This Sunday Samuel comes back to center stage in the story of 1 Samuel. After 20 years of preparation, he rises up to lead Israel toward repentance and restoration. Finally, they have a leader who will prioritize God’s agenda for His people, rather than man’s agenda. In 1 Samuel 7, we see God working through Samuel to bring Israel back to where they should be. As this unfolds we will see four themes emerge:
- Restoring Lament
- Recovering Repentance
- Renewing Dependence
- Remembering Forward
Since these four themes will form the structure of Sunday’s sermon, I want to prime the pump by previewing the first theme: restoring lament.
During the 20 years between the return of the ark and Samuel’s public ministry, we’re told that “all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.” Lament is a purposeful expression of sustained sorrow. In Israel’s case their sorrow was sustained for twenty years!
Many of the Psalms are laments that express sorrow for sin, or the agony of feeling like the Lord is distant in a difficult season. Sometimes these laments acknowledge that seasons of oppression are, in fact, the result of the Lord’s chastisement.
Lamenting our sins runs counter to our natural bent. Our pride tries to downplay the seriousness of sin in our lives. In addition, our culture tells us to keep our chin up, get back on the horse, and not let anything get us down as we climb our way to success. Imagine how your friends and neighbors would react if you wore sackcloth and ashes for weeks at a time to mourn over your sin!
While we need not put on sackcloth and ashes, we should nonetheless recognize that lament is an essential part of repentance and restoration. Those who do not mourn over sin do not take steps to turn away from it. The first step in killing sin is grieving over it. So instead of always trying to get past sorrow, we should pray for the Lord to help us embrace a godly sorrow, for “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation…” (2 Cor. 7:10).
Only by walking through sorrow, and not around it, can we discover the deep joy awaiting us on the other side of repentance.