1 Samuel 7 5-12

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Ebenezer - the stone of help

So far the lord is with us

1 samuel 7:5-12

Introduction: Near a town in western Ohio is a church called “Ebenezer”.  Near the church is a very large rock.  The people that built Ebenezer were driven to this land from Europe to escape religious persecution.  They had to leave there former homes because of their Christian faith.  In the new land of America they found freedom to worship their God.  No wonder they named their church Ebenezer - which means “the stone of help”.  In today’s  Old Testament reading we hear the story of how the name of Ebenezer first came to be used.

Background:  Our story occurs at the end of the age of judges in the history of Israel         Eli was judge and priest /After the call of Samuel / evil acts of Hophni and    Phinehas / strife and conflict with the Philistines. / Battles at Mizpah.

I.          Two Battles - During this time...

A.        In the first battle of Mizpah

            -  Israel went out to battle -- 4,000 died

            -  Without the Lord’s approval - “Lets get the Ark of the Covenant”

            -  Hophni and Phinehas go along

            -  Israel shouts with anticipated victory

            -  The Philistines build their courage with shouts of nationalism.

            -  Israel routed / 30,000 dead / Eli’s sons and Eli Dies brokenhearted and broken necked.

B.        The second battle of Mizpah

            -  Samuel is now the high Priest and Prophet.

            -  He sees the change of heart of Israel - repentance

            -  He calls them to act on the change by putting away their sinful ways.

            -  Samuel calls them to Mizpah where they pour their hearts out to God in sorrow and repentance.

            -  The Philistines see and hear them gather and prepare to battle them again - probably expecting a route

            -  The Israelites, unprepared for war call for Samuel to pray

            -  He prays and offers up a sacrifice of a Lamb.

            -  As he does God thunders from Heaven and confuses the Philistines just before the attack.

            -  The Lord delivers the Philistines into the hands of Israel and from then on sustains them and protects them from their enemies.

            -  Samuel marked the spot of their deliverance with a Stone called Ebenezer, the stone of help.  Samuel said “Thus far hath the Lord helped us”. 

II.        Two Views of Religion - The Israelites entered battle and life with two different perspectives of religion

A.        The first time they entered battle

            -  They thought they could prevail without the help of God

            -  Or they thought that they could win by using God their own way -- taking the Ark which symbolized God’s presence with them.

            -- they took the mere trapping of religion with them.

            -  They made God into a lucky charm that they thought would protect them.

            -  Their action were impure and their hearts were not focused on God though faith.  They were defeated.

B.        The second time they entered battle

            -  They were called to repentance

            -  They turned from their sin and came to the Lord in prayer and sacrifice.

            - The Lord Himself battled for the people and they were victorious.


III.       These Two Views are still maintained to day even by us.

A.        Some people see religion, even the Christian religion as a cosmic lucky charm.

            -  They think that they are made safer by performing religious rituals or by doing religious things

            -  Some people think that God will keep them safe if they act religious enough...if they pray enough, if they do enough devotions or even if they go to chapel or church enough.

            -  These same people fear that God will get them if they don’t do enough or God will be mad if they miss as much as a table prayer.

            -  God is not a lucky charm that can ward off evil.  His power and protection can not be harnessed by the wearing of a cross around the neck.   

B.        True religion is found in repentant hearts that confess and turn from sinful practices - even using God as a lucky charm.

            - True religion approaches God from the heart and with prayer.

            - True religion looks to God through the acceptable sacrifice.

            -  True religion trusts God alone by faith alone for protection and deliverance.

            -  True religion is found only in Jesus Christ

Conclusion:    In the adversities of this life we as Christians call to Christ asking Him to pray on our behalf for God’s protection just as the Israelites asked Samuel to pray for them.  We can be confident that the prayers of Jesus are heard by our Heavenly Father.  We know this because Jesus didn’t just offer up a Lamb for sacrifice to atone for sins.  Jesus Christ offered Himself on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  For His sake your sin has been forgiven and the Lord will deliver you from the hands of your enemies - sin, death and the devil - saving your souls and giving you eternal life.  God has set up for us an Ebenezer stone - a stone that reminds us that God is our help.  Our Ebenezer stone has an angel sitting on it who says to us why do you look for the living among the dead - Jesus is risen.  Our Ebenezer stone stands beside an empty tomb.  Thus far hath the Lord helped us and delivered us from our enemies.

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