1 Samuel 7:3-11
And Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, If you do return to the LORD with all your hearts…
I. First, then, THESE PEOPLE WERE IN A VERY HOPEFUL CONDITION. "All the house of Israel lamented after the Lord." What does it mean?
1. It means that they were greatly oppressed. Their goods ware taken from them. They were beaten. They saw their children slain. They were the slaves of the Philistines.
2. I think that, by the house of Israel lamenting after the Lord, is meant, next, that they began to be inwardly convinced that nobody could help them but the Lord.
3. It seems to me that, while they desired Him, they were afraid that He would not deliver them. They prayed after a fashion, but there was a dash of doubt about it.
4. Moreover, these people had very little hope, but they had very much desire.
5. If you read the third verse, you will see that, all this while, they had not parted with their idols. They lamented after the Lord, but they did not get the Lord, because they wanted to have the Lord and to have their idols, too. John Bunyan tells us that, when he was playing at the game of "cat" one Sunday, on Elstow Green, as he was going to strike the cat with his stick, he thought he heard a voice crying, "Wilt thou keep thy sins, and go to hell; or wilt thou give up thy sins, and go to heaven?" That question, without an angel's voice, you may hear at this moment. I put it now to some of you who would like to keep your sins, and yet go to heaven. You lament after the Lord. You would be a saint; but then you want to be a sinner, too. It is useless lamenting after the Lord, if it does not lead you to give up your idols.
6. It meant that they could never rest till God returned. Some of you have tried many ways to get rest. Some years ago you got harpooned at a meeting; and though, like a big whale, you have dragged out miles of line, and gone to the bottom of the sea of sin, the harpoon sticks in you still. I know what you have been doing to get rest. You have tried the world, and now there is nothing there that pleases you. I wonder what you will try next. Will you try dissipation? Will you try drunkenness? Will you try the use of drugs? Well; if God means to save you, you will never rest till you are anchored in the port of Christ's atoning sacrifice. I sometimes hear of persons getting very angry after a gospel sermon, and I say to myself, "I am not sorry for it." Sometimes when we are fishing, the fish gets the hook into his mouth. He pulls hard at the line: if he were dead, he would not; but he is a live fish, worth the getting; and though he runs away for a while, with the hook in his jaws, he cannot escape. His very wriggling and his anger show that he has got the hook, and the hook has got him. Have the landing net ready; we shall land him by-and-by. Give him more line; let him spend his strength, and then we will land him, and he shall belong to Christ forever.
II. THESE PEOPLE WERE CALLED UPON TO TAKE THREE VERY DECIDED STEPS.
1. The first thing that they were to do was to "put away the strange gods." Every man seems to have a different idol. One has pride: he is so wonderfully good, so self-righteous; he has never done anything wrong. He is quite as good as a Christian, and rather' better. Another man's god is his self-confidence. Hear him talk. He understands everything; he does not need to be taught anything; and if there is anything in the Bible that he does not understand, why; then he does not believe it.
2. Now, notice the next step of decision: "Put away the strange gods, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord." The mere outward reformation was not enough. They might have torn down every idol in the land, and have been no nearer God for that. See, in France today, how the people who have for so long bent the knee in superstition and idolatry, have, many of them, flung away their vain worship, only to sink into infidelity. What better are they, when they exalt the "Goddess of Reason" where before stood the altars of the Papacy, when the heart is untouched, and God is not in all their thoughts? Still, there are many in that land, as I trust, there are many here, who are lamenting after God, and only await the preparation of the heart, which comes from Him, to how in allegiance before His throne. What, then, is the way to prepare the heart? The first thing is, confession of sin. Then resolve in your soul that you will quit these sins. Then there must be much prayer; for so it was with these people. Cry mightily unto God: "Lord, save me!" Remember, too, that there must be trust, or else the heart is not rightly prepared. Then, break away from the world.
3. That is the next step, the service of God: "Serve him only," said Samuel. "Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only."
III. THEY WERE HELPED TO DO ALL THIS BY HAVING FAITH. It was faith in Samuel, as we have already noticed. You can be much more helped, yea, graciously enabled, if you have faith in Christ.
1. They believed Samuel's word.
2. These people believed chiefly in Samuel's prayers.
3. The people had faith in Samuel's sacrifice.
4. Israel also accepted Samuel's rule.The Lord help you to believe in God incarnate, in God making sacrifice for sin, in Jesus dead, buried, risen, ascended, sitting at the right hand of God, and soon to come in glory! Let him enter your life, and dwelling in your heart, judge your every action, and rule over your entire life.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, 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.
WEB: Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, "If you do return to Yahweh with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you, and direct your hearts to Yahweh, and serve him only; and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines."