Israel was defeated and the ark of God was captured by the Philistines in Ebenezer and taken into the temple of their god, Dagon. The Lord proved to them that He is the only God, beside Him there is no other and at the mention of His name and in His presence everything that exalts itself bow. So the Philistines were forced to return the ark of God, but the ark was not sent back to its original abode but displaced and transported into Kirjath Jearim. After a long time, the children of Israel came back to God for help and He delivered them from the hand of the Philistines. They took some steps that caused the Lord to help them and to wrought victory for them over their enemies.
As the Lord promise us His help this year, we want to learn from the Israelites in this passage in order to obtain Divine Help that will bring us victory.
1 Samuel 7, 2: KJV “And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath- jearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord”.
CSB “Time went by until twenty years had passed since the ark had been taken to Kiriath-jearim. Then the whole house of Israel longed for the Lord”.
VOICE “Time passed, 20 years or so, from the time that the covenant chest was taken to Kiriath-jearim, and all the people of Israel began to grieve over their separation from the Eternal One”.
The ark of God which was the symbol of God’s presence used to be in Shiloh where the sanctuary of God was built and Eli was the presiding prophet and his two sons Hophni and Phinehas were the priests.
Every year the children of Israel will go and sacrifice in Shiloh and sought the Lord’s face and worship like in the case of Elkanah and his wife Hannah (1 Samuel 1) because the presence of God was there. Samuel the prophet was brought up and met the Lord in the temple at Shiloh under the supervision of Eli.
In the midst of nations that worship foreign gods (Baals), Shiloh was a place where the children of Israel at that time were meeting and seeking the presence of God and proclaiming Him as the only true Yahweh, Elohim that delivered them form Egypt. It was a place that separated them and distinguished them from other perverted ways of the people that surrounded them. But all these came to an end when they disobeyed (especially the priests over them) and the ark was captured.
Shiloh means “Peace, a Place of Rest”. As long as the Israelites were meeting God in Shiloh, they had peace, rest and prayers were answered (like in the case of Hannah) because they showed true reverence to Elohim. But because of disobedience, the ark was moved to Kirjath Jearim (city of forest or woods) and they lost the devotion they once had in worshipping God. All that time, they resorted to the worship of other gods of the land and subjected to the attacks of the Philistines. The “Presence of God” had changed location and position. The ark was now relegated to Kirjath Jearim and the posture of the Israelites changed as well. From fervent worshippers of Yahweh to the worshippers of the Baals and Ashtoreths.
It took 20 years for them to come back to that place of seeking God earnestly. The bible says they lamented (wailed, moaned, grieved with sorrow) “over their separation from the Eternal One”.
It took them a long time to realise the glory had departed indeed and to come back to seeking after Him.
What is our spiritual posture in the Lord now? Are we still seeking first the kingdom? Is our heart still yearning after the presence of the Lord? Are we still longing for intimacy with the Father? Are our priorities rights or do we have misplaced priorities?
The Psalmist said: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, o God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42, 1-2).
As we cannot survive without water, so should we long after God because we cannot survive without His presence. If we don’t seek Him earnestly as believers, we will end up in a “in a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water” (Psalm 63, 1).
Unlike the Israelites we don’t need to travel to Shiloh to meet the Lord. Jesus has made the way for us to enter into the Holy of holies. We have the invitation to boldly come before His throne (“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” Hebrew 4, 16).
All we need to do is to find the secret place and dwell in there in His presence. We just have to create the time and space to wait upon the Lord.
Seeking God and yearning for His presence should be our priority this year. Hosea said: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you” (Hosea 10, 12).
This year, in order for us to obtain Divine Help, let’s our heart yearn more for the Lord, for His presence. Let’s develop intimacy with the master and linger and wait at His feet. Let nothing else satisfy us: Not even the presence of the angel, nor revelation of His knowledge but Him alone.
That is the beginning of our victory. Pray to get to that place, let’s change our posture.
“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16, 11).