The Ark with Abinadab
1 Samuel 7:1-17
We cover a period of twenty years, in which the Ark was in the care of the House of Abinadab, under the charge of his son, Eleazar.
We wish to emphasize just one thing: The sanctifying of Eleazar to keep the Ark.
1. The fuller meaning of the word "sanctified." The Philistines had suffered at the hands of the Ark, because they were defiled with iniquity. For this cause the Ark meant disaster, and not blessing. The same Lord who is blessing to the righteous, is cursing to the unrighteous. For this cause the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all unrighteousness of men.
If Eleazar was to "keep" the Ark, he had to be cleansed from all iniquity. Even so it is today. "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord," is as applicable to us as it was to Eleazar. In the Second Epistle to Timothy we read of being "sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work." How can unclean hands hold clean and holy things?
The word "sanctified," however, means more than "cleansing." It also means "separated." To be used for the Master we must be separated from things of this world. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, * * and I will receive you." Those who would serve the Lord must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
The word "sanctified" has a third meaning; it means "dedication." To be "sanctified" is not only to be clean and to be separated; it is to be wholly His. It is a life placed on the altar of service, obedient to His will. Thus was Eleazar sanctified.
2. The fuller meaning of the word "keep." Eleazar was sanctified that he might keep the Ark of the Lord. What a hallowed and sacred trust became his; what a blessed service.
God had given to Eleazar a holy trust. Something worth more than life had been put into his charge. He was responsible for the safety of the Ark of the Lord. He was to keep that which was given to his charge.
A similar trust has been committed unto us. The words, even now, are sounding in our ears: "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust." And what was committed to Timothy? It was the Word of the Gospel which he preached. No wonder the Apostle was so solemn in his charge, as he said: "I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ."
No wonder the Apostle urged Timothy to avoid profane and vain babblings, and the oppositions of science falsely so called.
To Eleazar it was given to keep the Ark of the Lord. To us it is given to keep the Word of the Lord. What a sacred trust, then, is ours. We are to give ourselves wholly to these things. We are to prove ourselves good ministers of Christ, nourished up m the words of the faith and of good doctrine.
Our charge is to hold the faith, and to war a good warfare. Some have made shipwreck of the faith, but we, like Timothy, are urged to continue in all things which we have learned, even in the Holy Scriptures which are given by inspiration of God.
I. LAMENTING AFTER GOD (1 Samuel 7:2 )
1. Turning their eyes Godward. Israel had wandered away from the Lord. For this cause God had smitten her with defeat at the hands of the Philistines. For this cause, also, the Ark had been taken by the enemy. That was a great blow to the House of the Lord. The fact that God seemed to have left them, made them awake to a sense of their own wanderings. Their sins were lying heavily upon them. When the Ark, however, was brought back, they rejoiced to see it. Somehow or other, they felt more secure when they knew that God was with them. Thus it was that they once more turned their eyes toward Him.
2. Lamenting after the Lord. We need not alone to seek the Lord but to seek Him with tears of confession and repentance. If we come with our hands stained with blood and with iniquity, the Lord cannot hear us. It is vain to seek Him, unless we lament after Him. It is only the hungry heart that finds Him. Then shall ye find the Lord when ye seek after Him "with all your heart." David found mercy only when his prayer breathed the yearnings of his broken spirit. Had Israel merely turned toward the Lord, without any sense of her sin, and without consequential lamentations, she had never found Him.
The Pharisee who sought the Lord, boasting his goodness, failed to find audience with Him. The publican who beat upon his breast and pleaded himself a sinner, found mercy.
II. CONDITIONS OF BLESSING (1 Samuel 7:3 )
It is remarkable to us how closely God's words to Israel, through Samuel, coincide with His words to us. Three things were presented to Israel as conditions upon which the Lord would bless them.
1. They were commanded to put away their strange gods. Here is something very vital to us. We cannot come to God unless we first forsake our evil ways and our evil thoughts. Repentance has a very vital place in the lives of those saints who would seek a blessing from Heaven. It is impossible for us to carry into the new life the raiment of the old. We must, the rather, put off the old man with the lusts thereof, before we can expect to put on the new man.
