Ebenezer

By on January 24, 2015

“Ebenezer”
1Samuel 7

September 7, 2007
by C.W. Powell

It is my great pleasure today to speak about the great revival that came to Israel during the days of that great prophet of the Lord, Samuel. As I said in the message on chapter 4, and repeated last week, the daughter in law of Eli was wrong when she named her son Ichabod, believing that the Glory had departed from Israel because the Ark of God was taken. The Ark was the glory of Israel, but a symbol of the glory, and not the glory itself. The glory was the oracles of God that had been given to them, and God was even then renewing that Glory in the person of His prophet, Samuel.

But God does not move according to our timetables, and sometimes His movements are very slow. There were many gods in Israel, and the hearts of the people were very far from the Lord. Usually the true worship of the Lord was practiced by only a small remnant of the people, as Isaiah wrote in 1:9, for these loved the promises and earnestly obeyed the Lord.

The work of the Lord in every age is to seek those who worship Him in spirit and in truth—from the heart and not just in outward form. There are two ways in which the ceremonies of the Lord are abused by those who call upon Him. We saw that some make too much of ceremonies, as those who thought that the Ark could deliver them from their enemies. Israel considered the Ark as the great God that brought them out of Eqypt, and the result was Israel’s defeat by the Philistines, the capture of the Ark and the oppression by the Philistines.

You can also make too little of the ceremonies of the Lord, and count the gifts of God as a very little thing. The outward ceremonies are symbols of internal, spiritual things, and must be observed as the gifts of God and used to point us to the realities. When the ceremonies are either seen as the ends in themselves, or despised as things of no account, the true worship of God is neglected and falls out of favor. We are warned of making too much of ceremonies when we are given examples of great godliness among those who did not have the ceremonies, such as Melchizedek, Job, Naaman, the the widows of Sidon; we are warned of making too little of them by the commandment of the Lord to deny them to those who persist in their disobedience.

But let us look at the words of 1 Samuel 7. I am somewhat indebted to the comments of Delitzsch and Keil for their arrangement of this chapter and analysis of the Hebrew text, as well as to the commentaries for some of the historical setting.


“1 And the men of Kirjathjearim came, and fetched up the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.

I will say little about this other than to note that this was probably the result of the plague and desolation of Bethshemish because they had looked into the Ark after it had been returned from the Philistines. This also points to the error of making too little of the holy ceremonies of the Lord. It is also true that the things are not holy in themselves, for it was only the presence of God that made these things hallowed. This presence was not always manifest, for no one was slain when the Ark was taken from the Holy of Holies to be taken before the army of Israel into battle. Idolatry consists of attributing to material things the attributes of God and that could be done to such an object even as the Ark of the Covenant and the Tables of Stone, which in themselves were just wood, stone, metal, and other created things.

The Ark at this time was like a orphan, without a home and without a tabernacle. Eleazar of the house of Abinadab was appointed by Israel and set apart to care for the Ark. Many years would go by before David the King would bring it to Jerusalem and give it a home.

But even so, the Glory had not departed from Israel, as we shall see.



I. The Long Repentance of Israel:
1Samuel 7:2,3:

2 And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjathjearim, that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD. 3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.

A. The Hebrew requires these verses to be read as one continuing event, culminating in the words of Samuel, calling Israel to repentance and the restoration of the worship of true God. There was preparation in the hearts of the people for the great time of repentance to which they were called by Samuel at the climax of the twenty-year event. God works through the processes of history. Fruit must not be picked until the process of ripening has taken place. Repentance is an event that is prepared by a process, and if the process is interrupted the fruit may be spoiled. God would use Samuel in the work of restoration, but not until the historical process had worked, and the hearts of the people prepared, and even then, many many years and generations would go by before the full fruit of the nation of Israel would be brought forth in the days of Jesus Christ.

