Week of Pentecost 7 – Thursday Devotion 

Readings:  1 Samuel 6:19-7:17 and Acts 19:1-22

1 Samuel 7:3:  And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

7:12: Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.”

Acts 19: 5-6: When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.   And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads!  I am innocent.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

 

“Delivered with God’s Help”

Paul really had his hands full trying to witness to his fellow Jews.  They knew the Torah, the five books of Moses, but they couldn’t see that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of those writings.  Paul, a devote Pharisee and a tentmaker by profession, would come to know Jesus personally by way of his conversion on that road to Damascus.  We see how God helped him in his life in the Book of Acts.

But after several encounters, he had enough.   He would say in effect, “If you Jews can’t see that Jesus is the one whom God has elected, I’ll take this message to those who would appreciate hearing it.  I’m going to shift gears and preach to the Gentiles.”  

We know what blessings were in store for those who would hear the Word.  Sure there were the skeptics and doubters; there were also some who would even threaten Paul and his missionary companions with punishment and prison.  But Paul, empowered by the Holy Spirit, would share the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles.  Even with difficult people, the results were amazing.

Samuel also wanted to speak to the hearts of his countrymen. “Get rid of your false idols!”  The Children of Israel were continually being harassed by the Philistines.  Therefore Samuel, serving as a deliverer or judge, would make the decree for them to remember the Torah and what God had said, “You shall have no other gods” (First Commandment).  

Did they listen?  The Children of Israel would be moved to repentance for they had failed to listen and heed God’s commands.  They would pour out water refusing to drink it, hold a fast, repent of their sins, sacrifice a young lamb, be forgiven, and then watch as their Philistine enemies would be defeated.  Then Samuel would erect a stone “Ebenezer”—“Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”

This marks the beginning of a new era for the Children of Israel as under the leadership of Samuel they would subdue the Philistines, have their land restored, and experience peace.  Even with difficult people and challenging times, God would give His help to accomplish His will.

But they would later want to be ‘like the rest of the nations” and want a king.   So they would reject what Samuel would lead them to have, and would instead take up the foreign ‘gods’ of leadership like other nations had.  We’ll learn more of the results of that desire as we continue through 1 & 2 Samuel.  

Do we experience the same challenges?  Do we likewise get ‘fed up’ with other people and just want to dismiss them from our lives?  That’s when we also need to turn in repentance and faith and ask God for forgiveness and strength to deal with difficult people, whether they act like Jews or Philistines or even as Gentiles!  After all, we’ve acted like any one of them!  Lord, have mercy on us!  

 

“The Lord Hath Helped Me Hitherto”
Text by Amilie Juliane (1637-1706); words are public domain.

The Lord hath helped me hitherto
By His surpassing favor;
His mercies ev’ry morn were new,
His kindness did not waver.
God hitherto hath been my Guide,
Hath pleasures hitherto supplied,
And hitherto hath helped me.

I praise and thank Thee, Lord, my God
For Thine abundant blessing
Which heretofore Thou hast bestowed
And I am still possessing.
Inscribe this on my memory:
The Lord hath done great things for me
And graciously hath helped me.

Help me henceforth, O God of grace,
Help me on each occasion,
Help me in each and ev’ry place,
Help me thro’ Jesus’ Passion;
Help me in life and death, O God,
Help me thro’ Jesus’ dying blood;
Help me as Thou hast helped me!  Amen!