2. They were commanded to turn to the Lord with all their heart. No halfhearted affair was sufficient. Remember God searcheth the heart. He does not care for outward appearances, no matter how religious they may seem. He wants genuineness, a deep-seated, deep-rooted cleansing and affection; He wants the heart. Have you not read: "My son, give Me thine heart"? Christ said if ye forgive not from your heart your enemies, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you.
Christianity is not to be worn as our raiment is worn, on the outside. It is to be the very inner springs of our being.
3. They were commanded to serve Him only. We remember how it was written, " Choose you this day whom ye will serve ; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Araorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
This is a solemn matter. In these days of philosophical folly, many are seeking to serve a god that their fathers never knew; some are seeking to serve the god of the modernist, and denying the only Lord God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; others are seeking to serve the god of mammon, bowing down before worldly pleasures, and divers lusts.
Here ye the Word of our Lord: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24 ).
III. THE WAY OF APPROACH TO GOD (1 Samuel 7:4-6 )
The time had come, at last, when Samuel saw that the Children of Israel were ready to come into the presence of the Holy One.
1. They had obeyed the voice of the Lord and put away Baalim and Ashtaroth; they had also fulfilled the command, and had learned to serve the Lord only.
Prayer is the approach of the heart to God. The basis of that approach is, therefore, the basis of acceptable prayer. There is a little verse that says: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." When anybody seeks to come into the presence of God with unclean hands or hearts, the Lord will not hear him. Our God is a Holy God, and His presence chamber is not open to the unholy.
In the day of Israel's backsliding, the Lord said: "When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread My courts?" Then He added: "When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood."
Would we, therefore, seek to enter into the presence of God? Then we must be washed and made clean. We must put away the evil of our doings.
2. The time for prayer had come. Samuel said, "Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord." How blessed it is when we find the way of access is open to us, and we can come to the Lord in prayer. If there are any young people who feel, when they pray, that there is an impregnable wall between them and the Lord, let them remember this lesson; they must put away the evil from their own lives; they must prepare their hearts to serve Him only, and then, cleansed by the Blood of Christ and thus robed in Divine righteousness, they will find the way open through prayer to approach even into the Holy of Holies.
IV. A SEVERE TEST OF FAITH (1 Samuel 7:7-8 )
1. Satan will always oppose those who seek to serve the Lord fully. It was when the Children of Israel had sought the face of God, having cleansed themselves from their idols, that the Philistines went up against them. Here is a lesson we need to learn. Let anyone seek to follow the Lord fully and obstacles will immediately arise. If the Children of Israel seek in obedience to go through the Red Sea, Pharaoh and his hosts will follow after them to destroy them.
The more we endeavor to serve God only, the more Satan will seek to shift us from our fidelity.
2. Israel had a needless fear. When the Children of Israel heard that the Philistines were coming up against them, they were sore afraid. They remembered the fearful beating they had received from their hands, not so long since. They knew the strength and the prowess of the enemy, and they were afraid.
Well they might have been afraid, had they not all left Baalim and Ashtaroth, and set themselves with all their hearts to serve the Lord. Now they needed not to fear. God will never forsake those who worthily trust in Him. We remember how Christ said: "It is I; be not afraid." If God be with us and for us, who can be against us?
The wicked can never prevail against those who are hid with Christ in God. They are just as safe as He is safe. Their life is hidden away in His life; and because He lives, they shall live also.
3. Looking to the source of help. To Samuel Israel said: "Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us that He will save us out of the hand of the Philistines." Israel knew they could not save themselves. They had come to the end of their own strength. Their trust was neither in horses nor horsemen. They sought unto the Lord. They asked for His salvation.
What a lesson all of this is to us. Let us live in the place of successful prayer, and we will live in the place of assured victory.
V. PRAYER AND SACRIFICE (1 Samuel 7:9-10 )
1. Man's only approach unto God. We have already discovered that God's people must come in prayer before Him with clean hands and a pure heart. This, however, in no wise even suggests that there is any approach unto God apart from the Blood of Christ. God does demand even of those who come with a burnt offering, that they shall, in addition thereto, be clean. Not that we would add anything to the Cross of Christ by the way of atonement for sin. We do, however, insist that grace is no excuse for licentiousness; and the one who has been cleansed by the Blood of Christ should prove his trust by his life. If we plead the Blood and yet continue walking in our own will and way, it shows our trust in the Blood is more of a formality than a heart relationship.
