Here are my notes from LightHouse last night with the questions for before and afterwards:
1. Share with someone how God has spoken to you this week either to encourage, challenge, discipline or comfort you.
2. What is the difference between apologising and repenting?
In many ways 1 Samuel 1-6 has set the scene and shown the need for Samuel’s leadership. They show Israel’s idolatry, corrupt leadership, covenantal unfaithfulness, and highlighted the fact that God’s people do not know the word of God. They have been disciplined by God’s judgement on them and are now under Philistine control after their spectacular defeat, they are far from God and seemingly unsure of how to change and how to relate to God.
But as ch7 opens there is a glimmer of hope **what is it? (2)”Then all the people of Israel turned back to Yahweh.” Or mourned and sought after Yahweh. The Ark of the Covenant is back in Israel and now Israel are seeking after God. It is a change from 6:19 where they mourn not the loss of God’s presence and favour but his heavy blow against them. Now they long after God.
God’s disciplining of his people has worked, it has led them to this point where they are seeking after him, and all the while in an amazing act of grace he has been preparing Samuel who 3v20 “All Israel recognised... as a prophet of the LORD.” And who has been teaching and calling the people back to God. God is ready and waiting for Israel to return to him and by grace has Samuel ready to teach his people when they are willing.
Spiritual leadership matters, just as Hophni and Phinehas lead Israel into sin and idolatry so under Samuel’s godly leadership Israel come back to God. As Samuel leads them back to God there are three things we see Israel do.
1. Repent (3-4)
(3)**How does Samuel start his call to return? “If you are...” He starts by challenging their desire to turn back to God by showing clearly the implications of it. Repentance is more than just saying for sorry it’s changing. Repentance is grief over sin translated into active remove of sin. These verses show us the marks of real repentance.
Repentance is a heart issue: **How does Samuel describe this return(3)? “with all your hearts” Repentance is an active expression of a heart attitude. It is loving God above everything else, it is treasuring God above everything else so that everything else becomes cheap and disposable when compared to God. Repentance begins with loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, it is a return to covenant love (Deut6:5). Israel’s heart is now where it should be.
Repentance means ripping out sin: **What are the practical results of this whole hearted return to God according to Samuel? They are to rid themselves of idols and rivals to God. They are to come back and be faithful to the covenant and its call to have no other God’s before or even alongside Yahweh, but to serve Yahweh alone (3,4).
Replace wrong worship with right worship: When we go to the beach the boys love nothing more than building a sandcastle with a massive moat, they dig down into the sand sometimes knee high in the hope that this void will protect their sandcastle when the tide comes in. But it never works, the sea always swamps the vacuum, filling and overflowing the moat.
Sin works the same way, it will fill any void. The Israelites need not just to remove their idols but to replace wrong worship with right worship, they are to serve Yahweh. Real repentance replaces sin with right loving and living.
(4)And Israel do it, they put away idols - the gods of the nations around them – away and serve Yahweh alone. God is so precious to them that they will rip out, they will replace. (5-6)And they gather together as a nation for Samuel to intercede for them and they pour out water rather than drinking as a sign that being right with God matters more to them than life giving water. Their actions in ripping out, replacing, confessing, fasting, pouring and serving all reveal a changed heart. This isn’t religious rigmarole this is real repentance being expressed.
It’s helpful isn’t it to see the marks of real repentance so clearly. And this isn’t a one off Israel will keep having to repent, they keep having to rip down, tear out, and replace. It asks us what idols we need to rip out? **What idols do Israel have to remove? Ball and Ashtoreth. Where did Israel pick up their idols from? Baal and Ashtoreth were the gods of the nations around them, they were the fertility gods of the societies in the land. We are no different to Israel we absorb the idols of the people around us. The hardest gods for us to spot in our lives are the ones society values, because everyone has them. Work colleagues, family members, friends and they are not seen as idols but as good things to be pursued and valued.
The idols we are most likely to have will be those of the society around us: beauty, money, material possessions, career, education, family, sex, experience, alcohol and so on. We are surrounded by worship of these things all the time, it’s on TV, in films, in music, in the newspaper and magazines we read, it’s in the adverts and so on and so we just absorb it as normal just as Israel did with Baal and Ashtoreth. We would never let them replace God but we do accommodate them alongside God. They are good things but they must not become ultimate things. God will not share his peoples worship and God here warns us to examine our hearts for idols and to turn to serve him alone.
