Revival at Mizpeh - Restoration of Ark of God to Israel
The ark of the God of Israel did not belong to Philistines. It was taken away by the Philistines by force in consequence of divine judgment against the house of Eli. When Eli received the bad news about it, he died instantaneously and his daughter-in-law after receiving the bad news about the death of Eli and her husband bowed herself and travailed for her pains came upon her (I Sam.4:19-20). She gave birth to a son and afterwards died. Just before she died, she named the child “I-chabod”, saying, “The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in- law and her husband” (I Sam.4:21-22).
The Philistines were sent by God to the land of Israel for executing divine judgment. In many nations, the people of God are oppressed by the Philistines. Even in Christian nations, the Philistines do exist. If a weapon is used against the people of God in any nation, it is from the Philistines and God allows it just to correct His chosen people. In the long run, the Philistines could not oppress and suppress the people of God. Egyptians oppressed and suppressed the Israelites but God heard the cry of the Israelites and delivered them through Moses. The ark of the Lord was not a blessing to the Philistines but was a curse to them. Today the persecutors of the people of God think that they can always subdue the people of God by removing the ark of the Lord from them. They demolish the churches and drive away the people of God. They bring false allegations against the God’s elect and put them into prisons. It is only a temporary phenomenon. The walls of prisons will collapse one day. The divine judgment sweeps away the Philistines in these nations by way of natural disasters or otherwise.
The glory of Israel was intertwined with the ark of God. Today, many churches of God have lost the glory of God. The very presence of God has left them because they sinned against God. It is a corporal phenomenon. Though the Holy Spirit indwells a child of God individually, yet His presence does not rest with a rebellious people. A minister of God may perform a ministry of signs and wonders individually but the presence of God may not be with a local church or a congregation corporally. God was no doubt with Samuel individually but His presence was not with Israel corporally because the glory left Israel.
The ark of the Lord under the New Covenant is likened to the presence of God under the New Covenant. God does allow the likes of the Philistines to chasten His people just to correct them. We do find that many antichrists and false prophets roam about the churches of God. By preaching pernicious doctrines from pulpits and by making all sorts of allegations against the members of the Body of Christ, they make the people of God forsake the presence of God. The Devil is the power behind these Philistines.
The ark of the Lord had to be restored to its original custodians. It could not remain for ever with the Philistines.
The Philistines sent the ark of the Lord with their trespass-offering to the land of Israel. The Philistines had to pay a heavy price for removing the ark of the Lord from Israel. If any Philistine persecutes the Body of Christ, he/she has to pay the trespass-offering. Nobody can go scot-free after afflicting the Body of Christ.
Even the men of Bethshemesh in the land of Israel who looked into the ark of the Lord were not spared by the Lord. The Lord smote fifty thousand threescore and ten men. (I Sam.6:19). The men of Bethshemesh said, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? and to whom shall he go up from us?” (Vs.20). Even the people of God who are not sanctified through the Holy Spirit and the Blood of Jesus Christ cannot approach the presence of God. If we dare to approach God without being sanctified, we will face His wrath. Whenever we approach His presence, we have to always remember the Blood of Jesus Christ through which we are continually being sanctified.
Then the men of Bethshemesh sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, for taking away the ark of the Lord. In Chapter 7, we read about the restoration of the ark of the Lord to the land of Israel. Here began an era of revival in the history of Israel when finally the ark was brought to the house of Abinadab.
When the men of Kirjath-jearim came, fetched the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab in the hill, the first step taken by them was sanctification of Eleazar, the son of Abinadab “to keep the ark of the Lord”. A backsliding child of God has to be restored to the presence of God only through sanctification.
On that day, Samuel spoke to 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” (I Sam.7:3).
First of all, we should know the glaring truth that the presence of God has left many of our churches today corporally because we sinned against God. We may worship on Sundays lifting up our hands and shout at the top of our voices, “Oh, Lord, your very presence is here”. It is nothing but deception only. We cannot bring about the presence of God by shouting “Hallelujah”. Do we love the Body of Christ? Many hate their brethren and sisters in Christ but worship God on Sundays. Many do not take care of the poor saints but worship God on Sundays. They worship God through their lips but deny Him through their acts.
