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(Helpful to Sunday School Lesson of May 16, 1920, 1 Samuel 7:2–17)

“The time was long.” This has been the testimony of all the saints of God when the glory of the presence of God has dimmed, and when the heart has been far from His will. Here the ark was far from the heart of the people. One of the poets has said:

“The midsummer sun shines but dim,
The fields strive in vain to look gay,”

Whenever the Lord is not near, and His presence real.

“Return unto the Lord with all your hearts.” This was Samuel’s first call to Israel in such an hour as this, and it is the first call to every heart in a time of darkness when the heavens seem brass and the way seems hard. In the present hour of world darkness, with worldliness beating into the church of God in increasing waves, the first thing to do is to return to God with our whole heart. How foolish to try to settle problems, to plan ways and means, to talk of things that might be wrong with the machinery! There is but one thing to do first, and that is TO RETURN TO THE LORD WITH THE WHOLE HEART. Let there be a going down and a searching of your heart, and a returning to God with everything that is in your soul, mind and body, and the Lord will come in blessing and power and in wonderful correction and reviving, and will bring the victory.

“I will pray for you unto the Lord.” Samuel never gave Israel this promise until they had returned to the Lord with their whole heart by putting away the strange gods that were among them. Very strange gods, indeed, they were. It is almost astonishing to our minds when we read the history of the worship of Baal and Ashtaroth. We can hardly believe now, when we pick up the textbooks of some of the isms, and some of their literature scattered about, that sane men read it. We can hardly believe that this is the twentieth century with printed Bibles on every hand, when we see some of the strange gods that are worshipped. It is all one can do to credit that people are sane who will believe some of the isms of our times, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so plain, so simple, so satisfactory, and, when believed, works such wonderful joy and peace, light and wisdom.

When Israel had cleansed herself of her strange gods, then Samuel told the people to come to Mizpeh—(just the place to come), and said to them, “I will pray for you unto the Lord.” What a marvelous thing to have a man like Samuel pray for them,—Samuel who could bring down rain to show the power of God in the season when no rain came, the harvest season. Samuel, this godly man to whom God revealed His innermost secrets, was to pray for them. Oh how happy the home, how happy the friend, how happy the town, how happy the people that can have such a man as Samuel to pray for it!

“We have sinned against the Lord.” You will notice when they reached Mizpeh, the place of prayer, that this was their cry; and this is the first cry of the soul when it really determines to seek the Lord with the whole heart. When the heart is far from God it does not even believe it has sinned; a little bit of dirt more or less makes little difference. When the heart approaches to His holiness, and gets a vision of His love, His faithfulness, His care, it breaks up and cries out, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Isaiah cried in the presence of God, “I am a man of unclean lips.” Job cried, after his terrific trials, when he really saw God, “I abhor myself.” John, on the Isle of Patmos, seeing Jesus in all his fullness, fell as a dead man at His feet.

“But the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day.” Israel had no sooner returned to the Lord than her old enemy, the Philistines, was upon her. This is true in Christian warfare. Let a soul go through with God, by confession and putting away of idols, returning wholly to the Lord, enjoying the fullness of His blessing and presence, and it will find that the enemy comes in like a flood. But remember, it is only that the Lord might use this opportunity of lifting up a standard against him and showing the wealth of the new victory which is in Christ Jesus.

Here the Lord greatly discomfited the Philistines and they were smitten before Israel, and two (in all probability) put ten thousand to flight.

“Ebenezer.” Samuel marked this spot of victory with a great stone, and called the place “The stone of help,” saying: “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” This stone is the cap-stone of victory. Do not forget to mark your victories well, so that, as you look back over the past, these great Ebenezers will stand up. They are a great source of strength to the soul that is tested and tried.

David, in the seventy-seventh Psalm, says: “I will remember the years of the right hand of God.” It was this remembrance that started him on his way out of the darkness of the cave of Adullam out of its despondency, to a living faith in the ability of God to make him king.

Do not forget to raise your Ebenezers. Remember the old verse, “Here I’ll raise my Ebenezer, Hither by thy help I’m come.”

“All the days of Samuel.” There is a statement here that through all the days of Samuel the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines, and that He made the Philistines restore all the cities that they had taken from Ekron even unto Gath. Here is a record of victory over the enemy through the whole life of a man. Mark this well and take it to the Lord in prayer. This great man of prayer, who prayed for Israel and delivered Israel, experienced the unbroken victory of the presence of God.