“When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod… The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them… The ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months…[then they] returned the ark of the Lord.
“From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. And Samuel said, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods 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.’ So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
“Then Samuel said, ‘Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.’ So they gathered… before the Lord and fasted and said, ‘We have sinned against the Lord…’ Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid. [They] said to Samuel, ‘Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the Philistines.’ So… Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel.” 1 Samuel 5:1,6; 6:1; 7:2-10
The ark, representing God’s presence, had been seized, a deathblow of hope to Israel. After finally returning it, the Philistines attacked. Where was God in their unrest, their impossible crisis? Samuel led Israel to return to right priorities, to repent, and to pray. The enemy exists to steal, kill, and destroy, but Mighty God used their predicament to turn Israel back to Himself, and to show forth His power and mercy to deliver. (1 Samuel 4:4; John 10:10 ; Hebrews 7:25)
In crises, we may sense the Lord has abandoned us, removed His hand of protection and favor, and wonder when He will show up again. But have we turned our backs on Him? Where do we go when the enemy viciously pursues our souls, our peace, our ‘normal’? Fear and dread compel us to cry to God alone for deliverance.
“I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.” Psalm 18:1-2,6
What distress grips our minds, our hours? Do we live in fear, or faith? No crisis comes except through God’s sovereign, loving hands. What meaningless props, false confidences, or wayward affections need we dismiss in order to return to Him with all our hearts?
Lord, impel me, in every desperation, to You, my Rock and Refuge.