Secondly, we have to repent and return to our God with all our hearts and put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from amongst us. There are strange gods in our midst. These are gods of our own making. We have made gods out of certain doctrines of the Bible which we picked up out of context from the Bible. We have made gods out of our own personal experiences and emotions. The many denominations in the churches have become our gods because we do not love the people of God belonging to other denominations. The ministries have become our gods. We promote our own ministries and ask the people of God to support us with their offerings and tithes whereas we do not take care of the poor saints in the House of God who serve God with their meager resources. I came across some magazines of some wonderful evangelists in Tamil Nadu, India. They exhorted the people of God to support their “God-given projects” which involved massive investments for acquisition of lands and for construction of towering buildings. When they go abroad, they present their “God-given projects” and try to get dollars. These “God-given projects” have now become their gods.
Dear evangelist, if God wants to send a revival in your midst, you have to throw away the strange gods. You may perform wonders in the name of Jesus Christ. But you have to do the perfect will of God. Dear pastor, if God wants to send a revival in your church, you have to stop asking your congregation for tithes. Throw away the god of tithes. You are not a Levite of the Old Covenant to receive tithes. You are a minister of the New Covenant to minister to others. You should collect free-will offerings from your congregation for ministering to the poor saints, the widows, the orphans in your church or in other churches. As you minister to these poor people, God will take care of all your own needs.
If we want God to deliver us from the hand of the Philistines, we have to forsake these strange gods in our midst. WE CANNOT SEE THE REPETITION OF THE WELSH REVIVAL IN OUR MIDST UNLESS WE REPENT AND THROW AWAY THESE STRANGE GODS.
Revival comes to our threshold if we take the first step of turning to God with all our hearts and putting away the strange gods.
The people of Israel obeyed the words of Samuel and put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only (Vs.4). We cannot serve God until and unless we put away these strange gods. If we serve God without putting away these gods, it is an abomination before God.
Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord” (Vs.5). After the first step of putting away the strange gods, “all Israel” have to gather at Mizpeh. We all have to gather at Mizpeh. Mizpeh is a spiritual place where “all” the people of God, irrespective of their church denominations, their nationalities, their languages and cultures, should come together in the one Body of Christ. It should begin from your town and nation. We today find many ministers of God do individual ministries only, and not “body” ministries. One minister of God himself wants to minister but wants others to support him. He himself wants to preach. It is not at all a body ministry. Paul, the great apostle, had never focused only on giving excellent sermons. But he preached, helped the poor saints and worked with his own hands. Even if he preached, it was not from a cozy pulpit. It was before a frenzied mob or before rulers. It was mostly in synagogues where he was not accepted. Today, we find ministers do the only job of preaching and that too from comfortable pulpits where they do not face oppositions.
The people of Israel “gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day, and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh (Vs.6).
After coming together in the one Body of Christ, we have to draw water and pour it out before the Lord. Drawing water and pouring it out is symbolical of our spiritual refreshment through prayers. All of us have to minister together in the Temple of God through the incense of prayers. We have to perform the act of drawing water and pouring it. We have to pray with tears and our tears have to flow out like a river before the throne of God. Let us also fast together while praying. Let us confess, “We have sinned against the Lord”. We need not say a very long prayer with phrases and quoting the Word of God verbatim. Let us simply confess, “We have sinned against the Lord”. It is a corporate confessional prayer before the Lord.
Then the Philistines heard that the people of Israel gathered together to Mizpeh and they were afraid of the Philistines. When Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel after offering a sacrifice, the Lord heard him (Vs.9). What we need today is the intercessory prayers of Samuel for destroying the work of the Devil. Samuel is symbolical of the Christian leadership. The leaders should be like Samuel. We need Christian leaders like Samuel who would gather all the people of God at Mizpeh i.e. in the one Body of Christ and who would sacrifice their comforts at the altar of God for ministering to their sheep.
When the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel, the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them. They were smitten before Israel. Then the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, pursued and smote them (Vs.10-11). This is the revival we need! The Lord has to thunder upon the Philistines that persecute the Body of Christ. We can pursue and smite the Philistines only after the Lord thunders upon them. We cannot pursue and smite them with our fleshly strength. We need His power to be released on them. During the Heaven-sent revival, this happens.
Samuel took a stone, set it between Mizpeh and Shen and called the name of it “Ebenezer”, saying “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (Vs.12).
The Bible says that the Philistines “came no more into the coast of Israel and the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel” (Vs.13). In a true revival, the Philistines are immobilized; the people of God are raised up. The name “Ebenezer” should remind us about the need for a Heaven-sent revival when the Philistines would be destroyed and thousands of lost souls saved.