2and it stayed there for 20 years.
During this time everyone in Israel was very sad and begged the Lord for help.
The People of Israel Turn Back
3One day, Samuel told all the people of Israel, “If you really want to turn back to the Lord, then prove it. Get rid of your foreign idols, including the ones of the goddess Astarte. Turn to the Lord with all your heart and worship only him. Then he will rescue you from the Philistines.”
4The people got rid of their idols of Baal and Astarte and began worshiping only the Lord.
5Then Samuel said, “Tell everyone in Israel to meet together at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.”
6The Israelites met together at Mizpah with Samuel as their leader. They drew water from the well and poured it out as an offering to the Lord. On that same day they went without eating to show their sorrow, and they confessed they had been unfaithful to the Lord.
7When the Philistine rulers found out about the meeting at Mizpah, they sent an army there to attack the people of Israel.
The Israelites were afraid when they heard that the Philistines were coming. 8“Don't stop praying!” they told Samuel. “Ask the Lord our God to rescue us.”
9-10 Samuel begged the Lord to rescue Israel, then he sacrificed a young lamb to the Lord. Samuel had not even finished offering the sacrifice when the Philistines started to attack. But the Lord answered his prayer and made thunder crash all around them. The Philistines panicked and ran away. 11The men of Israel left Mizpah and went after them as far as the hillside below Beth-Car, killing every enemy soldier they caught.
12-13The Philistines were so badly beaten that it was quite a while before they attacked Israel again. After the battle, Samuel set up a monument between Mizpah and the rocky cliffs. He named it “Help Monument” to remind Israel how much the Lord had helped them.
For as long as Samuel lived, the Lord helped Israel fight the Philistines. 14The Israelites were even able to recapture their towns and territory between Ekron and Gath.
Israel was also at peace with the Amorites.
Samuel Is a Leader
15Samuel was a leader in Israel all his life. 16Every year he would go around to the towns of Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah where he served as judge for the people. 17Then he would go back to his home in Ramah and do the same thing there. He also had an altar built for the Lord at Ramah.
All through their history the Israelites had a yo-yo relationship with God. At times they worshipped and served God, at other times they turned away from him and worshipped idols. Samuel told them if they got rid of the idols and turned back to God, wholeheartedly, God would rescue them from their enemy, the Philistines. So the Israelites turned back to God.
When the Philistines marched towards them, the Israelites were scared, but they didn’t run. As Samuel offered the burnt offering and cried out to God for Israel, the Philistines advanced ready to fight. That’s when God stepped in and the Israelites were victorious.
The Israelites turned from their idols and turned back to God. When they faced their enemy they put their faith in God and God honoured that. Their faith was more than skin-deep, it went right to their core and showed through their actions. God blessed them. Not only did the Israelites win that battle; they won the war. The Philistines didn’t bother them again while Samuel was their judge, and the Israelites got back the land the Philistines had previous taken.
As I read the scriptural accounts of the Israelites I get impatient with them. When they worship and follow God they’re blessed. When they turn away from God and worship idols things get rough. Won’t they ever learn? Then I look at my own life and realize I’m just like the Israelites. Things are easier when I put God first in my life. But, when I don’t… well, life doesn’t go as well. It’s not that I don’t face the same challenges. And it’s not that I’m unafraid. But, when God is with me I’m up for the challenge rather than beaten down by it.
Dear Heavenly Father, You are so patient. I am so thick-headed. I need you to remind me that worshipping and following you is the best way to live. Thank you that you will always give us another chance to draw close to you. Through Jesus I pray. Amen.