The Gathering at Mizpeh (7)

W.W. Fereday

From 'God's Emergency Man'

The singular position of our prophet in relation to the people of God is clearly seen in connection with the spiritual revival and national deliverance so graphically described in 1 Samuel 7.

While the ark was in Kirjath-jearim the people realized little by little the calamity which had befallen them, and how disorganized in consequence were all their relations with their God. Ultimately, "all the house of Israel lamented after Jehovah." This is truly delightful! Welcome discipline which can produce such a result! They missed God! They felt the distance that now subsisted between themselves and Him.

The twenty years referred to is not the length of time that the ark abode in Kirjathjearim. As a matter of fact, it was there more than forty years. David in his childhood "heard " of it when living in Ephratah (Bethlehem); during his afflictions he vowed to provide a resting place for it; when he became established upon the throne he found it (Psalm 132) and brought it up to Zion with rejoicing.

The twenty years was the period of divine working in Israel's heart, which led to the complete restoration to Jehovah that is now before us. Mark it well, it was really Jehovah they wanted, and no mere symbol, for the ark is not once mentioned in connection with the wonderful doings in Mizpeh! Israel was at that juncture spiritually in advance of multitudes in modern Christendom, with their reliance upon sacramental symbols, not to mention pictures, images, and other follies.

Jehovah had delivered His ark from the hand of the Philistines, but He had not yet delivered His people. The time had now come. Note the humiliating contrast with Joshua's day. Then the people were able to go forward, conquering and to conquer, no enemies being too powerful for them; now their highest expectation was that they might be strengthened to cast off the yoke of but one of Canaan's many peoples. Similarly, we read in the Book of the Acts, with its story of the all-conquering Church of God, and we lie low as we contrast it with what we behold in our owns day.

Samuel's voice is now heard. "If ye do return unto Jehovah with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto Jehovah, and serve Him only: and He will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines." Observe the words, "with all your hearts" and "prepare your hearts." Note too the word "only." Nothing external or superficial could be accepted. Out of the heart are the issues of life (Prov. 4:23), and the heart must be really reached.

We must pause here. Brethren, does God have our affections in their entirety? Do we "serve Him only"? Remember the reply of the Blessed One to the tempter in the wilderness, 'Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4:10). ONLY! ONLY! Has the world any place with us? Has self? Have we indeed seen the displacement of everything in the death of Christ? Paul saw this, and could say with holy enthusiasm, "This one thing I do" (Phil. 3:13).

No deliverance came to Israel until they put away Baalam and Ashtaroth. In like manner today, if anything has been allowed to come in between our souls and God, so that the joy that once we experienced has fled, there is nothing for it but the complete abandonment of the evil, or the casting out of the intrusive thing. It is not sufficient to sing lustily at a public meeting:

"Revive Thy work, 0 Lord,
Thy mighty arm make bare."

Action-vigorous, stern action, is required. God ever waits to bless His people, and lead them on from victory to victory, but the platform must first be cleared of every offensive thing.

Samuel next summoned the nation to Mizpeh, "and I will pray for you unto Jehovah." Here is one who kept right with God during the years of Israel's deplorable declension. He did not suffer himself to be carried along by the prevailing current. Thus he was ready for service to the people of God when the time became ripe for it. Beloved Christian reader, if the whole Church of God waxes cold, and turns aside from the right ways of the Lord, why should you not personally be right with God, and so 'be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work?' (2 Tim: 2:21).

The procedure at Mizpeh was remarkable. "They gathered together at Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before Jehovah, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against Jehovah." We know of no precedent for this, but we are persuaded that the out-poured water gave pleasure to the heart of God. If there is one thing more clear than another in the Book of the Acts, it is that the Spirit of God is absolutely sovereign in His actings. What He is graciously pleased to do at one time furnishes no clue to what He may do at another. He may use Peter awhile, and then turn abruptly to Stephen. He may commission Philip, and quickly send forth Peter again. Then He calls out a new laborer in the person of Paul, and acts through him more extensively than through any other. The gift of the Spirit also to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles differs widely in its manner (Acts 2; 8:8). With regard to the deliverance of imprisoned witnesses, on one occasion the doors were opened the same night (Acts 5:19); on another not until the night before the promised execution (Acts 12); and on yet another, no angels were employed but an earthquake (Acts 16). Truly, 'the wind bloweth where it listeth" (John 3:8), but the Church has never learned the simple lesson, or she would never have clogged herself with routine and officialism.

The pouring out of water was the acknowledgment of utter weakness and emptiness. This figure was employed by the wise woman of Tekoah in her reasoning with David. 'We are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again' (2 Sam. 14:14). The action being altogether without precedent serves to show that Israel perceived what was morally suitable to the circumstances of the moment. Such an acknowledgment of weakness cannot fail to bring blessing from God. In the spiritual realm, felt weakness is power, as the Apostle lets us know in 2 Corinthians 12. As Hannah also said, "they that stumbled are girded with strength" (1 Sam. 2:4). Is it not a singular lesson to have to learn that our self-sufficiency is our undoing? God can use those who are 'not anything," i.e., nothing (1 Cor. 3:7). God alone counts, whether now or in ages past. When weakness calls Him in, all is well.

Samuel at Mizpeh is wonderfully suggestive of Him who is our all in all. As prophet, he admonished the people, as priest he offered sacrifice on their behalf; and he judged them as though he were the king. God's "emergency man," most assuredly.