2 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.3 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.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 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. 7 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. 8 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.” 9 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. 10 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. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car.12 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.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.
1 Samuel 7:2-13
Ebenezer means till now the Lord has helped us. Counting from the time of Abraham to the time of Samuel, 1,100 years have passed. Samuel looked back at the history of the Israelites; he concluded that the Lord has helped them until now. What did Samuel see in their history to make him feel that God has helped them all the time?
- He helped them when they were little. When Abraham ventured into Canaan, he was very much a minority in the land. When Israelites were in Egypt, they were slaves serving the Egyptians. Yet God raised a nation from these powerless people.
- He helped them when they served other gods. Throughout their history, Israelites served other gods instead of serving the Lord. Yet, time after time, he was helping them when they cried for help, just like what they did in this passage.
- He helped them by putting them into the hands of their enemies. God’s help comes in many forms, even when it looked like Lord has left them by putting them into the hands of their enemies, it was God’s way of helping them to come back to Him. Samuel was chosen by God to lead the Israelites crossing from the period of judges to the period of kings. This was not an easy task. Samuel knew whoever would rule over the Israelites was not the most important. It was whether the Israelites were returning to God. He used a significant portion of his life in leading them back to the Lord, and I would say he was very successful in doing this (2 Samuel 7:2), even though when another generation was raised up they would have to learn this all over again.
I hope no matter what challenges we are facing, we return to God, this is the most important help we’ll get.