my life. I dedicate my life wholly to you in your service. Fill me with your Spirit and restore to me the joy of salvation. Bless me and my children and fill my church with your favor. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.