This is a summary of a sermon I did on 1 Samuel 7. I didn't record it, and don't have a precise transcript.
1 Samuel 4:10-11
So the Philistines fought, and the Israelites were defeated and every man fled to his tent. The slaughter was very great; Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, died.
1 Samuel 7:13
Throughout Samuel's lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines. The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to her, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the power of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
What a different three chapters and twenty years makes. In 1 Samuel 4, Israel are being destroyed by the Philistines. In 1 Samuel 7, the Philistines are the ones being destroyed and Israel are taking all their land back. In 1 Samuel 4, God is glorifying his name, but he does it in spite of Israel. In 1 Samuel 7, everything is the way it should be. What makes the difference?
Faithful Prophetic Leadership.
1 Samuel 7 is also the integration point for the whole of 1 Samuel so far. In 1 Samuel 1-3, we've got the story of Samuel, his birth and his call to be a prophet. In 1 Samuel 4-6, we've got the story of how God was glorifying his name even though his people were being destroyed. And here, in 1 Samuel 7, we see how the two fit together. God's prophetic leader transforms the fate of God's people.
I'm going to draw out three characteristics of faithful prophetic leadership.
Faithful Prophetic Leaders Call People to Repentance
We see this in verses 2-6. In verse 3, Samuel says
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.
So do we, as leaders, call people to repentance? Do we call them away from their idolatry and to God? Do we point out what their idols are, and tell them to reject them?
Idols of image - wanting people to think we are beautiful, or sound, or passionate, or honest, or sexy, or clever. Would we rather our children were rich, successful, well-educated and happy than that they were faithfully following Jesus on a rubbish tip in Brazil? Faithful prophetic leaders call people to repentance.
Faithful Prophetic Leaders Pray for their People
We see this in verses 5-11. Samuel prays for the people. The people see they need it - verse 8. And it is because Samuel prays for the people that God rescues them - verse 9.
Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel's behalf, and the LORD answered him.
What expectations do we have of God? Do we pray for our people? God in his grace often chooses to wait until the leaders turn to him in prayer before pouring out his blessing. God says that the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective - not because there is anything magical about them, but because God loves to answer prayer. So do we pray for those we have responsibility for?
Faithful prophetic leaders pray for their people.
Faithful Prophetic Leaders call God's People to a Remembrance of God's Blessings
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us."
Do we do that? When God blesses us as individuals or as a congregation, do we set up a reminder of what God has done for us. Do we remember "Thus far has the LORD helped us"? What that would look like would be different in different settings, but it matters that we remember.
Every time an Israelite walked past that stone, they'd remember "Thus far has the LORD blessed us", and they'd be more likely to trust God for the future, because they'd know he'd blessed them in the past.
So do we call people to a remembrance of God's blessings?
The Perfect Prophetic Leader
Of course, the perfect prophetic leader is Jesus.
He is the one who calls us to repentance, to turn away from our idols and to him.
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
He is the one who perfectly prays for us - he is at the Father's right hand and is also interceding for us. Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus always lives to intercede for us. Jesus perfectly prays for us.
And Jesus is the one who perfectly calls us to a remembrance of God's blessings, by his Spirit living in us and by giving us Communion as a way of remembering and participating in his death for us, so that as we receive we can say "Thus far has the LORD helped us."