Revival in Days of Samuel
September 25th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
1 Samuel 6-7
REVIVAL IN THE DAYS OF SAMUEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 6:7-7:12
9-25-60 8:15 a.m.
All of you who listen on the radio are sharing with us the early morning service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Return of Samuel, in the Book of 1 Samuel chapter 6. And if you will find the place in your Bible, you can easily follow along with the message: 1 Samuel chapter 6. Last Sunday morning, we left off speaking of the curse of God upon the nation of Philistia, as they seized the ark of the Lord and put it in the house of their unclean god, named Dagon [1 Samuel 5:1-4]. And when the Lord smote the Philistines [1 Samuel 5:6-12], in order to save themselves, they purposed to get rid of the ark of the Lord, and they did it in an unusual way [1 Samuel 6:1-6].
Now we are at verse 7. They made a new cart, and they tied to that cart two milk cows, milk kine, and they said, “We shall see whether this thing is a visitation from God or not. We are going to take these two milk cows and tie them to the cart. We are going to put this ark of the Lord on top of the cart. We are going to take the two calves of these two milk cows and shut them up, and we shall see if God directs these milk cows away from these calves and into a strange land and without a driver or director, see if they return the ark of God to Jehovah in the land of Israel” [1 Samuel 6:7-9].
Why, bless your heart, that’s exactly what happened: there wasn’t any driver to drive them and their calves were shut up. Can you imagine a milk cow striking off in a strange direction, going to a strange country when their calves were shut up at home? It’s the natural thing for a domestic animal to turn home whether they have a calf or a colt or not, and yet these two milk cows immediately—look at verse 12: and the kine took the—and the cows took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh in Judah, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, they did not turn to the left and they did not turn to the right; and they went straight to the city of Beth-shemesh [1 Samuel 6:10-12]. Now, when they at Beth-shemesh saw it, they were reaping their wheat in the valley. And they lifted up their eyes and were glad [1 Samuel 6:13]. And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Beth-shemite, and stood there by a great stone [1 Samuel 6:14]. And so glad and grateful were these Levites in Beth-shemesh, that they took the cart and clave it up into firewood. And they took the two milk cows and offered them unto God as a burnt offering and rejoiced in the favor of heaven upon them [1 Samuel 6:15]. And then—now, look at verse 19—and then, instead of obeying the injunction of God who said, “You are not to touch the ark of the covenant, it is to be borne on the shoulders of designated priests” [Exodus 25:14-15, Numbers 7:9], those men of Beth-shemesh not only touched the ark, but they looked inside of it out of vain curiosity, and the Lord smote the people of the city [1 Samuel 6:19].
Now, you have here in the King James Version that He smote fifty thousand and threescore and ten men [1 Samuel 6:19]. We have wonderful ways now of textural criticism whereby we can go back and back and by comparing many manuscripts, we can, we can veritably and practically, know what the original autograph copy of the Scriptures was. And from Josephus and from the Septuagint and other manuscripts, we know that that number was seventy men. Once in a while in the King James Version, because of the use of later manuscripts, there were things, there would be things of human error creep in. But we have an opportunity to find beyond this translation of 1611, we have opportunity to go back and back and to find the actual Word of God: the actual Word as it was written in the Hebrew, and the actual Word as it was written in the Greek. And when we look into those ancient manuscripts and compare them, we find these things as God’s Word was inspired and written in that ancient and far away day.
So God smote of those men in Beth-shemesh, seventy of their number for looking on the inside of that ark that was interdicted to the hands and to the eyes of humankind [Numbers 4:5, 15, 20]. Then what do the men of Beth-shemesh do? Then they went into the opposite direction, and they said, “Let’s get rid of this thing. We don’t want it in our house. We don’t want it in our city. We don’t want it in our country or in our land” [1 Samuel 6:20-21]. And they swung to the opposite extreme. Now that is one of the commonest characteristics of human nature and especially in religion, we are like a pendulum swinging from one extremity to another. For example, at Kadesh-barnea the children of Israel would not go up to possess their inheritance [Numbers 14:1-10]. Then when they saw the awful, terrible judgment upon the decision they made [Numbers 14:11-35], then they swung in the opposite direction and said, “Yes, we’ll go up” [Numbers 14:40]. And when the interdiction was voiced by Moses, “You are not to go up,” they said, “We’ll go up anyway, whether God interdicts it or not.” And when they went up, of course, they fell before the Amalekites [Numbers 14:41-45]. Isn’t it a strange thing? Simon Peter said, “Lord, You are not going to wash my hands and my feet.” And then a moment later, he said, “Lord, not only my hands and my feet, but my head, wash me all over” [John 13:8-9]. Or Elijah on Mount Carmel, fearless and unafraid before all the prophets of Baal and the king and all of that assembled throng of idolatry, and then the next day he is sitting under a juniper tree, having run for his life from the face and the presence of Jezebel [1 Kings 18:20-19:4]. Well, we’re a funny people. One day we’re hot, and one day we’re cold. One day we’re filled with the flame and fire of devotion, and the next day we’re cold like a dead, ashen ember, going from one extreme to the other.
