Church Anniversary For Pastor Tony Ward's Church
Church Anniversary For Pastor Tony Ward’s Church
Ebenezer: Thus Far The Lord Has Helped Us!
1 Samuel 7:3-14
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.
The setting is 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. About four thousand men were killed on the battlefield. 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 so loud that the earth resounded or rang.
The Philistines were frightened by the history of the Ark of the Covenant, but they 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
· Hophni and Phinehas, sons of Eli and priests themselves, were killed.
· When the report from the battlefield reached Eli, he fell off of his seat, 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.”
(Why did this happen?)
It happened because the Israelites had not been true to God. You see, 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 was not obligated to answer her prayers.
But, the Ark of the Covenant was a snare 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. 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.
· Serving Jehovah God alone.
These four things basically constitute repentance, and Samuel promised deliverance for repentance.
So, the Israelites met the conditions for repentance and for deliverance. 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 they had gathered at Mizpah. They read this gathering either as 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, and 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.
If you repent of any and serve God and God alone, the man of God will worship God and pray for you, and God will fight your battles. This is very applicable to the church.
(Now let’s see what happens 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. 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.
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!!!
(But Samuel didn’t just set up a memorial stone.)
After he set up the memorial stone, he named it Ebenezer. 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 is actually
'Eben ha-`ezer, eh'-ben haw-e'-zer, Hebrew Stg 72; from Hebrew 68 ('eben) and Hebrew 5828 (`ezer) with the article inserted; stone of the help; Eben-ha-Ezer, a place in Palestine :- Ebenezer.
Did you get that? It means “the stone of the help.”
· This is not the stone of indiscriminate help.
· This is not the stone of some help.
· This is the stone of the specific help.
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 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.”
(Now some of you are asking, “Why are you telling us this?”)
I am telling you this as one proof of the thesis that this “Stone of the help” represents Jesus Christ. “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 the Help of the Stone of Israel, and Jesus is The Stone of The Help and the Help of The Stone for the Church and the Christian.
We know that Jesus is the Stone or Rock. David referred to God as such on a number of occasions. On one occasion is recorded in
2 Samuel 22:1-3, “And David spoke the words of this song to the Lord in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said, ‘The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my savior, Thou dost save me from violence.’”
David identified Jehovah God as his Rock, but Paul goes further and identifies the Rock of the Old Testament as Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.”
How is Jesus like a rock? A rock is stable! A rock is solid! A rock is unchanging!
But beyond that, we know from the Bible that God was the Helper of Israel, The Holy Spirit is the Comforter and Helper. So, Jesus too must be a Helper. He helps us when we face our enemy and our enemies. Jesus Christ is The Rock of The Help, i.e. the specific help that we have needed in specific battles. Any help that we have received, we have received from Him.
(Now, let’s talk about this a little more.)
God was The Stone of The 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 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. So, Joshua overwhelmed Amalek.
God was The Stone of The 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.
(Now, as I said earlier, you have had some enemies and battles too.)
You have, no doubt, faced naysayers 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, helped you.
And there have been many other enemies and battles, but Jesus, the Stone of Our 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, 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!!!
(What is the proper response to all of this?)
The proper response is to set up a stone or marker to memorialize and worship God for what He has done!
(But that’s not all!)
Samuel didn’t just set up a stone and name it. He set up a stone, named it, and said,
“Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
I believe there are three perspectives to this statement. And those three perspectives are present, past, and future.
When Samuel said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us,” I believe he had in mind the battle they had just won. They were presently standing in victory. They had just won a major battle.
(But that was not all!)
I don’t know if Samuel had this in mind when he made the statement, but it hearkens back to all of the great victories that God had worked for them.
Likewise, this statement reminds us, not only of the immediate victory, but also of all the victories of history: The Red Sea, Jordan, David & Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, the three Hebrew boys, etc., etc., etc.
(But that was not all!)
The statement entails more than the present and the past. It intimates the future. If he had helped them this far, wouldn’t he help them in the future? Isn’t the future intimated here?
· “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
He has helped us and you with many projects and battles in the past.
· “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
He is helping us and you in the present.
· “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.
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.
“Ebenezer!” “Thus far the Lord has helped us!” Let us slow down; stop for a while, and memorialize and worship God for what He has done and who He is! “Ebenezer!”