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Our Ebenezer Stone
1 Samuel 7:12
Whenever we hear the name, Ebenezer, our minds automatically go to Christmas and Charles Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol,” and its main character, Ebenezer Scrooge.
But there is another Ebenezer, one that is far more famous, but far less known. It’s also not a person, either real or imagined. Rather it was a name given to a stone that the prophet Samuel placed in Israel to remember how the Lord had helped them.
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” (1 Samuel 7:12 NKJV)
But when we look at what Samuel said, however, we think it says that up to a certain point the Lord helped, but no further. But when we look at the story, the implications are that the Lord not only helps us in the past, but also in the present and into the future.
One key word in this verse is, “us.” God is making this personal, and so God’s desire is to help us where we are at and where He desires for us to go.
So, where are you? What has the Lord done in your life? What does God wish to continue to do in and through your life? All good questions and questions God desires for us to look at.
To understand what we are looking at in 1 Samuel chapter 7, we have to go back to when Samuel was just a lad serving in the tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant resided.
Israel was at war with the Philistines and so they gathered at the area known as Ebenezer, and in the battle that ensued, 4,000 Israelis lost their lives. When they regrouped they tried to figure out what went wrong when someone came up with the bright idea it was because God wasn’t with them.
But instead of praying and seeking God, they sent word to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle resided, and had the two sons of Eli, the high priest, bring to them the Ark of the Covenant, because in their mind the Lord God resided in the Ark.
When the Ark was brought into the camp it says that the people shouted so loudly that the ground shook. When the Philistines heard the shout and found out that they brought the Ark into the camp, they remembered all the victories Israel won when the Ark was with them, and so they thought it was all over for them.
But still they fought, and not only did the Philistines win, they won decisively with over 30,000 Israelis killed in battle. But to top it off, they captured the Ark and took it as a prize into their land.
Upon hearing the news that the Ark was captured and his sons had died, Eli fell over and died, and the wife of one of Eli’s sons gave birth prematurely and then she died. But before she died she named of the child, “Ichabod,” saying, “The glory has departed from Israel.”
When the Philistines brought the Ark to the city of Ashdod, they placed it in the house of Dagon, their god. But the Lord will not allow His name to be so desecrated and manhandled, and so He destroyed the statue of Dagon and stuck the Philistines will tumors.
Unable to take God’s judgment any longer, the Philistines sent the Ark back to Israel where it remained in the care of Abinadab from Kirjath Jearim.
It is now 20 years later that we pick up our story as the people gathered to seek the Lord.
Read 1 Samuel 7:2-12
The name, “Ebenezer,” means “The Stone of Help.”
But what I’d like to focus on is the phrase, “Thus far.” It is the key to understanding this passage. What does it mean, and what are we to remember?
1. It Remembers the Past
When we remember the past we generally like to remember the victories, the good times, but in our passage it also means that they were remember their defeat 20 years earlier and the Philistine oppression since that time.
Throughout the Bible, God continually tells His people to remember the miracles and great deliverances, but also the folly of their sin.
I believe that God want’s us to remember the past so we don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future.
In His letter to the church in Ephesus Jesus said,
“Remember from where you have fallen, and repent.” (Revelation 2:5 NAS)
Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord said,
“Remember this, and show yourselves men; recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.” (Isaiah 46:8-9 NKJV)
So the people gathered together at Mizpah to remember, and the word, “Mizpah,” means the “Lord watches.” And so under God’s watchful eye the people remembered their defeat and sin.
For us, “Thus far,” means to remember our former defeats and then learn the lesson God is trying to teach us.
Now it’s pretty obvious that the children of Israel never learned their lesson because they were still worshipping the gods of the nations around them, especially the Philistines, in their worship of Baal, and the Canaanites in their worship of the goddess Ashtoreth.
Notice God said that they were to have no other gods before Him, which is actually number one on God’s big ten list. But it seems like Israel had a short memory, and we’re no different. Isn’t always the same area where we find ourselves being tripped up over and over again? It’s at these areas of weakness where the enemy attacks; so God tells us to remember and repent, that is, turn away so that we don’t fall again into the same trap.
Thinking back to their defeat, and the glory of the Lord departing from them, it would seem that if their hearts hadn’t been so captured by sin, then maybe their land would never had been captured by the Philistines. (Just A Thought) If they hadn’t turned their backs upon God, then they may not have had to turn their backs in retreat.
And so they fasted, lamented, and mourned. And it is such mourning over our sins that leads us to the second aspect of “Thus Far.”
2. It Repents in the Present
The tribes of Israel had gathered to worship and repent. I believe there was lurking in their hearts the hope of deliverance, just as it is in our hearts when we come to worship.
The Philistines, however, thought the Israelites were gathering to revolt against their rule, so they gathered their army to squash them. The children of Israel then pleaded with Samuel not to cease his prayers so that the Lord would save them from certain death.
