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Jun 11, 2017

Doing Battle for Renewal

Doing Battle for Renewal

Passage: 1 Samuel 7:1

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: 1st Samuel--Becoming a People of Blessing

Keywords: ark of the covenant, commitment, confession, holiness, renewal, renovation, divine discipline, battle with evil

Summary:

This passage deals with the 20-year process it took for God's people to get tired of the cost of sin and to begin to get rid of their idols under Samuel, seek God wholeheartedly and serve Him in actuality.

Detail:

Doing Battle for Renewal

I Samuel 7

June 11, 2017

These past few months, we’ve been spending long hours getting renovations done around the Mosaic Center.  Lots of you have worked and worked to make this into a home that honors God and the intense labor so many have put into it.  I think there are some of us who, in the process of working on renovations, may need some “renovating” or at least “renewing” of our own bodies and souls as a result.  Anybody feeling a little “renovation fatigue?   

            Fact is, renewal can be a lot of work!  It can take a lot of time and energy…usually more of both than we ever expected.  But just look around.  The result has been wonderful!  The impact on people has been a blessing.  But the fact still remains:  renewal can take a whole lot of work…and a whole lot of time. 

Today we’re in chapter 7 of 1st Samuel.  It’s a chapter that condenses some 20 years or more of renewal that God was doing with His people.  But even in the condensed version we have recorded in God’s word in these 22 verses, some of the harder and even fatiguing realities of renewal come through.

Remember that in the previous few chapters, God was showing His people that abandoning the true God comes with a price.  It’s just what happens when you step away from the Giver of Life.  Decades of spiritual decline finally resulted in the catastrophic loss of some 45,000 soldiers in the matter of a few days.  The Ark of the Covenant, the visible reminder of God’s promised presence with His people, had been dragged into battle as a good luck charm and then lost to the enemy, the Philistines. 

For 7 months the Ark got shuffled from Philistine city to Philistine city.  Everywhere it went it brought death and disease to the Philistines.  People died by the thousands.  They developed tumors.  Rats began to overrun their cities.  Some scholars think this was something akin to the bubonic plague.  1st Samuel 5:6 sums it up with these words,

“The Lord’s hand was heavy on the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation on them and afflicted them with tumors.”

So the Philistines moved the Ark to city #2, Gath.  Same result Then on to city #3, Ekron.  Finally, after 7 months of passing this hot potato curse of God’s presence around, the Philistines put 2 and 2 together and asked their spiritual gurus (priests and diviners, [6:2]) what to do to stop the disaster. They were actually ahead of most modern people today.   

APP:  More people have got bigger problems than ever before and yet no one seems to be calling out to the spiritual leaders in the land to tell us what to do.  Instead we keep making more sacrifices and offerings to the failed gods of our day and wonder why we have more crime, more addictions, more greed, more strife, more hatred, worse health and bigger budget deficits. In some ways, we’re quite a bit slower on the uptake than the Philistines!  God, have mercy on us!

Well, the pagan spiritists devised a plan whereby they hoped to kill 2 birds with one stone: 

1.) They hoped to stop the plague by getting rid of the Ark.

2.) They hoped to be able to tell definitively whether or not this plague was because of YHWH, the God of Israel, or just coincidence. 

The plan went something like this: 

Part A.: send an offering of gold rats and tumors back with the Ark to the Israelites.

Part B: put the Ark and the golden offering on a cart drawn by 2 mama oxen who had never been yoked together to pull anything.  Lock up their young calves in the barn and then set them loose and watch what happens.  (Sort of like putting your fine china and glass wear in a couple of saddle bags in one of those rodeo bull-riding rings and see what happens!) 

            The expected result of that sort of stacked deck would be what?  Distraught mama oxen, lots of wandering around and pulling in different directions trying to find their baby calves.  But these pagan spiritists realized that if those oxen ended up heading into Israelite territory, that would have to be an act of God. 

            And guess what happened?  1st Samuel 6:12—“Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left.” 

            So what answer did this little exercise give to the nation of the Philistines?  Coincidence or divine intervention and judgment?  Divine intervention and judgment, no?  By their own rules and reason, this proved that God was really the one bringing the judgment of rats, tumors and death upon them.

Q:  So if you’re a Philistine, what are your options at that point? 

1.) Figure “good riddance” and go back to pagan life as it was before the plague.

2.) Face reality, decide that there really was something to this Hebrew god and change your spiritual orientation/belief. 

What did the Philistines choose?  Continued paganism! 

