Ebenezer: “Till now the Lord has helped us.”
The Statement of Samuel: “Till now the Lord has helped us.” ( I Samuel 7:12) could be our statement at the end of each year. As Christians, we generally take time to look back and evaluate the year in the last week of December.
“And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord and brought it to the house of Abinadab on the hill. And they consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord. From the day that the ark was lodged at Kiriath-jearim, a long time passed, some twenty years, and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only. Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” So Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” (I Samuel 7:1-12)
The ark was like an unwanted box lying in Abinadab’s house. Eleazar, was consecrated as the priest and custodian of the box. (I Samuel 7:1-2) In fact, as the priest he was not able to inspire the people to worship God. Also, he failed to teach the people the Word of God. God had to raise Samuel who played the roles of prophet, priest, judge and king. Samuel calls the people of Israel to repent from the worship of strange false gods and renew the covenant with the Lord. (I Samuel 7:3-4)
The Israelites came together at Mizpeh. People were united and came together heeding to the call of Samuel. (I Samuel 7:5-6) However, the Philistines gathered together to make war against Israel. The nation of Israel was scared and asked Samuel to pray. Samuel offers a nursing lamb as a burnt offering and intercedes for them. God answers by a mighty sound of thunder that confuses the Philistines (I Samuel 7:10) Samuel erects a memorial stone of gratefulness. (I Samuel 7:12)
The Nation of Israel not only forgot the Ark of Covenant, they forgot the covenant itself. The Ark of Covenant was a reminder for the Israelites that they were chosen people with God’s purpose. Inside the Ark of Covenant, there were three important things. The first is the two tablets (not Samsung and Apple) with Ten Commandments engraved in it. That provides the basis for Children to live by. Second, was a pot of manna. That reminded the Israelites God’s faithfulness and provision during their journey across the wilderness for forty years. They were expected to lead a God-dependent life. Third, was the budded staff of Aaron, who was the first Chief Priest. That reminds Israelites that they are people of Royal Priesthood.
Like the Israelites, Christians also have a threefold privilege and responsibility. First, they have to lead a holy, righteous and God-honouring life. The life of Christ provides model and inspiration to be light of the world and salt of the earth. Second, they have to live depending on God’s provision and protection. When Christians seeks God’s Kingdom and righteousness as priorities, all material things would be added to their life. (Mathew 6:33) Third, they should be royal priest worshipping God and also interceding for the world. As the Israelites forgot the Ark of Covenant, today Christians could forget their obligations to God and world.
One example is, Christians may have Bible in their homes and may not read it. Isrealites forgot or neglected the Ark of Covenant for 20 long years. It was there, but unrecognized.
There cannot be permanent spiritual vacuum. Israelites neglected their source of spirituality and started looking for counterfeits and substitutes. They chose many of them. The focus, energy, priority, and time that should have been given to God, was directed towards other objects or purposes.
Samuel calls the people of Israel for repentance. They heed to the challenge. They remove their false gods and determine to worship the Lord. The repentance was marked by fasting and sacrifice. Fasting is to express to God their sorrow that they have strayed away from his precepts. Fasting is an indication of humility before God. The discipline of fasting is practiced by the Church down through the centuries. Many Christians fast in the last few days in the year to repent and walk closer with God. There was also a sacrifice. God calls us to be ‘living sacrifice” which is true spiritual ity. (Romans 12:1)
Attack of enemy
Intimate relationship with God is not a guarantee against problems or sufferings or pain or loss. Israelites started restoring their relationship with God, the Philistines gathered to attack Israel. Satan is not bothered about those who are not spiritual or pious. Satan knows that they all are his. He targets those who are righteous, and like to grow in faith. When faith of the nation of Israel increased, the enemies became hyper active.
Israelites depended on God for their protection. They prayed and asked Samuel to intercede for them. The Bible records that God thundered and the Philistine army was thrown into confusion. There was a miraculous deliverance and victory.
Samuel took a stone and erected that as a memorial and named it Ebenezer – Till now Lord has helped us. That was an expression of gratefulness. One of the missing element in modern life is gratefulness. People have an entitlement mentality and feel they need not be grateful at all. However, Samuel reminded Israelites that they ought to be grateful to God. There are many things we take for granted. The oxygen we breath is God’s gift. How many times we express our gratefulness for this gift?
Examining ourselves often is a good spiritual discipline. Year ending is a good time to do an evaluation. We can make a spiritual assessment with the following statements.
- Have I neglected the spiritual essentials as Israelites did?
- We have to repent and turn away from false, counterfeit and substitute gods.
- We have to humble ourselves, fast and commit again to our Lord.
- In our spiritual journey there would be hardships, but Lord is our deliverer.
- Are we grateful? Do we erect memorials like Ebenezer in our spiritual journey?