Samuel was clearly equal to the occasion telling them to bring him a lamb, which he offered in sacrifice, along with a prayer of deliverance. It says that the Lord answered in a loud shout, that is, loud thunderings sending the Philistines into complete confusion, and thus routing them.
Now the spiritual significance cannot be overlooked, nor dare we overlook it. Please notice that the victory began with the sacrifice of the lamb, and ended in the house of the lamb.
When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes way the sin of the world!” (John 1:19)
Jesus is that sacrifice, Jesus is our Ebenezer, the Rock of our salvation, and the stone of our help and deliverance.
Further, it says they fought the battle all the way to Beth Car, which in the Hebrew means, “The house of the lamb.”
The rout of our enemy, Satan, begins at the cross, where Jesus, our Ebenezer stone, the Lamb of God, sacrificed His life for our sin. It begins when we accept that sacrifice, asking Jesus to comes into our hearts and deliver us, and the Lord shouts from heaven and routs Satan.
And here is the really neat part; God continues the rout all the way to Beth Car, the house of the lamb, that is, heaven where he has gone to prepare that place for us.
Let’s take a look now at just how this battle was won. It’s found in verse nine.
“And Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. Then Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.” (1 Samuel 7:9 NKJV)
The first thing we see is that the battle was won …
a. Through the Blood of the Lamb
“And Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 7:9a NKJV)
Our victory begins at the cross where Jesus took our place and died our death. He became that sin offering so that whoever believes in Him shall never perish but have eternal life, John 3:16.
So first, the battle is won through the blood of the lamb. Second it is won…
b. Through the Prayers of the Saints
“Then Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel.” (1 Samuel 7:9b NKJV)
We need to pray and seek God’s face. The Bible says that the prayers of a righteous man avails much, James 5:16. And while in ourselves we’re not righteous, our righteousness comes in and through Jesus Christ when we place our faith in Him.
And finally the battle is won…
c. Through the Word of God
“And the Lord answered him.” (1 Samuel 7:9c NKJV)
God’s voice is always found in His word, the Bible. The Apostle Paul said that all Scriptures has been breathed out by the Lord God, 2 Timothy 3:16.
And so the victory was won, just as the victory is won today through Jesus Christ, our Ebenezer stone.
“Thus far the Lord has helped us”
And so our help does not from our plans and programs, but rather it comes from the Lord God and Him only.
Kind David understood this when he said,
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2 NKJV)
Our help in times of trouble isn’t in our strength, because when push comes to shove, our strength fails. It is in the Lord Jesus, our Ebenezer stone where our victory lies.
But for an Ebenezer revival to take place it calls for three things, which can be found in what Samuel told the people.
“If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:3 NKJV)
First it is to return, or what is known as repentance. To repent is to turn away from the way we are going, the way of sin, and turn to the Lord God and follow Him and His ways. This is seen in Samuel saying, “Return to the Lord with all your hearts.”
Next we are to commit ourselves to the process, or what Samuel says to prepare our hearts. Like our return, we are to fully and completely commit our hearts to follow God.
Finally, we are not to serve just anyone, nor are we to do our own thing. Rather we’re to serve the Lord and Him only.
These three elements are what is needed if we want to see God move in a mighty way.
The last point about the implications in the phrase, “Thus Far,” is that
3. It Revitalizes Our Future
“Thus far,” indicates there is more to come and that we have only seen a portion of what God has in store for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Look at what the Israel continued to accomplish.
Read 1 Samuel 7:13-14
While there were continued battles, there were also continued victories as Israel took back what the enemy had stolen.
In the same way, while we have come to faith in Jesus Christ, the battles are not over. The enemy will continue to harass, but through the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, the prayer of God’s people, and the Word of God, we can start taking back what the enemy has stolen from us.
Therefore, “Thus far,” means a new future, one of victory.
What must we do?
a. Continue to Rely on God
When Israel became Ichabod, when the glory of the Lord departed, they stopped looking to God and started looking to religious symbols and religion itself. But the Lord God is the creator of heaven and earth, and He cannot be contained or relegated to religion or some religious artifact or symbol.
Further, we cannot rely on our own strength either, or for that matter anything else, for our victory is in the Lord God and in Him alone. The Lord Himself said,
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6 NKJV)
And so we must continue to rely upon God for our victories.
b. Continue to Move Forward
We are to no longer go back to our old ways or are own ways, because when we do, it displeases the Lord.
“Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38 NKJV)
“Thus far,” remembers the past, repents in the present, and looks forward to a great and glorious future, because there still is some distance to travel on this road of faith.
• There still be trials and tribulations, but also joy
• There will be temptations, but also triumphs
• There will be answers to prayer, along with greater strength and comfort.
There will come sickness, illness, and disease, but the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us, as He has promised, and as He has been with us in the past, He will also be with us now and into the future.
Today, let’s put up that Ebenezer stone in our lives, and let’s begin to build it in the house of God, in the house of the Lamb.
Thus far the Lord has helped us.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study