APP:  God always gives a witness to himself, even in the midst of judgment and suffering.  Here is one of the great differences between God-fearing people and pagan people: 

  • God-fearing people use suffering and pain to move them closer to God;
  • Pagan people (maybe even spiritually-oriented people but oriented around pagan gods) will still refuse to turn to God even when most of the evidence points to Him.

So the people of God living in Beth Shemesh got the ark.  The cows literally went to their own slaughter because the people of Beth Shemesh, when the cows stopped next to a big rock, call for the Levites who take down the Ark and the golden guilt offering, chop up the cart, slaughter the oxen and make a burnt offering to God with the oxen as well as other sacrifices they gave to God.  And at the time of writing, that stone upon which they set the Ark and made the sacrifices, was still around as a witness to what God had done (6:18). 

            All’s well that ends well, right?  Problem is, this didn’t end well.  Vs. 19—“But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the Lord.  The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them.  And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?  To whom will the ark go up from here?”    

            In other words, “Get it out of here!  We don’t want the holy presence of God here either!” 

APP: I think most of us are more in love with the IDEA of the presence of God than we might be with the actual presence of God.  Wherever even holy angels appear, people are terrified.  But the presence of God must be exponentially more holy.  Unless our hearts are ready and our lives in the place where we can handle holiness and real divine purity, God’s presence may not bring the kinds of things we hope and long for.  Most of us are past ready for God to bring judgment on the evil of the world.  But God doesn’t play favorites.  As Peter tells us in I Peter 4:17, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” We must take practical life-holiness seriously if we are to really experience and enjoy the renewal God’s presence can bring.

            So I Sam. 7 tells us that “the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord” and brought it to Abinadab’s house and “consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord.”  Vs. 2 simply gives this telling phrase, “The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—20 years in all.”  That 20 year reference may be a way of saying “half a generation.”  Half a generation the Ark, symbol of the presence of God, sat in a private home, guarded by the owner’s son.  Rather than give God’s presence the place and attention it deserved, the nation was content to let it sit in a private home rather than the Tabernacle and ignore the feasts that were to be celebrated in God’s presence around it.

But here’s another question: 

Q:  How do you “guard” an item that has brought nothing but death and suffering to people for the past year?  Very carefully!  J You guard curious people from it and you guard it from further misuse and abuse as a spiritual good luck charm. 

But then something happened.  Chapter 7, vs. 2 introduces us to a national stirring:  vs. 2—“Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord.” 

Something began to happen.  Something built during those 20 years.  I’m sure Samuel was praying. I’ll bet there where many others who were tired of living under the tiresome evil of pagan Philistines.  God’s people began to turn back to God.  People began to learn how to hate their sin and embrace God again.  The spiritual tide that had been going out for generations began to turn and come in during that half of a generation. 

These twenty years of oppression by the Philistines and lament by God’s people brought the prerequisite conditions for revival. Humbling misery had accomplished what bountiful blessing could not. The word "lament" here (Ezek. 32:18, Mic.2:4) indicates sighing, deep sobbing and even wailing. The image is that of a child that goes weeping after mom and dad to be relieved of its hurt. This lamenting "after the Lord" because of the pain and grief inflicted by the ruthless Philistine conquerors had brought about a brokenness on the part of Israel. There finally came upon those who had for so long sensed no need of God a reorientation in their inner life.

APP:  I think this is the very process God would have us go through when our life becomes painful because of either things we have brought on ourselves or things others are bringing on us.  God always hears the cries of his children who want to come back to His heart and find strength in His presence. 

ILL:  Our own American history has seen experiences and times of God’s moving like this.  Back in the “good ol’ days” of the 18th century, this kind of contrition occurred with David Brainerd (1718-47), missionary to the Native American peoples.   After many years of deeps struggle and difficulty in this work with Native peoples something broke.  John Shearer reports in his book "Old Time Revivals" that the revival began as many revivals begin; with loud weeping and mournful lamentation over the heavy load of guilt and its effects. It happened in a large area inhabited by the Susquehanna Indians

As Brainerd commenced preaching the message "Herein is love," Native Peoples fell at his feet in anguish of soul. Many were men who could bear the most acute torture without flinching. But God’s arrow had now pierced them; their pain could not be concealed and they cried out in their distress, "Have mercy on me." What impressed Brainerd most deeply was that though these people came to him in a large group, each one was mourning apart from the group, individually. Apparently the woods were filled with the sound of a great mourning.]

            Starting in vs. 3 we get a glimpse of at least A 3-FOLD PROCESS that took Israel from ruin to renewal. It is likely the process any of God’s people wanting renewal will need to journey.

Vs. 3—“So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 

It’s a pretty simple outline for personal, whole church or even a nation:  [Some of the following is borrowed from https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/ commitment-confession--challenge-dennis-davidson-sermon-on-america-157040?page=1]

  1. Confession & Change of heart
  2. Commitment to a life of service of God.
  3. Confrontation or/conflict with Evil

So 1ST, the CONFESSION and CHANGE of heart. 

The participle "returning" indicates that the people had already started turning to the Lord inwardly during their time of lament. But Samuel says that the earnest evidence of this repentance must be externally demonstrated also. He insists that they "remove the foreign gods from among" them. God will not share our life-worship with any other deity. A wholehearted fellowship with the Living God must supersede any other loyalties.

It’s easy to complain about our difficulties even to God while continuing to refuse to act and do what He requires. Relational honesty demands that we check and see if WE have done what He has told us to do so that we may receive His promises.  Many of the promises of blessing by God are conditional—they require that we fulfill something in order to be blessed.  [NOTE:  Salvation is NOT one of those conditional promises based on anything other than faith in Jesus Christ.]

So Samuel urged the Israelites to get rid of their foreign gods. All deities have their physical manifestations.  In those days it was the fertility goddess of Ashtoreth, and Baal, the male deity who demanded child sacrifice by fire.  While pitching an idol may seem like an easy task, pitching the belief system associated with any idol is not. 

Whatever holds a significant place in our heart and minds or dominates our life is a god to us. We can probably name the gods of our modern culture pretty easily:  a relationship/person, money, success, material creature comforts, security (financial, safety, relational), personal sexual gratification, health, independence, entertainment (yes, even in church!) or anything else can be an idol if it takes the place of what faith in and relationship with God is meant to take.

It’s easy to spot them in other people.  It’s terribly hard to acknowledge them in our own hearts and even more difficult to really “rid ourselves” of these gods. 

[EXERCISE that allows God to speak to us about our “idols” and to begin a process of ridding ourselves of them and their control. 

  • Plain slips of paper in which people can write possible idols;
  • Place a garbage can in the back where people can come and drop them in the garbage (symbolic)
  • then turn from the garbage can to the cross and give the sign if the cross. (3 fingers—Trinity; 2 in palm—dual natures of Jesus; Sign: head (thoughts), chest (heart), right shoulder (thoughts of blessing), left shoulder (forgive our sins).
  • take

Confession is not something that comes naturally to any of us.  It’s an admission that something or someone has taken hold of our thoughts, our time, our resources, our affections in a way that belongs first and foremost to God alone.  We can’t serve two masters let alone 3 or 5. 

  1. COMMITMENT to a life of service is next…often evidenced by PRAYER, vss. 5-9.

Revival comes when we not only turn from what we have given supreme loyalty but also in turning to the Lord. Verse 5.

 "Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” 

            With the initial conditions for revival (of verse 3) now in place (humility and sorrow over sin, turning from sin/idols, it was time for a national assembly. Jjust as atmospheric conditions signal the coming of the next weather system, so the earnestness, repentance, and removal of idols in Israel signaled the presence of the proper conditions for revival. When repentance is authentic revival is inevitable.  It was in the hands of God as to when and if that revival would be granted.

Four things occur at Mizpah that had a profound effect on Israel.

First, Samuel would intercede for the people at Mizpah. This underscore this important principle that there would be no real, lasting work of God in revival without the genuine work of intercessory prayer by and on behalf of God’s people.

APP:  This is why I am SO encouraged about all the prayer I’m seeing and hearing happening in and around Spokane:  The 80-Hour Washing right here last month; Moody students; Leader’s Prayer Summits, etc. 

ILL:  Let me tell you about one such period in our American history where God responded to prayer and repentance. 

[From J. Edwin Orr, Personal Notes.] Not many people realize that in spite of the awaking that preceded the American Revolution and its successful outcome, 20 years later there came a time of MORAL BANKRUPTCY.

  • Drunkenness (like drug use today) became epidemic. Out of a population of 5 million, 300,000 (6%) were confirmed drunkards of which 15,000 died each year.
  • Profanity was of the most shocking kind. (Have you noticed an increase in this everywhere in our society—politicians, streets, business, movies, etc.?)
  • For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were daily occurrences.

What about the churches?

  • The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining.
  • The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season.
  • The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness.
  • In a typical Congregation church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennox, Massachusetts in 16 years had not taken one young person into fellowship.
  • The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning: he had confirmed no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment.
  • The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church "was too far gone ever to be redeemed."
  • Voltaire alleged, and Tom Paine echoed, "Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years."

Look at the liberal arts colleges at that time.

  • A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not 1 believer in the whole of the student body.
  • They took a poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place: they discovered only 2 believers in the student body, and only 5 that did not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day.

Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College; and they put on anti-Christian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the prayer room in Nassau Hall at Princeton [Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978)]. They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and burned it in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on campus in the 1790’s that they met in secret, like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.

Kenneth Scott Latourette, the great church historian, wrote: "It seemed as if Christianity was about to be ushered out of the affairs of men." The churches had their backs to the wall, seeming as if they were about to be wiped out. How did the situation change? It came through prayer.

Finally in September 1857 (some 50 years later), a praying Christian businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier started a prayer meeting in the upper room of the Dutch Reformed Church Consistory Building, in Manhattan. In response to his advertisement, only 6 people out of the population of a million showed up. But, the following week, there were 14, and then 23, when it was decided to meet every day for prayer. By late winter, they were filling the Dutch Reformed Church, then the Methodist Church on John Street, then Trinity Episcopal Church on Broadway at Wall Street. In February and March of 1858, every church and public hall in downtown New York was filled.

Horace Greeley, the famous editor, sent a reporter with horse and buggy racing around the prayer meetings to see how many men were praying: in one hour, he could get to only twelve meetings, but he counted 6100 men attending. Then a landslide of prayer began, which overflowed to the churches in the evenings.

People began to be converted, 10,000/week in New York City alone. The movement spread throughout New England, the church bells bringing people to prayer at 8:00 in the morning, 12:00 noon, 6:00 in the evening.

The revival raced up the Hudson and down the Mohawk, where the Baptist, for example, had so many people to baptize that they went down to the river, cut a big hole in the ice, and baptized them in the cold water: when Baptist do that they really are on fire.

When the revival reached Chicago, a young shoe salesman went to the superintendent of the Plymouth Congregational Church, and asked if he might teach Sunday School. The superintendent said, "I am sorry, young fellow. I have sixteen teachers too many, but I will put you on the waiting list." The young man insisted: "I want to do something just now." "Well, start a class." "How do I start a class?" "Get some boys off the street, but don’t bring them here. Take them out into the country and after a month you will have control of them, so bring them in. They will be your class." He took them to a beach on Lake Michigan and he taught them Bible verses and Bible games; then he took them to the Plymouth Congregational Church. The name of the young man was Dwight Lyman Moody, and that was the beginning of his ministry that lasted forty years.

These weren’t just professed conversions either.  For instance, Trinity Episcopal Church in Chicago had 121 members in 1857; 3 years later in 1860, there were 1,400. That was typical of the churches. More than a million people were converted to God in one year out of a population of 30 million (equivalent to 13 million today).

Then that same revival jumped the Atlantic, appeared in Ulster, Scotland and Wales, then England, parts of Europe, South Africa and South India, anywhere there was an evangelical cause. It birthed what we know as the modern missionary movement (modern being the 19th century on) and sent mission pioneers to many countries. The effects were felt for 40 years. Having begun in a movement of prayer, it was sustained for a generation by a movement of prayer. [J. Edwin Orr. Personal Notes.]

Next time someone invites you to pray with them, DO IT!  Don’t put it off.  Now is the time. 

We are in a worse condition today in many cities. 

  • 40% of births today are to unwed moms. In the African-American community, it’s almost 3 out of 4 (73%).  It’s 1 of 2 among Hispanics (53%). 
  • 670,000 children annually in the foster care system.
  • MURDERS:—Every day in the U.S. there are 44 murders…or 16K/yr. Those stats are several years old, however.  Just last year, there was nearly a 60% increase in murder in Chicago alone—over 760 murders or 15/wk.)  Of course, that pales in comparison with the level of murder taking place in the womb—926,000 in 2016.)
  • RAPE: 90,000+ rapes in the U.S. in 2015.  1 in 5 women in our lifetime!
  • 327,000+ robberies in our nation in 2015.
  • Domestic violence: 20 cases every minute…or 10.5 million/yr.
  • 1 million violent crimes/year.
  • 1 in 4 people 18 years old or older engage in binge drinking every month!
  • 100,000 people in the U.S. die each year from alcohol related issues (drunk driving, suicides, homicides, falls, etc.)
  • Youth violence: Some 700,000 students 18-24 are assaulted by other students due to drinking.
  • Drugs: 4 years ago (2013) almost 10% (9.4%) of Americans 12 and older had used illicit drugs that month.

Q:  Do we need national renewal?  Our city need spiritual renewal?  Mosaic?  Then we need to be a people who are committed to a life of service and lives of prayer.

