Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Samuel 7:8 - 7:9

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Samuel 7:8 - 7:9


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DISCOURSE: 288

SAMUEL’S SUCCESSFUL INTERCESSION

1Sa_7:8-9. And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt-offering wholly unto the Lord: and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him.

THERE is scarcely a more striking instance of reformation to be found in all the Holy Scriptures, than in the chapter before us. The people of Israel had long been in a state of awful departure from God. They had presumptuously confided in the ark at a former period, as though its very presence was sufficient to secure them the victory over the most powerful enemies [Note: 1Sa_4:3-5.]: but now, though it had been restored to their country twenty years, no one had shewn any just regard to it. We may well suppose, however, that Samuel had not been idle: indeed we apprehend that the general reformation which took place at this time, was the fruit of his labours. Availing himself of the deep impression which had been made on the minds of the whole nation, he proposed to meet all the elders of Israel at Mizpeh, with a view to keep a fast unto the Lord. This measure was adopted: but the Philistines, imagining that the collecting of so many persons at one place was with a view to combine for military purposes, took the alarm, and determined to make an assault on them, before they should be able to arrange their plans, and prepare themselves for the battle. The approach of the Philistines produced great consternation at Mizpeh, and necessitated the Israelites to stand on their defence. But, conscious of their incapacity to resist their foes, they besought Samuel to intercede with God for them. His intercession is the subject which we propose for our present consideration; and we shall notice it,

I.       As solicited by them—

They had now learned by experience that God alone could help them—

[They did not, as formerly, resort to the ark for aid: nor did they confide in an arm of flesh: Jehovah himself was now their hope: and they sought him in a manner that was truly becoming: “they lamented after him,” being grieved at their hearts that they had provoked him to depart from them: they “drew water, and poured it out before him,” expressing thereby the depth of their sorrow [Note: Psa_22:14.]: and “they fasted,” in order to beget in themselves a more penitent sense of all their transgressions. In this frame of mind they betook themselves to him, whose power had so often proved effectual for their support.]

But, conscious of their own unworthiness, they sought with all earnestness the intercession of Samuel—

[Very striking is their address to him; “Cease not to pray unto God for us.” They were persuaded that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man would avail much.” Hence they entreated Samuel to intercede for them. But they remembered that the intercession of Moses against Amalek was no longer successful than whilst his hands were held up in prayer; and therefore they importuned Samuel not to suspend for a moment his cries to God in their behalf. Happy were they in having such an intercessor; and happy in having an heart to acknowledge his worth, and to seek his aid.]

Let us next attend to the intercession,

II.      As offered by him—

He offered to the Lord a burnt-offering—

[Though Samuel was not a priest, he officiated as a priest on this occasion, and was doubtless accepted of God in that service. The presenting of a sucking lamb upon the altar intimated that neither the people nor himself could approach unto God, or hope for any mercy at his hands, but through that great Sacrifice which should one day be offered, even that Lamb of God which should take away the sins of the whole world. At the same time, as a burnt-offering, it was intended to honour God, who had so often succoured them in the hour of need. This affords an important hint to us in all our addresses at the throne of grace: we must implore mercy solely through the sacrifice of Christ, and acknowledge God’s perfections as glorified, in all his dispensations, whether of mercy or of judgment, of providence or of grace — — —]

This sacrifice he accompanied with fervent prayer—

[Samuel well knew, that as prayer without a sacrifice would be of no avail, so neither would a sacrifice without prayer. He therefore “cried unto the Lord.” O what is intimated in that expression! what humility, what fervour, what importunity! Such is the prayer that God requires; and such prayer, offered in dependence on our great Sacrifice, shall never go forth in vain [Note: Psa_50:15.].]

The efficacy of his intercession will be seen, if we notice it,

III.     As accepted of the Lord—

Instantly did God vouchsafe to answer it—

[Before the offering of the lamb was finished, God’s acceptance of the prayer was manifest. The Philistines approached to the battle; but were so intimidated and confounded by thunder and lightning, that they fell an easy prey to those whom they had expected utterly to destroy. Thus the intervention of God was seen in the clearest light. Had the victory been gained solely by the sword of Israel, they might have ascribed it to their own skill and prowess: but when it arose from causes that were entirely out of the reach of men, they could not but acknowledge that God himself had interposed in answer to the prayer of Samuel. Signal as this favour was, we are warranted to expect a similar acceptance of our prayers, if only we ask in humility and faith. Jehoshaphat obtained a similar answer under circumstances precisely similar [Note: 2Ch_20:21-22.]: and with equal speed was Daniel answered, when praying for himself [Note: Dan_9:19-23.]: and we also shall be heard in like manner, if we draw nigh to God, as it is both our privilege and our duty to do [Note: Isa_65:24.].]

He answered too to the utmost extent of the petitions offered—

[Deliverance out of the hands of the Philistines was the mercy asked; and so entirely was this deliverance effected, that the Philistines never came again into the land of Israel as long as Samuel lived.

We too may expect that God will exceed our utmost requests. If we are straitened at all, it is not in him, but in ourselves. If we were more earnest, and more enlarged in prayer, our blessings would be proportionably multiplied [Note: 2Ki_13:19; Eph_3:20.].]

We may learn from hence,

1.       On what our safety as a nation rests—

[We should imitate their repentance—reformation—faith—and zeal—and should unite, both ministers and people, in committing our cause to God — — —]

2.       How our safety as individuals is to be secured—

[There is no other way for individuals than for nations: only in nations the mercies of God may be enjoyed by those who have been at no pains to seek them; whereas every individual must stand or fall according to his own exertions in the ways of penitence and faith.]