Prayers for Sinners
1 Samuel 7:4-12
(4) Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.
(5) And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD.
(6) And they 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.
(7) And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines.
(8) 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.
(9) 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.
(10) And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.
(11) And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar.
(12) Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.
The ark of the covenant having returned to Israel (1SAM 7:1-3), an eventual reform of the hearts of Israel ensued. They "...put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only" (v.4) and may Christians be moved likewise. Putting away Baalim and Ashtaroth does not mean packing up the ornaments and tinsel after Christmas or the egg-coloring paraphernalia after Easter, but rather being manly enough to completely abandon such, to "...put away childish things" (1CO 13:11). Serving "the LORD only" is a great alternative to pretending to serve Him by fusing His name and religion with a Baal high-day at the winter solstice or his consort Astarte's high-day at the vernal equinox. In our text we see that the Philistines again threaten Israel but unlike the elders of twenty years earlier, their appeal for deliverance is not "...IT (the ark) may save us..." (1SAM 4:3), but "...cry unto the LORD our God for us, that HE will save us..." (v.8). They had learned that worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator (per ROM 1:25) does not stir the Creator to save His creatures. Of note in today's text is that Samuel prayed for Israel's cleansing (vs.5-6) and for their deliverance (v.9) and God answered his prayer. This is an example of "...The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (JAM 5:16). So Abraham prayed for Abimelech (GEN 20:17), Moses prayed for errin' Aaron (DEU 9:20), Job prayed for his friends (JOB 42:8) and Hezekiah prayed for God to pardon zealous but off-track worshippers (2CH 30:18-20). How important it is to have our concerns taken to the throne of grace by righteous men! The best example of this principle is our Lord Jesus Christ, Who prayed for Peter that his "...faith fail not..." (LUK 22:32), for His apostles that they be kept and kept from evil (JOH 17:9-15), for true unity of the followers of the apostles' teaching (JOH 17:20), for forgiveness for His ignorant persecutors (LUK 23:34) and "...who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (ROM 8:34). Christians ought not to say, "Mary, pray for us sinners," as if somehow God had rescinded His indictment "...the living to the dead" (ISA 8:19) or that He didn't really mean "ONE mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1TI 2:5). We rather rely on the advocacy (1JO 2:1-2) of the risen Savior Who "is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing HE EVER LIVETH to make intercession for them" (HEB 7:25). And, whereas there may be times when the prayers of fallible righteous men are not infallibly answered, we may take comfort that Jesus' prayers always get through, even as He said to the Father, "And I knew that thou hearest me always..." (JOH 11:42).