1 Samuel 7:7-11
And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh…
The great thunder with which God thundered on the Philistines carried down from God the answer and the needed help. There is no need for supposing that the thunder was supernatural. It was an instance of what is so common, a natural force adapted to the purpose of an answer to prayer. Natural, but not casual. Though natural, it was God's answer to Samuel's prayer. But how could this have been? If it was a natural storm, if it was the result of natural law, of atmospheric conditions, the operation of which was fixed and certain, it must have taken place whether Samuel prayed or not. Undoubtedly. The uniformity of natural law enables the Almighty, who sees and plans the end from the beginning, to frame a comprehensive scheme of Providence that shall not only work out the final result in His time and way, but that shall also work out every intermediate result precisely as He designs and desires. Surely, if there is a general Providence, there must be a special Providence. If God guides the whole He must also guide the parts.
1. Let us apply this view to the matter of prayer. The prayer of Samuel was prayer which God had inspired. What more reasonable than that in the great plan of Providence there should have been included a provision for the fulfilment of Samuel's prayer at the appropriate moment? The thunderstorm, we may be sure, was a natural phenomenon. The only thing miraculous about it was its forming a part of that most marvellous scheme — the scheme of Divine Providence — a part of the scheme that was to be carried into effect after Samuel had prayed. If the term supernatural may be fitly applied to that scheme which is the sum and substance of all the laws of nature, of all the Providence of God, and of all the works and thoughts of man, then it was a miracle; but, if not, it was a natural effect. It is important to bear these truths in mind, because many have the impression that prayer for outward results cannot be answered without a miracle, and that it is unreasonable to suppose that such a multitude of miracles as prayer involves would be wrought every day. We do not deny that prayer may be answered in a supernatural way. But it is most useful that the idea should be entertained that such prayer is usually answered by natural means. By not attending to this men often fail to perceive that prayer has been answered. Let the means be as natural as they may — to those who have eyes to see the finger of God is in them all the same. But to return to the Israelites and the Philistines. The defeat of the Philistines was a very thorough one. The impression thus made on the enemies of Israel corresponds in some degree to the moral influence which God-fearing men sometimes have on an otherwise godless community. In the great awakening at Northampton in Jonathan Edwards' days there was a complete arrest laid on open forms of vice. And whensoever in a community God's presence has been powerfully realised, the taverns have been emptied, the gambling table deserted, under the sense of His august majesty. Would only that the character and life of all God's servants were so truly godlike that their very presence in a community would have a subduing and restraining influence on the wicked!
2. The step taken by Samuel to commemorate this wonderful Divine interposition.
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.
WEB: When the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. When the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.