How can you recognise your idol? What if it was taken away from you would make you say ‘life is no longer worth living?’ What do you spend your time and money on? What do you long for friends and family to have or to enjoy? What do you think if only I had it life would be complete? Once we have identified it we need not just to rip it out but replace it. If our idol is money then give it away, just like Zaccheaus did. If our idol is family or our children, invite others into the home to share in the good gift God has given us. If it is career pray through what the implications would be of pursuing God through your career.
But first and foremost repenting is a heart issue. We will only really repent when we view God and what he has done for us as more important than these other things. Jesus told these parables in Matthew 13:44-46 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."
Only when we grasp the wonder of who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus will we want to worship him alone. Only then will we count our other idols as rubbish compared to knowing him and will we be liberated to rip them out and joyfully replace them with wholehearted transformed living for God.
2. Rely (7-11)
(7)Sounds an ominous note, **what is it? The Philistines are coming. Israel have just turned back to God and straight away their enemies are coming and Israel are afraid, the question is what will this fear do to their new found faith? Will they run and get the Ark, will they abandon God, will they just run?
(8)”They said to Samuel, ‘Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.’” Do you see the difference in attitude not manipulating God but relying on God. Samuel makes a burnt offering and intercedes for the people.
**What does God do? God thunders from heaven and panics the Philistines. God is faithful to his covenant, God does what Hannah prayed he would do (2:8-10) he causes a great reversal, and thunders against Israel’s enemies. Just as Israel experience God’s faithfulness to the covenant when they break it in sending the covenant curses so they experience it now in rescue; Deut 28:7 “The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.” God keeps his word, he is faithful to his covenant, defeats the Philistines and rescues Israel.
God doesn’t give Israel a strategy his gives them a rescue. Israel are to rely on God who will rescue them, they pray earnestly, desperately and dependently and God saves. It’s interesting isn’t it when you think about the number of church strategy books, or ministry methods, or habits of highly effect people books all of which suggest we need to try this or that or the other. We don’t need strategy or to ape the program of another church we need to rely on God, we need to pray as a church as we look to grow and reach the lost and we need to faithfully carry out his instructions about preaching the gospel. We as a church are as much in a battle as Israel are as the Philistines come surging towards them, and we need to rely on God as we seek to fight that battle.
As we think about friends and family we need to pray and be ready to recognise and take opportunities when God gives them. Salvation depends on God, church growth depends on God and until we recognise that we won’t pray dependently, and look to act on his work.
3. Remember (12-17)
**What does Samuel do next? He sets up a memorial stone, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” It seems a bit odd doesn’t it?
Why do we have remembrance day? Because we are prone to forgetting the sacrifice of so many in the past to protect the freedom we enjoy today. Especially as time and generations move on it becomes more important than ever to stop and remember so that we learn the lessons.
Israel are just the same. In Joshua 23 Joshua holds a covenant renewal assembly not unlike this one, and yet by the time of 1 Samuel Israel have forgotten all about it. This Ebenezer is meant to be something Israel see and remember God’s rescues which have brought them to this point. His calling and protection of Abraham, his saving through Joseph of an embryonic Israel, his rescuing of them from Egypt, right up to his thundering against the Philistines. But more than just the rescues this commemorates everything God has done to help them which includes his disciplining of them as they lost the Ark and were under Philistine influence and God’s discipline. Israel need to remember because they are prone to forgetting, that’s also why Samuel’s ministry is not just the big joyous gathering but the everyday teaching and judging(15-17), the continual reminders which a gracious God gives his people so that they do not forget and wander from him.
We are no different from the Israelites. We need to remember, we are prone to forgetting God’s rescues which seem so real in the moment but become faded black and white memories years later. We need the continual drip, drip, drip of teaching which sustains us and reminds us, we need the Lord’s Supper to remind us of the supreme rescue that is ours in Christ. We need its pointing forward to the day when our salvation will not be momentary or partially realised but full and eternal. We need the encouragement of one another speaking God’s word into our lives. And it is God’s grace that he provides each of those things to help us remember.
God’s people Repent, Rely and Remember.
1. What are the idols which society encourages us to accept unthinkingly? How can we help one another spot them, rip them out and replace them?
2. What stops us relying on God?
3. How can we help each other remember “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”? (Be as practical and realistic as possible)