Back to 1st Samuel 7.  Verse 6

notes that after the people assembled and Samuel prayed, "they drew water and poured it out before the Lord." The event is unique but its apparent significance was that just as the water poured out on the ground could not be collected again, they poured the commitment of their lives out to God. (Lam 2:19, Ps. 22:14). This act signaled a deep contrition and humiliation for their sin. The water thus may have reflected the tears, grief, and misery that their sins had caused them and for which they now were sorry. The determined to dedicate themselves to God alone as their first evidence of renewal.

Next they declared a self-imposed fast. Their sorrow was more than just words; they backed it up with action.

Then they confessed publically, "We have sinned against the Lord." Because their sin was corporate and public, their repentance and confession had to be corporate or public which proved its genuineness.

The last feature of the Mizpah revival meeting was that Samuel "serving as judge of Israel at Mizpah" Samuel administrated the restitution and reconciliation of the forgiven. Wherever there had been theft, cheating or other acts of injustice, actions of full restoration were decided and undertaken.

But there is one final reality about renewal. Almost always, when the people of God engage in renewal, the Enemy of our souls engages in RESISTENCE.  In verse 7 the Philistines perceive the revival gathering as a direct threat. This brings us to the final stage in spiritual renewal: 

3.)  CONFRONTATION of & CONFLICT with EVIL. 

“When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them.

Whenever there are deep stirring of the Spirit of God, in the renewing and reviving of lives the Evil One will also be active in attempting to counter all the good work God is doing. His strategies are many and varied but his attacks are certain. As the Lord’s Spirit was stirring the hearts of Israel at Mizpah, the devil was awakening resistance among the Philistines. Evil never gives ground freely.  There must always be battles.  And when we make headway with spiritual renewal IN us, the devil will make waves AROUND us. 

When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.”

If there is anything that is needed for revival it is most directly related to the quality, endurance, and earnestness of our daily petition to God on behalf of those whom we serve as the flock of God. May we not sin against God by failing to pray continually for Christ’s Bride, each other, the church.

In such stark simplicity the last clause of verse 9 beautifully adds, "And the LORD answered him." How did that happen?

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

If we are to serve God only, we must not be surprised when the enemy presses in.  We can walk in calm assurance that God is fighting on our behalf even when His enemies threaten to do us in. 

In verse 12 they commemorated the victory with a stone of remembrance. "Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’"

We are prone to forget those times when we were in deep trouble and how God wondrously came to our rescue.  It is appropriate to have memorials to aid our frail memories and ungrateful hearts. So Samuel set up "a stone and named it Ebenezer," meaning stone of help. God had helped them when they no more deserved it than we deserve His help. The stone was also meant to be an encouragement for the new trials of tomorrow.

APP:  During tough times we should look to the historical markers that we have erected, of how God brought us victory in the past, so that we might gain confidence and strength for the present and hope for the future.

"Thus far has the LORD helped us."

Think of some spiritual victories in your life "thus far." Like…

  • the day you met Jesus or
  • specific instances when He guided you;
  • or doors He opened that you thought were impossible;
  • or difficulties He brought you through.

Go ahead, establish some landmarks or life-marks by keeping a record of these events. (Pictures?  Journal?  Framed statement?)  They help remember God’s care.  They bring to mind His past goodness. They’ll increase your confidence to face whatever tomorrow brings.

CONCLUSION

We must choose this day whom we will serve, just as Joshua declared he would (Josh. 24:15). And it is time we also confessed with Israel of old and the hymn writer Robert Robinson:

Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’ve come;

And I hope by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.

 

FOR FURTHER STUDY/DISCUSSION/CONSIDERATION:

  1. Do you think God might be judging the world today through disease, death, plagues, etc.? If so, why and how?  If not, why not?  What role should illness and death have in drawing people to God?  How should we counsel and comfort people given these realities? 
  2. We talked quite a bit about the presence of God. What do you think are the primary evidences of God’s presence today?  How have you experienced that being a blessing?  A negative? 
  3. Discuss this issue of “idols” in our lives. What ones have the most power in our culture and lives today?  Which possible ones did God bring to mind for you in the service?  Why?  What steps can we take to rid ourselves of them?  What steps are you willing to take?  How can we help each other to rid ourselves of today’s idols?  What will need to happen to actually change our thinking about these idols and their power?
  4. Samuel called the people from serving false gods to serving the Living God, Yahweh. How important is it to actually engage in some form of visible service of God?  What does that service look like in your life?  How can we protect against empty, powerless activity and engage in truly life-changing service of God? 
  5. What external conflicts with evil/evil forces have you experienced in your life as a result of turning to God? How does God want us to fight those battles?  Not fight them? 
  6. What have been some memorable victories God has won for you in life? What kinds of memorial stones can we create to not forget them and to remind those who come after us of God’s victories on our behalf?