In this incident ay Mizpah we see several indications of true repentance. The first evidence is that the enemy is riled by such sorrow for sin. When the Philistines heard what Israel was doing, they attacked. The Philistines had been allowed by God to dominate the lives of the Israelites because they had departed from him. I am not saying that the Philistines understood the nature of true repentance but their master, the devil, did and he was determined to stop it. Similarly, when a church or community repents, the devil launches all kinds of attacks in order to prevent the repentance continuing.
The second evidence of true repentance is the lack of self-confidence in the Israelites. They heard that the enemy was attacking, but unlike the previous generation who had marched confidently to battle with the Philistines, the penitent Israelites expressed their weakness.
A third evidence of true repentance was the Israelites’ realisation of the necessity of prayer. They called on Samuel as their judge to lead in prayer. Samuel, in addition to praying, offered a lamb as a burnt offering. The burnt offering was a sacrifice of atonement that indicated total dedication to the Lord. Biblical prayer is often the cry of a people who are desperate and have realised that divine mercy is their only help.
A fourth evidence of true repentance is recollection of the Lord’s goodness, seen here in raising an Ebenezer stone. They recall not merely their own personal experiences but join with all that God has done for his people so far.
The fifth evidence is restoration of territory, of reclamation of ground that had been lost due to their sins. There is a wonderful description of the benefits of repentance in Joel 2. When God’s people repent of their sins, he ‘will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed’ (vv. 25-27).