Ebenezer- Thus Far The Lord Has Helped Us! 2
Ebenezer: Thus Far The Lord Has Helped Us! 2
1 Samuel 7:3-14
Anniversary times are wonderful times to set up a memorial stones, markers, and altars of worship to commemorate the victories that God has given to you. Being the chosen people of God to win a particular piece of Promised Land for your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, you have had enemies from the beginning¾and you shall have them unto the end. But there is no doubt in my mind, that God has given you many wonderful victories. You should stop here, for a moment, and commemorate the battles that God has fought for you and the victories that He has given you over your enemies. You should commemorate these victories with worship! Clap your hands in His presence, right now, and shout to God with a voice of triumph¾because of the victories that God has given you!!!
I believe that the Lord has laid one verse of Scripture, upon my mind, to share with you today. But, this one verse of Scripture is deeply embedded in a very long, but very fabulous history and story. We do not have the time to recount the entire story, but let me give you a few details to highlight the background of this Scripture.
This was one of the darkest periods in the history of the nation of Israel. During this time, one of the fiercest enemies of the Jews, the Philistines, drew up in battle array against Israel, near Ebenezer. As the battle spread, Israel was defeated and about four thousand men were killed on the battlefield. Well, needless to say, the elders of Israel could not understand what was going on. They could not understand that the spiritual decline of the nation was forfeiting the protection and victory of Jehovah God.
To try to remedy the situation, the elders of Israel sent for the Ark of the Covenant, which was stationed at Shiloh. When the Ark of the Covenant came into the camp of the Israelites, they all shouted until the earth resounded or rang. But, they were placing their confidence in the magic of the Ark, rather than the majesty of the Almighty who resided above the Ark. The Israelites did not understand that the Ark of the Covenant could not be used as a good luck charm or magical object. The Ark of the Covenant, where God dwelled over the wings of the cherubim, contained the promises of Jehovah God. God had given conditional promises to Israel. Since she had not kept the conditions, which were a part of the covenant, this broke the covenant and God, brought Israel under the curses of the covenant, and God was not obligated to answer her prayers.
Nevertheless, the Philistines who were frightened by the history of the Ark of the Covenant, fought valiantly anyway. In so doing, Israel was defeated; great slaughter ensued; thirty thousand Israeli solders were killed; the Ark of God was captured; and the priestly sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were killed. When the report from the battlefield reached Eli, he fell off of his seat and broke his neck and died—because he was old and heavy. When Phinehas’ wife heard the news she died in childbirth. But, before she died she named the child Ichabod: “the glory of the Lord has departed.”
But, the Ark of the Covenant was a snare or curse to the Philistines, so they eventually returned it to the men of Beth-shemesh. It was also a snare to them, so they sent it to the men of Kiriath-jearim, and they consecrated Eleazar, the son of Abinadab, to keep the Ark. Subsequently, the Ark remained at Kiriath-jearim for twenty years, and the people of Israel lamented after the Lord.
This is where we pick up the story in 1 Samuel 7:3-14. Would you turn there with me please? I will read this aloud for us, and you follow along silently.
In this passage of Scripture, Samuel, one of the greatest men of God in the Old Testament, the last of the Judges and the first of the Prophets, is seeking to bring about a revival in Israel. In so doing, he spoke to the Israelites about the things that would bring revival. Those things included:
· Returning to the Lord with all of their heart.
· Removing the foreign gods from among them.
· Directing their hearts to the Lord. And,
· Serving Jehovah God alone.
These four things basically constitute repentance, and Samuel promised deliverance when there was true repentance.
So, the Israelites met the conditions for repentance and for deliverance. Now, in the process of meeting the conditions, Samuel had them gather together at Mizpah that he might pray for them.
While they were at Mizpah, the leaders of the Philistines heard that the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah. They read this gathering either as a gathering for battle, or the Philistines believed this would be a good time and place to finish off the Israelites. So, they went up to Mizpah to attack Israel.
Now when the Sons of Israel heard that the Philistines were coming, they were afraid. Then they asked Samuel to pray to God and ask Him to save them from the hand of the Philistines.
Samuel was a praying prophet, so he did what they asked. He offered a whole burnt offering, in worship, and he cried to the Lord for Israel and the Lord answered Him.
Now while Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines were gathering together to battle against Israel. But God fought for Israel that day. He thundered against them and confused them on the battlefield, so that they were badly beaten before Israel.
(Now let’s talk about what happened after the deliverance. Let us return to 1 Samuel 7:12. Let me read it for you again.)