So these people in the town of Beth-shemesh, who were so glad to receive the ark, now say, “Anyway, anybody take it off of our hands.” So they sent messengers to Kirjath-jearim: Kirjath, the city; Jearim, of woods. We say, in our language: “Woodville.” We have a Woodville in Texas, don’t we? Woodville. So they sent to Woodville and said, “Come down and get this ark off of our hands” [1 Samuel 6:21]. So they went down and brought the ark of the Lord, and it stayed there at Kirjath-jearim for over [twenty] years [1 Samuel 7:1-2]. You never hear of it, except one incidental mention, until David sends for it and brings it into the city of the great king [1 Chronicles 13:3-13]. It remained there, in the house of Abinadab, for over [twenty] years in Kirjath-jearim. And he sanctified, he set apart Eleazar his son to watch over it, and to protect it, and to keep it hallowed and sacred and holy against the day when God should appoint a place where He would write His name and call it His house of prayer [1 Samuel 7:1-2, 2 Samuel 7:12-13], and there was it to be placed forever; and in the transgression of the people, was finally taken up into heaven. And John saw it when he saw rolled back like a scroll the gates of glory: the ark of the covenant of God [Revelation 11:19].
Now, we pick up the story of Samuel again. In chapter 7, verse 2: “And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim, that the time was long; it was twenty years. Twenty years, you haven’t heard from Samuel, twenty years under the iron hand and the mail fist of the Philistines. “And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord” [1 Samuel 7:2]. You know, to be under the oppression of the Philistines for twenty years would be a long time.
I think of these nations that are under the iron fist of Soviet Russia, and the time is long; oh, how long! I hear some of you describe—I’ve never been in a Soviet satellite, and I’ve never been in Russia. I’ve just seen people who have come out, and I’ve gone around the borders on the east and the west, but I have never been in the country itself. But I hear some of you describe the tragedy, and the sorrow, and the weariness that is written in the faces of those people who are oppressed by Soviet Russia or by Communist China.
Poor Israel! She’s oppressed under the iron fist of belligerent and heathen Philistia. And in those days, you know, I told you that Samuel, all those twenty years, was going from Mizpeh to Ramah to Gilgal to Bethel [1 Samuel 7:16-17]—all over the country—with a Book in his hand. And he was teaching the good knowledge of the Lord [2 Chronicles 30:22], as the Bible says it, “And after Samuel had been teaching the good knowledge of the Lord twenty years, there broke out in the hearts of the people a great overflowing longing for God,” a revival we’d call it. And after twenty years, “all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord” [1 Samuel 7:2].
Now, I want you to see what they had been doing:
And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all of 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.
Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only.
[1 Samuel 7:3-4]
Now may I take a moment here to describe for us what Israel was doing? They were not serving Jehovah. They were serving Baalim and Ashtaroth, the two twin gods of the Phoenicians and now the Canaanites. The two gods were Baal, the sun god, and Astarte, the queen of heaven. The moon god, or the planet Astarte, you call it Venus: a bright and beautiful star. The plural of Baal is Baalim, the plural of Astarte is Ashtaroth.
Astarte is always referred to in the plural, until the reign of Solomon. Astarte was the female goddess of the Canaanites and of the Phoenicians. You have her name in our language and through all the languages of the centuries; in Phoenician and Canaanite language, Astarte; in Egyptian, Ester; in Greek, Astēr; in Latin, Stello; in English, Star. All through the centuries and through the generations and through the languages, Astarte’s name has always lived: Star, Astēr, Stello, Ester, Astarte. They worshiped her: the queen of heaven. They worship the “queen of heaven” today in image form in many, many places, here in Dallas and all over the world: the queen of heaven. They worshiped the queen of heaven in Israel in the days of their idolatry.
Any time you bow before an image, you are an idolater. Any time you worship or pray before other than God Jehovah, you are an idolater. And Israel was in idolatry. Now the sign of Baal, the image of Baal was always out of stone; he represented strength. The image of Astarte was always wood—Ashtaroth, they call it. You have it translated it “grove” [1 Kings 16:33], in the New Testament (I mean, in the King James of the Old Testament). I have no idea why in the world, nor does anybody know why they translated “grove.” It’s a wooden image, and it represented the queen of heaven [Jeremiah 7:18, 44:19]. As the sign of Baal was stone, the sign of Astarte was wood, a sacred tree or a piece of wood carved in her likeness. And the worship of Astarte and Baal was licentious and abominable beyond compare: idolatry always leads down and down and down! There’s no exception to that in any speech, or in any language, or in any religion, or in any nation in all the history of humanity. God interdicts! In His commandments written with His own finger on tables of stone [Exodus 31:18], God interdicts idolatry! [Exodus 20:3-5; Deuteronomy 5:7-9]. And when this family of Israel began to worship idols, down and down and down she fell into abject misery and debauchery: moral lie, social lie, national lie, under the judgment of a holy and righteous God.
