The preceding chapters revealed the atmosphere of war and godlessness that was in and around the nation of Israel. As we read in chapter 6, there were still consequences to be had as the Israelites still did not treat the ark with the reverence and holiness that it deserved.
Samuel is ready to take up the mantle of leadership in this chapter. He sees that the people are returning to God in their devotion and religious practices. In verse two, he says, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” The peoples’ return is sincere. They heed Samuel’s direction to assemble at Mizpah. They fast and confess their sins to God as Samuel is seen as their leader.
During this time, however, the Philistines hear of their assembly and seek to attack the Israelites. The people are scared, but Samuel beseeches them to rely on God to save them and he sacrifices a lamb to God. After Samuel prays to God, God sends thunder to the advancing Philistines. This confuses them and they flee as the men of Israel chase them out of the area, slaying them along the way.
As a memorial and testament to God helping them, Samuel names a stone “Ebenezer,” setting it up in a recognizable place saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” Throughout the rest of Samuel’s life, the Philistines bother Israel no more. Israel reclaims their land that had been taken and there is peace in the land. Samuel serves as Israel’s leader for the rest of his life, judging Israel as he travels from one city to the next. His home was in Ramah, and there he built an altar to the Lord.
A simple change of heart can lead us back to God, and thus also back into the grace and blessings He has reserved for those that love Him. God is quick to forgive and bless us. It is so simple for us to turn to Him when we need Him or when we think we have no other choice. One of the true tests of a faithful life is whether we lean, depend on, and serve God when it appears that we have no use for Him. We always need Him, but this life is such that we can be lulled into a false sense of spiritual security by money, comfort, and material possessions. While they offer a sense of assurance, do not be fooled; true and lasting security is found in the arms of our Creator.