When Israelís people gathered at Mizpah, the purpose of their meeting was prayer, not war. They especially needed Godís help because the army from Philistia (called the Philistines) ruled Israel in a cruel manner. The people in Israel were very poor and they were unable to oppose the Philistines.
At Mizpah, Israelís people declared that they would depend completely upon God. They confessed their wrong deeds to him. They trusted him alone to rescue them from their enemy.
The people in Israel were not expecting to fight the Philistines and they had not prepared to do that. In fact, they had even chosen not to eat, so they felt weak. However, the Philistines saw their camp in Mizpah, and they prepared to attack. Such a large camp was often evidence that an army was gathering for battle. The Philistines wanted to attack quickly, before any army was ready to oppose them.
However, Israelís men had not gathered to form an army. They had met only to pray. They felt very afraid. It seemed certain that the Philistines would kill very many people.
Israelís people had just agreed to trust God completely. Now, they had to do it. It was clear that they could not save themselves. Only God could save them.
They urged Samuel to pray for them constantly during the battle. Samuel took a very young sheep and he offered it to God. After he had killed it, he burnt the entire animal in the fire as a gift to God. That act was an expression of Israelís desire to depend completely on what God had provided (see Genesis 22:13-14 and Leviticus 1:10-13). It was also an expression of prayer. As the smoke from the animal rose towards heaven, so the prayers of Godís people reached God.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.