So, Samuel says, “If you will come back to the Lord, come back to God, and put away these strange idols from among you, and serve the Lord, God will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines” [1 Samuel 7:3]. Isn’t that a lesson for us today? God will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines. He didn’t say, “Build the great armies of Israel.” He didn’t say, “Construct great navies for Israel.” All he said was, “You come back to God. You get right with the Lord, and God will deliver you from the hands of the Philistines.”
I’m not a pacifist, as you well know. The first big altercation that swirled around me as pastor of this church was over universal military construction. I believe in keeping our nation prepared. I believe in keeping our nation strong. I believe in the men who defend our country with their blood and their lives, who fly in our skies to protect us from the bombs that could rain upon us from heaven, who fly, and who sail underneath the seas in their submarines to deliver us from those launching pads and those terrible missiles that could come next door to any of our cities and any of our shores. And I believe in our armies who are stationed and deployed over the face of the earth in order to protect the outposts that guard our nation. I believe in those things. According to the Book, I believe in those things. There are no pacifists in the Bible. I believe in those things. But at the same time that we’re building nuclear submarines, and at the same time that we’re learning how to protect our skies and our shores with our armies and our men in uniform, I still avow that the ultimate decision will not lie in the submarine or in the missile or in the bomb. But the ultimate decision will lie in the imponderables of God. And a nation that will bow before the Lord and ask God’s blessing and God‘s help, a nation that will bend, a nation that will humble itself in prayer, that nation, God’s strong arm will preserve.
Now, I want you to see that here, “And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord” [1 Samuel 7:5]. First prayer, then the ministry of the Word: that’s the way it is in the sixth chapter of Acts and the [fourth] verse: “And we will give ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” [Acts 6:4]. Prayer and preaching; prayer and worship; prayer and service to God; always first asking God’s blessings: “I will pray for you,” he says, “unto the Lord” [1 Samuel 7:5]. So, they gathered all Israel together to Mizpeh, and they drew water, and poured it in front of the Lord. That was an outward sign of their weakness. And they said, “We have sinned against the Lord” [1 Samuel 7:6]. And Samuel took a suckling lamb—why a suckling lamb? It was a picture of the weakness and the humility of Israel, God’s people. “He took a suckling lamb, and he offered it, a burnt offering unto the Lord” [1 Samuel 7:9], pleading the merits of the blood.
Now, while they were doing that, what did Philistia do? What does the devil always do? He’s not sitting idly by, seeing God’s people importune, seeing God’s people knock at the doors of heaven, seeing God’s people win victories for God. Whenever there is a great revival and a great work and a great stirring among the people of the Lord, there will also be activity in Satan—always, always.
I remember one time I went to resurrect a little country church that was so vitally needed in a great community, a large community. And when I went over there and started preaching in that church, why, the devil raised up a whole group of people there who didn’t want a church in their midst. And they got on horses and while I was preaching went around and around and around and around the church house, riding those horses and hooping and hollering and carrying on. Well, didn’t I tell you, I’m not a pacifist, bless your heart. We stopped that. We stopped that; but, that’s the devil. That’s the devil.
“And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together at Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel” [1 Samuel 7:10]. You don’t need to worry about the devil, not if you’ve got God’s ear. And you don’t need to be afraid, and you don’t need to tremble. When you take it to God and leave it in God’s hand, look what happened: And when Samuel offered that burnt offering before the Lord, “the Philistines drew near to battle.” Now, look at that! Here’s God’s people in worship, looking up to heaven, and these warlike Philistines come to slay and to destroy. “But God,” verse 10, “but God, but the Lord,” I one time heard of a man who preached a sermon on that text, “But the Lord, but God.” And, “He thundered with a great thunder upon Philistia; and they were smitten before Israel” [1 Samuel 7:10]. And out of gratitude to what God had done, Samuel called the people together and placed there a stone and called it:
Here I raise mine Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I’m come.
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I’ve come
[“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Robert Robinson, 1757]
“Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” [1 Samuel 7:12].
Dear people, it’s a great thing to win a victory in prayer. It’s a great thing to win a victory looking unto God. Oh, bless us, as every milepost in your lives is an Ebenezer, Hitherto did God help us. This is a sign and a monument that God answers prayer, and the next time I preach, that’s what I’m going to preach about: Ebenezer, the stone of help, the prayer-answering, heaven-delivering, all gracious God, our Lord and our Savior.
Now, while we sing this song, somebody this morning to give his life to Jesus; somebody to put his life with us in the fellowship of the church, on the first note of this first stanza, you come. If the Lord opens the door and bids you here, would you make it now? Would you make it this morning, while we stand and while we sing?
REVIVAL IN THE DAYS OF SAMUEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Samuel 6:7-7:12
Ark of the covenant
Philistines captured the ark of the covenant
After judgment they returned the ark
Upon its return to Israel, the people wrongly touched the ark
70 people in Beth-Shemesh were killed
People worshiped Baal and Astarte instead of God
Samuel admonished them and they repented
God won the victory against the Philistines