B. “Lamented after the Lord” implies a following after, an earnest entreaty, and continuous prayer. It is represented by such things as the Syrophoenecian woman following after Christ in Matthew 15, or the persistence of the woman to entreated the unjust judge. True repentance is not done lightly and in a moment. God will often withhold his favor, not because He is stingy or unkind or unloving, but for our advantage, that our hearts be purified before Him. Earnest prayer and petition does not change the mind of God, but it certainly does change us, and this is the meaning of this phrase. Israel lamented and cried out to the Lord for twenty years, still enduring the affliction of the Philistines, but they had not put away their idols and their wickedness, as we see in the words of Samuel at the end of this time. I am sure that Samuel was preaching the putting away of Idols all this time, but the time had not yet come where Israel was prepared in heart to do this.

C. There are times and seasons in religious matters, just as there are in earthly affairs. We do not know the specific event or events that led to the climax of this revival after twenty years, but we can assume that Samuel’s preaching continued for all these years and family by family put away their idols, some in speedy obedience, some in lingering obedience, some in final obedience, until Samuel saw that it was time to call a great convocation at Mizpeh.

D. The words “If you do return to the LORD with all your hearts,” is a phrase that indicates that the turning had already taken place in their hearts and must now be brought to a climax by putting away the false gods that they no longer valued and worshipped. That is, make the renewal official and final, and make official what has already taken place in your hearts. Thus the renewal that had taken place over the past twenty years under the preaching of Samuel would be established and manifest. The idols had become nothing and were to be treated as vanity by removing them from their places of honor.

E. Two kinds of gods, male and female, for “strange gods” are Baalim and Astaroth means any female goddess. So all gods and goddesses are to be removed. Idols must be removed from our hearts before any true renewal can take place. This means that the meanings of the idolatry and the meanings of the true worship of God must be taught before the symbolism will ever be esteemed as abominable or precious to us. In this the iconoclasts at the time of the Reformation did much harm and simply aroused the hatred and retarded the true reformation that was taking place. True reformation takes place by the preaching of the word, not the smashing of idols.



II. The Prayers of Samuel and the Feast of Tabernacles:
1Samuel 2:4-6:

4 Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only. 5 And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD. 6 And they gathered together to Mizpeh, 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 children of Israel in Mizpeh.

A. When the renewal of the hearts was accomplished, then it was time to call a national assembly and make it official
B. It seems that a great Feast of Tabernacles was kept, in which Israel acknowledges that they were strangers and pilgrims in the land, and repented before the Lord for their past idolatry and sinfulness.

C. The drawing and pouring out of water was the climax of the Feast of Tabernacles, according to Clarke and Barnes. There is a reference to this in a number of places, and it speaks of the true repentance that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Water is often used as a symbol for the work of the Holy Spirit resulting in repentance and faith. I would reference a number of passages:

1. “7 How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. 8 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. 9 For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.” (Ps 36:7-9 AV)


2. “3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: 4 And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.” (Isa 44:3-4 AV)


3. “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.” (Joel 2:23 AV)
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:” (Joel 2:28 AV)

4. “1 And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. 2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. 3 Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. 4 And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. 5 Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. 6 Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.” (Isa 12:1-6 AV)

5. “37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)” (Joh 7:37-39 AV)


III. The Great Victory at Mizpeh:
1Samuel 7: 7-11:

7 And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. 9 And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him. 10 And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar.

A. There is nothing that strikes more fear to the hearts of the devil’s crowd than the renewal of the faith of God’s people. The Philistines has been frightened before when even the shadow of the true faith had been presented to them when Israel brought the Ark into battle, that fear had resulted in great exploits by the Philistines because God was not with Israel, for the Ark was not God.

B. Now, I imagine that the Philistines remembered what had taken place 20 years before, and fancied that this would be a repetition of what had gone before. They should have been filled with fear as they were 20 years before. Because they did not know the Lord, before they had made too much of the outward forms of religion and were frightened by the ark; now they made to little of what had taken place at Mizpeh, for how could they discern what was true and what was false? They rushed to battle and to destruction before God.

