Summary: This chapter contains three challenges to Israel and to any man, church, or country that desires to have spiritual life revived.
1 SAMUEL 7: 1-13
COMMITMENT, CONFESSION AND CHALLENGE
It was time for revival once again. The state of both religious and national life had slipped to a new low. Yes, there had been at least five different reprieves during the wretched days of Judges. During those days when there was no king in Israel "everyone did what was right in his [or her] own eyes" (Jud. 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25). But there is no recorded evidence of change on the part of the people. Accordingly the spiritual tide had been running out for decades even centuries when God graciously raised up Samuel. [Walter Kaiser, Jr. Revives Us Again. Broadman & Holman Publ. Nashville, TN. 1999. p. 61.]
Samuel grew up in the home of the high priest Eli, who had failed both as a leader of the nation and as a father. Eli’s sons (Hophni and Phineas) perverted the offerings to the Lord and committed brazen immorality. Their father did nothing to restrain them (1 Sam. 2-3). When sin becomes normal in leaders of the household of faith the barometer of wickedness trumpets an alarm to those with enough spiritual discernment to hear it.
These were days when "the Word of the Lord was rare" (1 Sam. 3:1). For as wickedness gets greater hold of lives, religion consisted less and less of the faithful proclamation of the Word of God and the repentance of sin. Not even the continuous oppression by the Philistines had driven Israel to her senses. Not even the loss of the nation’s most sacred treasure, the Ark of the Covenant, had aroused concern. Thus even after the Philistines’ sent the Ark on its way out of their territory, it remained unnoticed in Israel’s religious life for twenty years.
But during these twenty years of lament, God was preparing His people as He was raising up His prophet. The mourning and misery Israel was experiencing was creating a new receptivity to the Word of God proclaimed by the man of God, for God let none of Samuel’s words fail (3:19). Thus they were ready to receive the command, "Commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him only." This chapter contains three challenges to Israel and to any who desire to have spiritual life revived.
I. Commitment to Serve God Alone, 1-4.
II. Corporate Confession and Prayer, 5-9.
III. Confident Action, 10-13.
In verses 1 & 2 we learn that the ark, which represented the presence of God, is put away like an unwanted trunk in the attic. And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the Ark of the LORD and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the Ark of the LORD. (2) From the day that the Ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.
"The men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the Ark" from Bethshemesh where God struck over 50,000 dead due to their irreverence. Similar terror had fallen on Ashdod, Gath and Ekron. The honorable men of Kiriath-jearim consecrate Eleazar to care for the Ark. But the nation chose to ignore this seat of national worship and sacrificial atonement, just as it was ignoring God’s will. There was no Yom Kippur or feasts that were instituted around the blood atonement of the Ark. There the Ark came simply to rest. This ignoring lasted for twenty years (2 Sam. 6:3) as the lifeless apathetic nation made no move to enter into worship of the Lord as ordained by God’s Word.
These twenty years of oppression by the Philistines and lament by God’s people brought the prerequisite conditions for revival. Humbling misery had accomplished what bountiful blessing could not. "Lament" (Ezek. 32:18, Mic.2:4) indicates sighing, deep sobbing and even wailing. The image is that of a child that goes weeping after mom and dad to be relieved of its hurt. This lamenting "after the Lord" because of the pain and grief inflicted by the ruthless Philistine conquerors had brought about a brokenness on the part of Israel. There finally came upon those who had for so long sensed no need of God a reorientation in their inner life.
[Something similar occurred with David Brainerd (1718-47) as after he had struggled in his work with the American Indians after many years. John Shearer reported in his book "Old Time Revivals" that the revival began as many revivals begin; with loud weeping and mournful lamentation over the heavy load of guilt and its effects. This is what occurred, in the revival of the Indians in the whole areas of the Susquehanna under David Brainerd. As he commenced proclaiming the message "Herein is love," men fell at his feet in anguish of soul. These were men who could bear the most acute torture without flinching. But God’s arrow had now pierced them; their pain could not be concealed and they cried out in their distress, "Have mercy on me." What impressed Brainerd most deeply was that though these people came to him in a multitude, yet each one was mourning apart from the group. The prophecy of Zechariah [12:12-14] was fulfilled before his eyes. The woods were filled with the sound of a great mourning.]