Samuel set up a stone between Mizpah and Shen, and he named the rock “Ebenezer,” saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us!”
(Let’s explore this verse!)
The setting up of stones in such instances was not unusual. This seems to be equivalent to building altars, memorials, or setting up marker stones to identify family land. This particular stone seems to be a memorial stone of victory. It may have also been an altar, and it was set up to commemorate the victory that God had given them over their mortal and bitter enemies, the Philistines.
Anniversary time is a wonderful time to set up a memorial stone, a marker, and an altar of worship to commemorate the victories that God has given to you. Stop here, for a moment, and commemorate the battles that God has fought for you and the victories that He has given you over your enemies with a stone or altar of worship. You should commemorate these victories with worship!
(But Samuel didn’t just set up a memorial stone.)
After he set up the memorial stone, he named it “Ebenezer.” We ought to know about this name, since many African-American churches have it as a part of their name.
This name comes up exactly three times in the Old Testament. Two of those times the name comes up to simply identify a specific place for specific events, but the most important occurrence of this word is right here. The name literally means “the stone of the help.” It is not “the stone of help” or “stone of the help,” but “the stone of the help.” There is an article before both words.
· This is not a stone of a specific incident of help.
· This is not the stone of some nondescript help.
· This is the stone of the specific help that was received in this specific battle.
The grammatical construction reminds me of the grammatical construction in
John 1:4, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
Whenever two epithets, i.e. adjectives that are used as names, are compared in the Greek and there are articles before both epithets, the two are interchangeable. The life was the light of men, and the light was the life of men. This seems to be the same principle in 1 Samuel 7:12.
This is not true of
1 John 4:8, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
There is only one article in the phrase, “God is love:” “The God is love.” It does not say, “The God is the Love.” And, therefore, you cannot say, “The Love is The God.” Therefore we can say that God as to His nature is love, but love as to its nature is not necessarily God.
(Now some of you are asking, “Why are you telling all of us this?”)
I am telling you this as one proof of the thesis that this phrase, “the Stone of the help,” is typical of Jesus Christ. You can capitalize both epithets. “The Stone of The Help” was also “The Help of The Stone.” I believe this stone is a typology of Jesus Christ. God was the Stone and The Help of Israel, and Jesus is The Stone of The Help for the Church and the Christian.
We know that God is the Stone or Rock of Israel. The Bible refers to Him as such on a number of occasions.
Deuteronomy 32:4, “The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.”
Deuteronomy 32:15, “But Jeshurun (i.e. Israel) grew fat and kicked--you are grown fat, thick, and sleek--then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation.”
Deuteronomy 32:18, “You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth.”
David uses this name in
2 Samuel 23:3, “The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me…”
This name can also be seen in the New Testament. In the New Testament we find out that the Rock of Israel, in the Old Testament, is Jesus Christ, our Rock. Paul said in
1 Corinthians 10:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”
Now I understand what the old folks were talking about when they said, “Jesus is a Rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm!”
I can also hear them singing,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riverside which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
But, how is Jesus like a rock?
· Jesus is stable like a rock is stable.
He does not hop around from place to place; you know where you can find him.
· Jesus is solid like a rock is solid.
Neither Jesus nor a rock has a Tootsie Roll center. He is a sure foundation. You can put all of your weight upon Him and He will sustain you. I don’t know what Ashford & Simpson were singing about, but I do know what the Bible is talking about.
· Jesus is unchanging like a rock is unchanging.
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Although He may change His mind, He never changes in character.
But Jesus is not just the Rock; He is “The Rock of The Help.” Jesus is “The Rock of many specific incidences of where we have received His help, because Jesus is “Help” personified.
Once again, this is seen in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, God is called “The Help of Israel.” David exhorts the Israelites in
Psalm 115:9, “O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.”
Comparatively speaking, in the New Testament, Jesus calls Himself a “Helper.” He says in
John 14:16, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.”
The Greek word translated “another” means another of the same kind. So, Jesus is talking about another Helper like Himself!!!
(Now, let’s talk about this a little more.)
· God was “The Stone of The Specific Help” that Israel needed when they were down in Egypt.
God sent plagues and death angels through the Land. God fought their battles and delivered them with much spoil.
· God was “The Stone of The Specific Help” when they were wandering through the wilderness.
He helped them and fought for them in many battles. In the battle against Amalek at Rephidim, Moses sat on a rock, while Aaron and Hur supported his hands. This rock was the foundation of Israelites victory of Amalek.
· God was “The Stone of The Specific Help” when they needed to conquer Jericho to enter the Promised Land.
God gave them some instructions and they followed those instructions to the letter. They had a praise service around the walls of Jericho, and God knocked the walls down flat. Praise is a means of taking back territory from the devil!!!
· Jesus was “The Stone of the Specific Help” that the disciples needed when they were whipped and persecuted for preaching in His name.
They rejoiced at being counted worthy to suffer for His name.
· Jesus was “The Stone of the Specific Help” that the Church needed when Peter was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel.
An angel came and unlocked the prison doors.
· Jesus was “The Stone of the Specific Help” that Paul and Silas needed when they were locked in jail.
After a praise service, God sent an earthquake that opened all the doors. Praise is a means of deliverance from bondage!!!
And Jesus Christ is “The Stone of your Help!”
You have, no doubt, faced nay Sayers who said that it couldn’t be done, but God fought for you.
You have faced Satan’s opposition to the growth and ongoing perpetuity of this church, but the Stone of The Help: Jesus Christ, has helped you.
And there have been many other enemies and battles, but Jesus, the Stone of Your Help, has always stepped in and fought for you! Had it not been for the Lord on your side, surely you would have perished!
And there are attacks right now that I don’t know about, but I urge you to set up a memorial marker, worship God, pray, and hold your peace and let “The Stone of The Help” fight your battles! Jesus is a Rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm!!!
(So, what is the proper response to all of this?)
The proper response is to let “The Stone of our Help” fight our battles. But how do we do that? First, we need to set up a stone or marker to memorialize and worship God for what He has done! We need to do like Miriam, when Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the Red Sea. Miriam got a tambourine and led the women of Israel in a dance. She shouted:
Exodus 15:21, “...‘Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.’”
We need to dance, shout, and sing of the Lord’s deliverance!!!
(But that’s not all!)
Samuel didn’t just set up a stone and name it “Ebenezer,” he had some words to go along with the name. He said:
“Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
(I believe there are three perspectives to this statement. And those three perspectives are past, present, and future.)
When Samuel said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us,” the statement hearkened back to all of the great victories that God had worked in Israel’s history.
This statement reminds us of all the victories of history. Neither time nor human frailty would allow us to list all of those victories, but we ought to proclaim, “Thus far the Lord has helped us,” in honor of those victories.
Not only had God wrought many victories for them in the near and distant past, but also they were presently standing in victory.
Right now you are standing in some present victory. Maybe you can’t think of a present victory, then think about it like our spiritual ancestors used to sing,
Just another day that the Lord has kept me.
Just another day that the Lord has kept me.
He has kept me from all evil; with my mind stayed on Him.
Just another day that the Lord has kept me.
That is a present victory!!!
(But the statement entails more than the past and the present.)
It intimates the future. If He had helped them this far, i.e. in the past and in the present, wouldn’t He help them in the future?
Isn’t the future also intimated here for us? “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” We have counted upon him in the past, He is active in the present, and His promises should cause us to depend upon Him for the future. And I don’t believe that He has brought us this far to leave us. Somebody said:
He didn’t bring us this far to leave us.
He didn’t teach us to swim to let us drown.
He didn’t build a home in us to move away.
He didn’t lift us up to let us down.
Somebody shout, “Ebenezer!” “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
(Now what was the outcome of this battle and miraculous victory at Mizpah?)
· The Philistines did not come within the border of Israel anymore.
Through this victory, which was obtained by the miraculous help of God, the Philistines were so humbled, that they no more invaded the territory of Israel, i.e. with lasting success, as they had done before (Keil & Delitszch). The Philistines lost a lot of their power.
· The hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
God continued to fight for Israel against her enemies.
· They regained territory that they had lost to the Philistines.
· The territory was delivered from the hand of the Philistines.
· This brought about peace with other enemies.
“The Canaanitish tribes also kept peace with Israel after this victory of the Israelites over the Philistines, and during the time of Samuel” (Keil & Delitzsch).
(I am praying that God will do the same thing for you.)
· Secure your borders against your enemies.
· Raise His hand mightily against Satan and your enemies—all of your days.
· Give you back territory that had been lost to the devil.
· Release territory all around you from the hand of the devil.
· Quiet down your enemies.
Therefore, we ought to set up a memorial here, at anniversary time and shout, “Ebenezer!” “Thus far the Lord has helped us!” We ought to slow down; we ought to stop for a while, and memorialize and worship God for what He has done and who He is! “Ebenezer!” “Thus far the Lord has helped us!”
(Now is the day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, Now!)
Call to Discipleship