Summary: Pentecost 16(C) - Ebenezer, thus far has the Lord helped us! We are completely helpless and it is our Lord who saves us completely.
THUS FAR HAS THE LORD HELPED US (EBENEZER)
September 24, 2006 - PENTECOST 16 - 1 Samuel 7:5-12
* * * * * * * * *
Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord:
Help! Help! Maybe we have cried out those words when we have fallen down and needed help getting back up or when we come to the house with an armload of groceries and we need the door opened. Maybe we needed to call out "Help! Help!" looking for someone to come and help us, to get out of present trouble. Maybe on a bad day we had to cry out "Help! Help!" a couple of times. Some days are like that. Very often we cry out "Help! Help!" when we are looking for some quick solution to a minor problem. We may be looking for an immediate relief from something that is a small distress to us at the time. This morning we are reminded of the fact that you and I can cry "Help! Help!" not just for small physical distresses and the troubles that beset us from time to time, but also for everything. The Lord our God is our help.
Today, in the words of our text, we have a very vivid reminder of our God’s willingness to help us. We have a very vivid reminder of our God’s ability to help us, and a very vivid reminder of our God’s power to help us. We can cry out "Help! Help!" We are reminded of the words of Isaiah, the prophet, when he says: "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10). These are the words of our God who says, "I will reach down with my righteous right hand and I will help you." Isaiah re-echoes the words of Samuel: "Thus far has the Lord helped us (Ebenezer)." Ebenezer means help, the stone of help, the rock of our salvation. Our theme is in the last words of our text:
"THUS FAR HAS THE LORD HELPED US". Today these words of God in Samuel remind us:
I. We are completely helpless, and:
II. Our God saves us completely.
I. WE ARE COMPLETELY HELPLESS
A little background for our text: The children of Israel in their history sometimes fell from God’s grace. They disobeyed. They went into the deep valley of disobedience whenever they turned away from God. Here we are coming to the bottom of their helplessness and hopelessness. In chapters 5 and 6 we find the Ark of the Covenant is returned to the children of Israel. Chapter 7 begins by saying for twenty years the children of Israel were saddened because the Lord was not with them. For twenty years they sought the Lord. Finally Samuel comes and asks them, "Are you really looking for the Lord? Then give up your false idols and your false gods." For twenty years they wanted the Lord to help them, but for twenty years or even longer they worshipped false gods and not the true God. Samuel told them to give up these false gods and idols. Our text begins in verse 5: "Then Samuel said, ’Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the LORD for you.’" Mizpah was a place north of Jerusalem. He wanted them to gather there that he might pray on their behalf for them. Did they truly want the Lord on their side? Did they truly want to give up the false gods they had been following? They really did, didn’t they?
Listen to the next words: "When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted." So they gathered there. They drew water and poured it out. This was unheard of. Water was a very precious commodity. When they drew water, it was used for drinking or cooking or cleaning. Instead they drew it and poured it out saying to the Lord: "We are pouring out our unworthiness. We have come here to Mizpah in utter helplessness." Then it says they fasted. They went without eating to show that they were serious.
If the casual reader of Scripture did not notice that, listen to what Samuel adds, "and there they confessed, ’We have sinned against the LORD.’" They not only were going to say this with their words and their mouths confessing that they had sinned against the Lord; but they had shown by their actions by pouring out the water symbolizing their helplessness, their humility before God. The Israelites said, "We have sinned against the Lord." They were helpless -- completely. Of course, they had finally learned that in the past two decades their false gods didn’t help them at all. They learned that no matter how often they came and brought sacrifices to Baal or worshipped the false god Ashtoreth, gods of the day, nothing happened. For their false gods were completely helpless.