Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines. (1 Samuel 7:8 )
Many times when we are in a crisis, an emergency or undergoing difficulties, God is the last one we go to or we go to Him for a while, don‘t see immediate or desired results, and turn somewhere else. We reach out to talk to others but not to God. We somehow forget the times we do call out to God and He has helped us out of our situation and because we want quick answers and fixes we go elsewhere. Many times we wonder why we are even in that situation to begin with and then think “where is God?”
Israel had been in a battle with the Philistines and had recently had the Ark of God returned back to them after seven months when the Philistines had taken it from them. The Philistines returned it because God’s hand was heavy upon them while they had it and He caused them to have tumors for stealing the Ark of God from the Israelites. The Philistines feared God would kill their people so they devised a plan to return it back to the Israelites. Before I continue further, I want to go back just a little further and note another thing that happened after they stole the Ark of God away from the Israelites because it shows that God does not share His glory with anyone or anything. Once the Philistines stole the Ark of God as we see in 1 Samuel 5, they brought it to one of their towns, Ashdod, and placed it in the house of their god, Dagon, setting the Ark of God right next to their statue of him. The next morning, the people of Ashdod came in and found their god, Dagon, had fallen face first on the ground before the Ark of God. They put the statue back into place and when they went back the next morning, Dagon had again fallen on its face in front of the Ark of God but this time the head and both palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only it’s torso was left on it. This was a powerful statement from God that not only will there be no other gods before Him as He states in the Ten Commandments, but that all things and people will bow before Him as Dagon was face first on the ground before the Ark of God. God does not and will not tolerate when we try to put other things before Him or in His place and will do one of three things: 1) remove it 2) destroy it or 3) allow us to consume ourselves with it to the point we end up crying out to Him.
In the first battle with the Philistines in 1 Samuel 4 we see the Israelites had lost the battle and questioned why the Lord had allowed the Philistines to defeat them. The reason was due to their sinful ways as we see back in 1 Samuel 2 :
1. Eli the priest had two sons who were corrupt and would lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle meeting and were, in other ways, setting a bad example to the people causing them to sin as well.
2. Eli confronted his sons but did not stop them and therefore he was honoring his sons more than God.
3. The Israelites also neglected to bring their offerings to the Lord and had secret idolatries.
So it was the Lord who brought them into the battle with the Philistines to punish them for their wicked ways. There are times, as we’ve seen in the Bible, when God will bring a battle to our doorstep because we refuse to stop sinning and that battle will be used to get us to cry out to Him and change our ways. The Israelites made things worse because they went into the battle without even being sorry for their sins nor praying for success.
Now a second battle occurred between the Israelites and the Philistines which was the cause of them losing the Ark of God as it was stolen by the Philistines. The Israelites thought that if they brought the Ark of God to the battlefield with them, it would help them defeat the Philistines. Their downfall here was that out of fear and desperation they placed their confidence in an external symbol instead of in the Lord. Sometimes in fear and desperation of a problem or situation, we may think we are doing the right thing in reaching for a person or things which may symbolize the Lord thinking it will help us out of our situation but in reality we are bypassing the Lord instead of keeping our eyes focused on Him, crying out to Him and waiting for His help. There is no object symbolizing the Lord that can bring us “good luck” or help us to win a battle. It’s a deception of Satan to make us think an object or a person is the reason we have victory over a problem or situation. In reality it takes the focus and glory away from God and puts it on the object or person. In every situation, God is the one who is to get the glory because He is the one brings us victory though He does work through others to resolve the issue. They, however, are not to get the glory.
So we see in 1 Samuel 6, after seven months of being plagued by disease, the Philistines return the Ark of God to the Israelites who are glad to have it back. In 1 Samuel 7, Samuel judges the people and tells the people that if they return to God with all their hearts and want Him to deliver them out of the hands of the Philistines, they must get rid of all their foreign gods and goddesses and prepare their hearts for the Lord and serve Him only. Gods and goddesses do not consist of just statues anymore but in our world it’s anything that we allow to replace God or become more important than Him. This can be our cellphones, computers, sports, tv, people, our families, our work, titles, education, money, drugs, alcohol, etc. All of these things become our gods/goddesses because they become more important than God sometimes we may use them to try and get out of our problems or make us feel better.
Next, the Israelites and Samuel gathered together in unity at Mizpah, drew water and poured it out before the Lord representing their humiliation for their sins and symbolizing their repentance. They fasted that day and admitted out loud they had sinned against the Lord and renewed their vows with Him. The Philistines heard that they had gathered together and went up against them. Anytime we gather together in unity we become a threat to the enemy and an attack will occur. Add to that repentance and fasting and we then become a major threat because we are stronger through Christ and we will have God on our side and will then be unable to be defeated. When we are unity and working together, the enemy must chip away at the unified bond to weaken us by causing division and strife amongst the people. It takes a close relationship with Christ and a keen spiritual eye to see when that is happening. When it is seen, we must pray and fast and cry out to God for His help to stop the attack.
The Israelites feared the coming attack and asked Samuel not to stop crying out to God for them so God will save them from the hands of the Philistines. The Philistines were an advanced, refined people but they were a hostile group, easily provoked into conflict. They were wealthy, powerful and very well known. They were advanced in military weaponry. They were also renowned for their consumption of alcohol. But they were uncircumcised in God’s eyes which means they were worldly people who thrived on power, conflict, prestige and worldly ways. They had not removed or cut those things from their hearts so they were considered uncircumcised.
The first time around the Israelites went into battle under their own power and what they thought was the right thing to do in utilizing the Ark of God to help them to win. But the second time we see them coming together in unity, repenting and seeking after the Lord for His help. This time the battle became the Lord’s. As Samuel was offering up the lamb, the Philistine’s drew near but God let out a loud thunder, confusing the Philistines so much that they were overcome before Israel and Israel pursued the Philistines and drove them back.
When we seek God and intercede for situations and trust in Him alone, He will always be there to defend us, sending the enemy into confusion which allows us to defeat the enemy or situation/problem. We must never stop interceding and crying out for God’s help when we face trials and tribulations. No matter how desperate a situation looks and how fearful we get, we must turn to God, cry out to Him and wait upon His rescue. Remember, His timing is perfect and comes right at the moment we think all is lost because this is where He will get the greater glory. It’s what is used to get us to see how powerful and loving He really is. We also must look inward to see if there are any changes that need to be made within ourselves because many times it‘s our sinful ways that can bring the battles to our doorstep. We then must repent and cry out in intercession, trust that God will help, and then wait upon His help.
“Lord, forgive me for the times I’ve allowed my fear and desperation to cause me to reach out to other people or things thinking my troubles will be solved or problems will go away instead of trusting in You. Open my eyes to any sins I may be committing that is bringing my current situation or battle to my doorstep so I can repent, fast and cry out to You for help. Draw me closer to you and teach me your ways, Lord, so when I have to walk through a problem, I can do so without worry and fear and know that in the end, You will make everything right. I ask this in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.