Summary: This sermon is about Jesus as our Ebenezer stone and what it means, along with discussing the importance of Samuel's statement, "Thus far the Lord has helped."
Our Ebenezer Stone
Whenever we hear the name, Ebenezer, our minds automatically go to Christmas and Charles Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol,” and its main character, Ebenezer Scrooge.
But there is another Ebenezer, one that is far more famous, but far less known. It’s also not a person, either real or imagined. Rather it was a name given to a stone that the prophet Samuel placed in Israel to remember how the Lord had helped them.
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” (1 Samuel 7:12 NKJV)
But when we look at what Samuel said, however, we think it says that up to a certain point the Lord helped, but no further. But when we look at the story, the implications are that the Lord not only helps us in the past, but also in the present and into the future.
One key word in this verse is, “us.” God is making this personal, and so God’s desire is to help us where we are at and where He desires for us to go.
So, where are you? What has the Lord done in your life? What does God wish to continue to do in and through your life? All good questions and questions God desires for us to look at.
To understand what we are looking at in 1 Samuel chapter 7, we have to go back to when Samuel was just a lad serving in the tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant resided.
Israel was at war with the Philistines and so they gathered at the area known as Ebenezer, and in the battle that ensued, 4,000 Israelis lost their lives. When they regrouped they tried to figure out what went wrong when someone came up with the bright idea it was because God wasn’t with them.
But instead of praying and seeking God, they sent word to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle resided, and had the two sons of Eli, the high priest, bring to them the Ark of the Covenant, because in their mind the Lord God resided in the Ark.
When the Ark was brought into the camp it says that the people shouted so loudly that the ground shook. When the Philistines heard the shout and found out that they brought the Ark into the camp, they remembered all the victories Israel won when the Ark was with them, and so they thought it was all over for them.
But still they fought, and not only did the Philistines win, they won decisively with over 30,000 Israelis killed in battle. But to top it off, they captured the Ark and took it as a prize into their land.
Upon hearing the news that the Ark was captured and his sons had died, Eli fell over and died, and the wife of one of Eli’s sons gave birth prematurely and then she died. But before she died she named of the child, “Ichabod,” saying, “The glory has departed from Israel.”
When the Philistines brought the Ark to the city of Ashdod, they placed it in the house of Dagon, their god. But the Lord will not allow His name to be so desecrated and manhandled, and so He destroyed the statue of Dagon and stuck the Philistines will tumors.
Unable to take God’s judgment any longer, the Philistines sent the Ark back to Israel where it remained in the care of Abinadab from Kirjath Jearim.
It is now 20 years later that we pick up our story as the people gathered to seek the Lord.
Read 1 Samuel 7:2-12
The name, “Ebenezer,” means “The Stone of Help.”
But what I’d like to focus on is the phrase, “Thus far.” It is the key to understanding this passage. What does it mean, and what are we to remember?
1. It Remembers the Past
When we remember the past we generally like to remember the victories, the good times, but in our passage it also means that they were remember their defeat 20 years earlier and the Philistine oppression since that time.
Throughout the Bible, God continually tells His people to remember the miracles and great deliverances, but also the folly of their sin.
I believe that God want’s us to remember the past so we don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future.
In His letter to the church in Ephesus Jesus said,
“Remember from where you have fallen, and repent.” (Revelation 2:5 NAS)
Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord said,
“Remember this, and show yourselves men; recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.” (Isaiah 46:8-9 NKJV)