A message preached by Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd) at the afternoon season of prayer in a day of prayer and fasting in Kilskeery Free Presbyterian Church, Lord’s Day, 17th August 2018, marking the 44th anniversary of the opening of the original church building on 17th August 1974.
Scripture: “And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all 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. And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD. 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. 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. 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,” 1 Samuel 7:3-8.
Stream or download Revival at Mizpeh
There is no greater mercy shown to God’s people than that when they are restored from backsliding and rebellion. I need hardly say that those thus blessed deserve no such mercy. Rather they deserve to be cut off in judgment.
However, God is not as a man. Isaiah records: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD,” Isaiah 55:8. This is very plain when we consider how He deals with His undeserving people.
Note that while Israel as a whole backslid and departed from the Lord, there was a small remnant which kept alive the pure worship and witness of God, 7:1.
This continued for a long time, verse 2, even 20 years. Twenty years without the Lord is a long time indeed. It was a time of lamentation and morning.
I would have you note that:
I. THIS WAS LAMENTING WITHOUT REPENTING
Note what Samuel said to Israel, 7:3. Idolatry was still taking place!
1. God’s people can feel saddened at the loss of the blessing of former times yet continue in their backsliding. It is humbling but true! They were clinging to that which was robbing them of God’s blessing!
2. It is not their sin they lament over but the misery that it has brought to them. It is easy to mistake this sense of sadness for true repentance. Saul often uttered words of repentance but never repented! 1 Samuel 15:25.
3. I believe that this sadness is prevalent amongst Free Presbyterians today. But we must not think it is repentance! That would be very wrong and harmful, keeping us from enjoying the fruits of true repentance! We can take empty, false comfort from such feelings. Jeremiah 6:14.
II. THERE WAS INSTRUCTION GIVEN AND HEEDED
1 Samuel 7:3-4.
1. There needs to be a putting away of our sinful ways. Isaiah 1:16.
2. There needs to be a preparing of our hearts. They have been soiled and marred and injured by our carelessness and sin. The word here translated ‘prepared’ first appears in Gen 41:32 as ‘established’ and elsewhere as ‘fixed’, Psalm 57:7. Remember what James says, James 1:8. There is instability, a lack of being established and fixed in our ways. Job 17:9. There is a need for a breaking up and a ploughing of our hearts so that there is only one thing rooted and growing there!
3. Only then we can pray. Psalm 24:3-4. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
III. THIS WAS FOLLOWED BY ISRAEL REVIVED AND REVILED
1 Samuel 7:6-8.
1. Here was fulsome confession and repudiation of sin. I believe this pouring out of the water was a denoting of their denial of the old thirsts after sin. 2 Samuel 23:15-16. Here is self-denial. Note the fasting also – again, self-denial. Backsliding is a life without self-denial. Holiness is a life of slaying/denying the flesh, Luke 9:23.
2. Their lives were brought under the rule of God. “And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh,” 1 Samuel 7:6. There was a conforming to and governing by the rule of God’s Word.
3. Holiness amongst God’s people is hated by the devil and his minions. 1 Samuel 7:7. There is reproach that comes with God’s blessing and revival. Hebs 10:32-39.
THE ENEMY. The enemy “heard” of Israel’s actions. They gathered together against Israel. They saw revival amongst the Israelites as a danger, a threat to their existence!
ISRAEL They too heard the enemy’s reaction and were afraid. But they now sought the Lord Who wonderfully intervened on their behalf.
A backslidden people will never see miraculous interventions. But a repentant people will.
4. There was subjugation, restoration and peace. This is what God can do again for us as individuals, congregations and as a denomination if we but follow the example of Israel.
REMEMBER: “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope,” Romans 15:4.
Dear Christian heed God’s Word today and let us turn to Him with our whole heart! Such wholehearted seeking is an indication of God working amongst us. “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart,” Jeremiah 24:7.
Consider these verses. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not,” Romans 7:18. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” Philippians 2:13.
We need this grace. God working in us both to desire His will and also the grace to act and carry our His will.
May the Lord bless us all through His blessed Word.