Sometimes I find the examples in the Old Testament to be very encouraging. They are very visual and literal, making it easy for me to understand. I especially like the example we have in 1 Samuel 7.
We read in earlier chapters about how the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant in victory over the Israelites. They didn’t have it long, however, before they realized it was more trouble than it was worth. So they sent it back to Israel. The Israelites disobeyed a very clear command of God, and many looked inside the ark and were killed outright by God. 50,070 men. But instead of bringing repentance, it only brought fear. I would guess because they knew they were living in sin, and they were scared they would suffer the same fate. They mourned the dead – but they didn’t mourn their own sin. Crying because they got found out, in other words. So what did they do? They sent the Ark of the Covenant away to an obscure village, and ignored it for twenty years.
From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Isreal lamented after the Lord. (1 Samuel 7: 2)
They lamented after the Lord…. does that mean they were getting tired of sin? Remembering the favor of God? Perhaps wanting peace and freedom from their enemies? I think so. They always knew Who gave them peace from from their enemies, and victory over them. They just didn’t want to live holy lives. They wanted, as we like to say – ‘have their cake and eat it too!’ They wanted to ‘fit in’ with their heathen neighbors, and enjoy the moment. They didn’t want to fight. They wanted ease. They soon realized, however, that the ‘ease’ of sin is very temporary.
Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the house of the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtoreth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD, and serve Him alone; and HE will deliver you from the hands of the Philistines.”
…With all of your heart. That is what it takes. You must be whole-hearted about it. God sees our intentions and our hearts desire. (Hebrews 4:12)
We also have to remove the gods in our lives – whatever they may be. Do we seek mans approval more than Gods approval? Do we want the admiration of our ungodly friends and relatives? Do we have a high opinion of ourselves – thinking ‘I deserve some time alone’, or ‘I deserve this purchase for myself’, or ‘I have a good reason to be discouraged’, or any number of other self-serving ideas about ourselves. Self is the easiest “god” to put on the throne in our lives. Thinking we deserve something, better treatment, better circumstances, better health, better husbands, more money, etc. Self is very subtle and destructive. We may think that its not us – but our husbands, that needs to read this. That is proof that we have a high opinion of ourselves. Sisters, lets return to the LORD with our all hearts, remove self from the throne of our hearts, and serve GOD alone. He will then be able to deliver us from the “Philistines” in our lives. “Philistines” of self-pity, depression, pride, slander, anger, and so many more.
So the sons of Israel removed the Baals and the Ashtoreth and served the Lord alone.
Then Samuel prayed for them, and they fasted. A little later, they were gathered at Mizpah, and the Philistines gathered together, and came up against them. The Israelites heard they were coming, and were scared. Sometimes when we first turn to God in repentance, and we see that situation or that temptation, we get scared of the ‘Philistines’ in our life. Those sins that always defeat us. But listen….
….The Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines, and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel.
I love that verse! God thundered against their enemies! How quick and mightily God comes to save us from ourselves! How many times did the Israelites win in battles against their enemies, when they were following God, and living in obedience? Every time! They never lost even one battle to their enemies. If we live in obedience to God’s Word, if we get rid of the gods in our own life, and if we humble ourselves, God will always win our battles. (James 4:6)
After God thundered, the Israelites were no longer scared.
The men of Israel went out of Mizpah, and pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car.
You see? Not only does God thunder on our behalf – we get the courage and strength to even pursue our enemies till they are completely driven out before us!
Copyright River of Life Christian Fellowship.