"And the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months…and it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years before all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord."
I Samuel 6:1, King James Version/ Amplified Bible
I Samuel 7: 23, King James Version/ Amplified Bible
"How Long Does It Take?"
"A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God."
Charles G. Finney
If I had been part of the Israelite people, how long do I think it would have taken me to "lament" to God for all the disobedient and wayward living in my own life?
Do I think it would have taken twenty years for me to realize things were not what God would want in the way I lived each day?
"Perhaps the greatest barrier to revival on a large scale is the fact that we are too interested in a great display. We want an exhibition; God is looking for a man (or woman) who will throw themselves entirely on God. Whenever self-effort, self-glory, self-seeking or self-promotion enter into the work of revival, then God leaves us to ourselves."
Ted S. Rendall
"The most important ingredient of righteousness is to render to God the service and homage due to Him. He is shamefully cheated whenever we do not submit to His authority."
Jim and I have a winsome little dog named Ethel who is a miniature dachshund or as some folk call these creatures, a "wiener dog." Of course, I'm a totally biased mother, but Ethel is a real sweetheart. She is kind and doesn't know a stranger. Everybody is her friend.
Ethel is 6-years-old and extremely obedient. But this week, much to our surprise, Baby Ethel, as we call her, developed some very regressive behavior - antics that we thought were long ago forgotten. Her disobedience was so out-of-character. We tried everything we could think of to communicate to Ethel that her behavior was improper, but to no avail.
Finally, when she acted-up, we removed her to a place in the house by herself. When her behavior improved, we rewarded her with a special treat and gave her overwhelming affirmation, praising her for being so obedient. Within 48 hours, just two days, Ethel was acting like the saintly little dog we know so well.
If you are wondering what a dog like Ethel has to do with the book of I Samuel, let me just say, "More than you might think at first glance."
Our texts in I Samuel today focus on two distinctly different time lines. Yesterday, we found out that when the Philistines got home with their trophy, the Art of the Covenant, they were in for a big surprise. First, they placed the ark in the house of Dagon, their phony god. Too bad for Dagon, because in just two days time, he was nothing but a "stump." He fell over in front of the ark with his head and hands broken off. One thing you have to say for the Philistines in Ashdod, they weren't dummies, and they said, "The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us; for His hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god" (I Samuel 5: 7, K.J.V.).
So off went the ark to Ekron and when the Philistines in this city saw the ark, they had a fit and cried out, "They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people"
(I Samuel 5: 10, K.J.V.).
During the seven months that the Bible tells us the ark was in the possession of the Philistines, there was deadly destruction upon the people. It was a disaster, and the Philistines said, "Get this ark of God out of here - now." Please note, it took only seven months for these heathen people to get the drift that going against God was unwise.
Finally, the ark was sent back to the Israelites but not to Shiloh, because the people of Israel weren't in a good spiritual state themselves. In fact, in one very sad passage of Scripture, which is our other text for today, we are told that, "it was twenty years" before the house of Israel lamented after the Lord" (I Samuel 7: 2). I had to check out the word lamented in the Hebrew and found that this phrase "lamented after the Lord," means, "cried aloud to assemble and proclaim." It took twenty years for Israel to come together as one to admit their error in falling away from God. While the heathen recognized the power of God in seven months, God's own children ignored His power for twenty years.
Finally, after time passed, God's children began to believe that obeying their Father wasn't such a bad idea after all. So Samuel called the Israelites together and told them, "If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only: and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines" (I Samuel 7: 3, K.J.V.).
The absence of God's presence had consequence for His children. This to me doesn't sound much different than when Jim and I had to withdraw from Baby Ethel. Too bad that a little dog learned in 48 hours what it took God's children 20 years to get straight. Obedience results in great happiness in our lives.
And this got me to thinking, "What were these people waiting for?" Author Stephen Olford penned some extremely potent words when he correctly observed that in our lives today, "Waiting for general revival is no excuse for not enjoying personal revival."
I wonder who was the first person in Israel, besides Samuel, who said, "My heart is going to be wholly for God?" Once one person took that first step, then another did…and another, until finally, all God's children "lamented" that it had taken them so long to recognize that without the strength and power of God in all their lives, they were nothing at all. The great evangelist, Gypsy Smith, who worked in England and America for seventy years, preaching the Gospel of Jesus, left you and me with this heavenly wisdom and advice regarding revival: "Kneel down and with a piece of chalk draw a complete circle all around you - and pray to God to send a revival on everything inside the circle. Stay there until He answers, and you will have revival."
"God is more willing to give revival than we are to receive it."
"Great and merciful God,
Your life is the source of the
whole world's life;
Your mercy is our only hope;
Your eyes watch over all
You know the secrets of our hearts.
By Your life-giving Spirit,
draw us into Your presence,
that we may worship in the
true life of Your Spirit,
with lives moved by Your love,
through Him who has led us to
Your heart of love,
even Jesus Christ, our Lord."
The Church of South India
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $10.00.
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