Victory and Peace
1 Samuel 7:2-17
2From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3And 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.” 4So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. 5Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6So 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. 7Now 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. 8And 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.” 9So 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. 10As 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. 11And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. 12Then 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.” 13So 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. 14The 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. 15Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah. And he judged Israel in all these places. 17Then 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.
This is an interesting chapter of history, as it encompasses Samuel’s entire time as judge over Israel as well as one isolated incident. It appears there is a theme for the time of Samuel’s ministry and that is peace. The reason for that peace is faithful leadership that leads to a faithful people. Clearly, this doesn’t happen overnight. The legacy left behind by Eli and his sons was not good. But eventually, with Samuel’s faithful proclamation of God’s plan and goodness, the people return to worship of the true God. They choose to set aside the pagan gods of the Canaanites and God fights for them. Because of Samuel’s faithful service and the return of the people to Himself, God brings victory over the Philistines.
The Philistines are observing all of the actions taking place in Israel, and the gathering at Mizpah is too much to pass up. I’m sure that for the Philistines, it looks like Israel has offered themselves up to be conquered by gathering so close to the border. It is also an opportunity for God to show Himself faithful and strong. All it takes is a little thunder from God and panic sweeps across the Philistine army. Because of their great fear, they are easily routed.
In the previous chapters, we saw the army of Israel gather under the leadership of Hophni and Phineas who tried to use the Ark of the Covenant as a good luck charm. This ended badly for Israel. This time, under the leadership of Samuel, Israel proceeds with God rather than without Him. Instead of insult, God is offered worship. The result is victory and peace.
While every life contains some grief and disappointment, I truly do believe that peace with God can result in peace with life. When our lives are marked by sincere worship, and a working relationship with our Creator and Savior, life is just simply going to be better. Even in our sorrows, the presence of God is real and a comfort. The result for us is can be victory and peace.