C. Spiritual preparation must go before spiritual warfare, if we are not to be treated as the sons of Sceva, who thought there was magic in the name of Jesus and anyone could invoke the power. It is very dangerous to confront the works of darkness, and only those prepared by the Holy Spirit can expect to be successful. It had taken Samuel more than twenty years to prepare Israel for this conflict, but this was God’s timetable and even then this was just the beginning of the renewal and greater victories and joy would come later, and many trials were intervene before the days of David and Solomon, but complete victory would only come when our Lord came and established his everlasting kingdom. But we have not yet even seen the glory of that kingdom, for it is through many tribulations that we enter into the kingdom of God. But let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

D. Twenty years before, there was no mention of prayers and humility before the Lord, but just trust in the Ark, which they had transformed into an idol. This time, Israel called on the prophet, and Samuel offered a sucking lamb and called upon the LORD, and the LORD heard him. No idolatry here, but a petition to the invisible God, the LORD who cannot be seen, but goes with mighty power into battle.

E. The words translated thunder are not the same word. The Lord thundered or caused to tremble with a great noise, sound, or voice is the literal

F. The Lord thundered with a great thunder. This was that same awful voice that thundered from Sinai, and the great voice that spoke to the Lord Jesus, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” This is the voice of the Living and True God, and it is heard truly in the souls of men, either a voice of terror and complete ruin, or a voice of comfort and joy. It was both on this day: a voice of terror and ruin to the Philistines and of great comfort and joy to the people of God.

G. This voice is still shaking the earth today, as we read in Hebrews 13: “25 See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” (Heb 12:25-27 AV)



IV. Ebenezer: The Lord Has Helped Us.
1Samuel 7:12-17

12 Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us. 13 So the Philistines were subdued, and they came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. 14 And the cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron even unto Gath; and the coasts thereof did Israel deliver out of the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites. 15 And Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life. 16 And he went from year to year in circuit to Bethel, and Gilgal, and Mizpeh, and judged Israel in all those places. 17 And his return was to Ramah; for there was his house; and there he judged Israel; and there he built an altar unto the LORD.” (1Sa 7:1-17 AV)

A. A rock of Memory. Such things are good for future generations, but present generations cannot rely upon the repentance of past generation. But we can raise our own Ebenezers for the benefit of our families and our churches, to remember the work of God in our lives. Books, memoirs, scrapbooks, diaries and such have served such a purpose for many years. It is a pity that more of them are not written, perhaps.

B. The restoration of Israel, and the recovery of their cities. The Amorites evidently helped Israel, choosing to serve Israel rather than the Philistines. Thank God for good allies. But it seems that these cities were lost again because in the time of David, the giant that he killed, Goliath, was from Gath and was one of five brothers that were born to the giant that lived in Gath. King Saul fought against the Philistines all the forty years of his reign. Finally, David was used of God to subdue the Philistines and make them a footnote of history. The other four giants were slain by David’s mighty men.

C. Samuel judged: He provided administration, set things in order, and settled disputes, traveling on a circuit

D. Ramah was his home and there he continued to provide the restoration of the institutions that would culminate in the office of prophet in Israel, the establishment of the Kingdom of David, and the restoration of worship and priesthood, and the building of the temple under Solomon. What a great man was this Samuel. Little did Hannah know on that day when her heart was so sore and she called out to the Lord for a son there in the presence of that corrupt priest Eli that God would hear her petition a raise up for her one of the greatest in the history of Israel.

E. Only God can make a man like Samuel. We must pray that God would give us his like again in these days. Until then, we do our own repentance, we serve the Lord is quietness and fear, and put our faith in Him alone, not in men, objects, or ceremonies, for the Invisible, Triune God is the only true and Living God.

May God bless you

Amen and Amen

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