2. Samuel offered a burnt offering, and then he cried unto the Lord. When we come before the Lord, let us always come through the Blood. Christ said, "No man cometh unto the Father but by Me." Even the best of us are not holy, even though we are not living in willful sin, and know of nothing that would condemn us. Yet we dare not say we have not sinned, neither dare we say we have no sin.
There was no entrance into the Holy Place apart from the blood. Neither was there entrance into the Holy of Holies apart from the blood. Cain tried to come to God without any offering of blood, but he was refused, and his offering stank in the nostrils of God.
3. We read that Samuel cried unto the Lord and the Lord heard him, God always hears when the conditions of true prayer are fully met. The Lord's ear is not less ready to hear than His hand is to help. Thank God that we have One who does not shut Himself away from the needs of His people. He lives for those who love Him and who trust in Him.
VI. EBENEZER (1 Samuel 7:12 )
1. A wonderful victory. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines. There is no possible defeat when Christians stand, as it were, with their hand upon the burnt offering. Even Baalim could not curse Israel, as he stood with his hand upon the offering.
There is a little verse in Revelation, where it says: "They overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony."
2. Giving God the glory. Samuel did not seek any glory because of Israel's victory. He had done the praying, and he had sacrificed the burnt offering, yet he did not take even the least of praise. Let us be sure that we give God the glory, for, if it had not been for Him, our lives had known nothing but defeat. Our triumphs are His, our conquests are His. The truth is that to the Lord belongeth the victory.
Apart from Christ we can do nothing, but to him that believeth all things are possible.
3. Ebenezer. The word means "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." Hitherto; that is, up to this point, the Lord has been with us. What does this mean in our lives? It means that we should stop and count our blessings, that we may give praise to God. It means that we should, as it were, erect a stone of remembrance as a memorial of blessing received.
There is something else, however, very vital to us in the word Ebenezer. To me, it seems to say, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us, and help us He will until our day is done. He who hath wrought, will work. Our past blessings may always remain as a basis in our plea for future blessings. God will not help us today, and leave us stranded tomorrow. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
VII. A PERIOD OF REST (1 Samuel 7:13-15 )
1. The Philistines were subdued. Is it not possible for us to have the same victory over all the powers of darkness? Is not our Lord an ascended and seated Lord; and is not Satan and all the powers of the enemy under His feet? Why then should we not be overcomers?
The expression "the Philistines were subdued" should be ours each day of the year. If he is under Christ's feet, let us put him under ours.
2. They came no more into the coast of Israel. As long as Samuel lived the Philistines let Israel alone. Is there not a place of continued victory? May we not have so conclusive and so overwhelming victory, through faith, and over the powers of darkness, that they through sheer discouragement will let us alone? This was, at least, the case in the days of Samuel.
3. Israel received back again all she had lost because of her sins. The very cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored, even from Ekron unto Gath.
Let us not think that the Israel of today which has been so stricken because of her sins shall never again have peace. The Arabs and the Jews are, at this very moment, contending over the land which God gave unto Israel. The Arabs hold that land the same as the Turks once held it, because Israel has sinned. When Israel, however, comes back to God, all of the land that was given to Abraham shall be restored unto God's own people.
Abinadab discovered that the Ark of God was the river of blessing which Israel had lost.
In the White Mountain region is a place called the Lost River, which is much visited by tourists. It is a narrow ravine filled with gigantic rocks. The theory is that a small river once flowed here, but a great convulsion of the earth's surface caused a landslide which buried the river. A brook tumbles in and out among the rocks, but this is not, so it is said, the original river. You get a trace of that in the Chamber of Silence.
The guide takes you down through many crevices, potholes, and caverns until you come to a cave where he bids you to be still and listen. At first you hear only the roar of a little cataract formed by the brook as it falls over the rocks near by. Soon, however, you become aware of a faint, silvery sound of dripping water, which conies up from depths far below your feet. That, the guide tells you, is the Lost River.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on 1 Samuel 7". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany