Ebenezer—The Lord Helped Us

Samuel  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Last Sunday we learned that the Ark of God was returned to Israel, and that it took up residence in Kiriath Jearim, where it stayed from some 20 years.
But there was something greater than the Ark being returned—and that was that all the people of Israel longed for the Lord. If you have your Bibles, I want to encourage you to open them and turn to 1 Samuel 7. And we’ll begin reading with verse 2.
1 Samuel 7:2 NIV84
It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord.
Can you imagine living in a land where all of the people are seeking the Lord? Stop for a minute and think about what our country would be like if everyone sought the Lord.
Marriages would be saved!
And children would grow up with both parents.
Marriages would be defined the way God defines them—between one woman and one man.
Human life would be cherished because mankind contains the Imago Dei—the image of God!
Churches would be full of people who loved God!
What do you imagine would happen if the people of America turned their hearts to the Lord!

A Leader Like Samuel

One thing is that we would need a leader like Samuel. Look at verse 3.
1 Samuel 7:3 NIV84
And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
Today, we need to follow the advice of Samuel. We need to get rid of all of our false Gods. What are the Gods that we as Americans need to put down, to put away. Look at what Israel put away:
1 Samuel 7:4 NIV84
So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.
The Ashtoreths describes the many local shrines the Canaanite gods of nature. Ashtoreth was the goddess of both love and war. It was believed that she worked with Baal to help fertilize the land.
The Baal was identified as the son of the god Dagan (the chief deity of the Philistines). He was commonly recognized as the god of thunder and rain. He worked with Ashtoreth to make the earth fertile.
As I see it, America trusts in a lot of other gods more they we trust in Yahweh:
For some our Military is a god.
Our Medical System can be a god.
The financial markets can be a god.
Our nation’s wealth can be a god.
Our political party—Democrat or Republican—can become gods.
In fact, for many people their retirement, or security can become our gods.
It is ANYTHING that we trust in more than we trust in Yahweh.
Israel had trusted in their army. They had trusted in the Ark of the Lord. But they had lost sight of a relationship with Yahweh. Just like America today, has lost sight of their relationship with Jesus! And because of it, the morals of our culture are declining!
When Israel said they wanted to pursue God, Samuel called them together. Look at verse 5.

The People Gather at Mizpah

1 Samuel 7:5–6 NIV84
Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah.
The people will assemble together at Mizpah. Mizpah was about 7 miles north of Jerusalem, and two miles south of Ramah, Samuel’s hometown. It was a common gathering place for Israel (cf. Judg. 20:1-3; 21:1, 5, 8). Mizpah literally means “watchtower.”
Samuel interceded for the people carrying their needs before Yahweh.
Samuel poured out water—symbolizing the people’s feelings that they were totally unable to effectively resist against the enemy. Look at Psalm 62:8
Psalm 62:8 NIV84
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah
They fasted before the Lord.
They confessed their sin before the Lord.
And Samuel became their leader—or judge.
What an amazing picture of repentance, and reunion to almighty God. An entire nation is turning back to Yahweh—Almighty God! That had to be a beautiful picture! Honestly, it is a picture that I long to see for America.
I truly wonder, what it would take for the people of America to return to the Lord God. 9/11 didn’t do it. A pandemic didn’t do it. What will it take? Is there ANYTHING that would cause America to humble itself before God? Honestly, I don’t know.

Satan’s Attack

Picture it, ALL of Israel is gathered at Mizpah, praying and crying out to the Lord. Now look at verse 7!
1 Samuel 7:7 NIV84
When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. And when the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines.
Satan doesn’t want Israel to return to God. And Satan doesn’t want Americans to return to the Lord Jesus! Look at what happens.
The Philistines hear that all of Israel is at Mizpah.
And they come up to attack all of Israel!
And Israel is afraid!
So they plead with Samuel to continue to pray for them. Look at verse 8.
1 Samuel 7:8 NIV84
They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.”
Do you hear the urgency? Do you hear the fear? The good thing is that they finally realize that they cannot do it on their own, and that they need God to intervene for them!
1 Samuel 7:9 NIV84
Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.
So Samuel offers a nursing lamb to the Lord as a whole burnt offering.
And he cries out to the Lord God on Israel’s behalf.
And because the peoples’ heart was right with God—Yahweh answers them!
Have you ever thought about why it seems like God is not intervening on behalf of America? Could it be that the people’s heart is not right?
Consider this:
50 years ago 90% of Americans identified as “Christian.” Today it is down to 65%.
Only 50% of Americans say they believe God even exists.
And 63% of church going teenagers stop attending church for at least one year when they enter young adulthood.
These are not the statistics of a nation that believes in and fears God! Thus, it is not a nation that is prepared for God to intervene on its behalf.
Look at what happened to Israel.

God Thunders!

1 Samuel 7:10–11 NIV84
While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car.
While Samuel is sacrificing, the Israelites are worshipping, and the Philistines come close to to fight ,Israel.
But God! But God thundered with a loud thunder! But God!
When God thunders, the Philistines panic and run!
And the men of Israel chase after them and they chase them all the way down below Beth Car. We don’t really know the exact location of Beth Car, but many scholars believe it was about 8 miles west of Mizpah.
What we know is that there was a great slaughter of Philistines along the way!

The Lord Has Helped Us!

1 Samuel 7:12–14 NIV84
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines. The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to her, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the power of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
Samuel sets up a stone at between Mizpah and Shen.
He named the place “Ebenezer” which means, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”
With God’s help, the Philistines were subdued! And did not invade Israel’s territory again.
Throughout Samuel’s lifetime:
The hand of the Lord was against the Philistines.
Israel regained their territory from Ekron to Gath.
And there was also peace between Israel and the Amorites.

Samuel Judged Israel All His Life

1 Samuel 7:15–17 NIV84
Samuel continued as judge over Israel all the days of his life. From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also judged Israel. And he built an altar there to the Lord.
Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life.
He had a yearly circuit from Bethel to Gilgal, to Mizpah judging over the people.
Samuel also judged at Ramah because that was his home.
He also made sacrifices for Israel, and set up an altar to the Lord at Ramah.

So What?

If God is going to bless America, America needs to acknowledge God!
God is either God of all, or He is not God at all!
Without obedience to God, we cannot expected blessings from God.
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