Summary: An encouragement to raise up your 'monument' to past blessings
"HITHERTO HATH THE LORD HELPED US"
Monuments are historical markers which serve to remind us of the accomplishments, or the sacrifices, of those who came before us. They are boundary stones along the time-line, signalling, ‘Something significant happened here’. Or they are symbols of our faith, witnesses to the goodness of our Sovereign Lord.
JACOB raised a stone between his land and Laban’s, to witness between them should either pass that way with the intention of harming the other. This he called ‘Mizpah’ saying, “The LORD watch between thee and me while we are apart” (Genesis 31:45-52). Jacob also set up a pillar of stone in the place where the LORD had spoken to him (Genesis 35:14).
JOSHUA set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan to signal the LORD’s drying up of the river, and the passing of the children of Israel into the land of promise (Joshua 4:9). Joshua also raised a stone by the sanctuary of the LORD as a “witness” to the words of the LORD that He had spoken to the people in the Book of the Law (Joshua 24:26-27).
SAMUEL set up a stone between Mizpah and Shen, acknowledging the LORD’s deliverance of Israel from the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:3-12). He called it ‘Ebenezer’, with the words of our text: “Hitherto hath the LORD helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). This also marks the point on the timeline when the Israelites ceased from their superstitious, almost idolatrous, dependence upon the Ark of the Covenant, and began to trust in the LORD Himself.
The BACKGROUND to this passage, then, is the Ark cycle (1 Samuel 4:1 to 1 Samuel 7:3). Samuel’s voice has not been heard in the text since 1 Samuel 4:1: “And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.” Our reading today marks the end of this silence: “And Samuel spoke unto all house of Israel, saying…” (1 Samuel 7:3).
1. The ATTITUDE of the people.
Samuel came to the forefront at a time when Israel was “lamenting after the LORD” (1 Samuel 7:2). We are reminded, instantly, that the LORD hears the cry of His people, as He did the slaves in Egypt (Exodus 3:7). “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6); “My soul pants after thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1).
2. The CONDITIONS for deliverance.
Samuel outlined to them the terms of true repentance (1 Samuel 7:3). PUT AWAY all idea of syncretism and compromise with other ‘gods’. PREPARE your hearts to serve the LORD, and Him only, and He will give you VICTORY over the enemy of your hearts!
3. The OBEDIENCE of the people (1 Samuel 7:4).
4. THE ENEMY ATTACKS DURING WORSHIP! (1 Samuel 7:7).
They were afraid, but Israel was at least now trusting in the LORD (not the Ark!) to deliver them (1 Samuel 7:8). We must have a “single eye” to God (Matthew 6:22). “Unite my heart to fear thy Name” (Psalm 86:11).
5. The SACRIFICE (1 Samuel 7:9).
Samuel was still sacrificing even as the enemy drew near (1 Samuel 7:10)! We have an all-sufficient sacrifice, already completed at Calvary, and we offer our prayers in the name of Jesus (John 14:13-14). The enemy is furious!
6. THE LORD BRINGS DELIVERANCE (1 Samuel 7:10).
The LORD thundered, and the Philistines were smitten before Israel. However, the Sovereignty of God does not excuse us from responsibility: the Israelites must also play their part (1 Samuel 7:11). We too must move from the defensive to the offensive, putting the very gates of hell under siege (Matthew 16:18).
7. EBENEZER (cf. 1 Samuel 4:1) = a Stone to acknowledge that:
a. “Hitherto hath the LORD helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12).
b. He is “a very present help in time of need” (Psalm 46:1).
c. Our trust is in the One who will deliver us again (2 Corinthians 1:9-10).
Application: COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS.
a. Samuel’s speech (1 Samuel 7:6-11).
b. “Great is Thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-26).
c. “Having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day” (Acts 26:22).