Thus Far the Lord Has Helped Us

1 Sam 7:2-12

2So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. 3Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, "If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines." 4So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only. 5And Samuel said, "Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you." 6So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured it out before the Lord. And they fasted that day, and said there, "We have sinned against the Lord." And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah. 7Now when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel had gathered together at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8So the children 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."

9And Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. Then Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10Now as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel. 11And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car. 12Then 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."

Preached at FBC Toulon, IL on December 30, 2001 by Albert Harmon; see it at toulonbaptist.com

The year is almost through and you have made it so far. It has been quite a year, with economic and political problems. September 11 has left an indelible mark on each of us.

Some of us have lost loved ones this year. Others have went through health problems. Or our loved ones have become frail and dependant. For others there has been great blessings. A new child in the family, or blessings of prosperity, another successful harvest. Maybe it was a time of reconciliation with family or friends.

Weather it has been a bumper year or a bummer year, yet we have something in common with the people of Israel. It is the Lord that has brought us this far. We are to recognize that the blessings we enjoy are from Him. We are to appreciate that the strength we have is from His boundless resources.

The end of the year is a time to reflect and to determine what to do in the future. It is also a time of giving credit to the One who has brought us this far. He has helped us face the problems and trials of they year. He is the one who has blessed us with the blessings that we enjoy.

  1. Ebenezer
    1. The word means:
      1. 72. rz²,[eh; ÷b,a, eh´-ben haw-e´-zer; from 68 and 5828 with the art. ins.; stone of the help; Eben-ha-Ezer, a place in Pal.:-- Ebenezer.
      2. Thus far the Lord has helped us. This expression means that the Lord was the one responsible for getting Israel to this point. He was Israel's Sovereign One in times of both faithfulness and rebellion. He fought the battles and provided the blessings. John F. MacArthur, Jr. (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible.
    2. It was first of all a place.
      1. This was in the same general vicinity that 20 years before the ark of God and been taken and the Israelites had been defeated.
      2. Even though God had brought them this far it had not been without disappointment.
        1. It was never that God had disappointed them, but that they had disappointed Him.
        2. They had given themselves over to the sins of the people that God had driven out of the land before them.
        3. Until the only difference between them and the Amorites before them was in name only.
      3. That time was a time when the people had sinned and God had allowed the Israelites to be defeated by their enemies.
        1. They had not always realized that God was the reason they had made it through.
        2. They forgot the source of their blessings.
      4. Now for the last 20 years they were but slaves to the Philistines.
        1. Sin always leads to slavery.
        2. Jesus said that who ever lives a life of sin is a servant to sin.
        3. Not only that but they are held captive, although willingly, and cannot escape.
      5. But Samuel the prophet had called the people to repentance. 3Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, "If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines."
        1. True repentance is the key to a right relationship with God.
        2. Pride, conceit and self-assertion, will never lead us to God.
        3. David was a man after God's heart not because he was sinless but because he was such a good repenter.
        4. God dwells with them of a broken and contrite heart because their heart are broken.
      6. He had called them to destroy the false gods of the Canaanites and turn back to Jehovah.
        1. God is never satisfied with token worship.
        2. God expects changes to match the claims we make in our religion.
      7. He had called them to come and worship only Jehovah.
        1. 4So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.
        2. God is a jealous God.
        3. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.' It must be 'Him only,' if it is Him at all. Real religion is exclusive, as real love is. In its very nature it is indivisible, and if given to two is accepted by neither. McClarean
        4. He has a right to be so for there is no other God beside Him.
  2. Samuel then called them to a place of prayer and fasting.
    1. 5And Samuel said, "Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you." 6So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured it out before the Lord. And they fasted that day, and said there, "We have sinned against the Lord."
    2. There is no place before God for those who will not admit their sinnership.
    3. There is no place before God for those who will not humble themselves.
    4. Seeking God is a serious matter.
      1. They fasted and prayed all that day confessing their sins.
      2. We often rush into God's presence only to rush out again.
      3. We can only afford to spend a few minutes with the omnipotent.
      4. If we can never get serious about God, can we expect Him to get serious about us.
      5. These people need a miracle.
  3. Then God allows them to be tested.
    1. 7Now when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel had gathered together at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines.
    2. You would think that since these people had now turned to God that God would keep their oppressors at bay.
    3. But no, God will test this new faith, to see if it is real or only a sham.
    4. Do not think that if you seek the Lord that all your problems will go away.
    5. He has not promised to deliver us from trials but to bring us through them.
  4. But they did not forget their religion.
    1. 8So the children 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."
    2. Many times people come to church, profess their religion and then forget to live what they have just professed.
    3. They enlist Samuel to pray for them and their victory over their enemies of the last 20 years.
  5. Samuel knows the source of their strength, the lamb slain.
    1. 9And Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. Then Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.
      1. Samuel takes a suckling lamb and offers it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord.
      2. Along with the sacrifice Samuel cries out to God.
      3. He intercedes for Israel on the basis of the slain lamb.
    2. We are always mindful of our acceptance before God.
      1. It is the blood of an innocent lamb.
      2. It is the death of the innocent to deliver the guilty.
      3. Eph 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. (NKJ)
      4. No sacrifice, no acceptance.
  6. The Lord indeed does deliver them.
    1. Verse 10 - the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel. 11And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car.
    2. He sends lighting and thunder to send the approaching army running for home.
      1. This was not going to be a victory of Israel.
      2. God was going to accomplish this, all they would need to do is chase the fleeing bands.
    3. The Lord does not deliver as we might think He should.
      1. The Lord had delivered the original inhabitants by sending hornets before Israel.
      2. As Jonathan would later say in 1 Sam 14:6 nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few." (NKJ)
      3. God is always in the majority and power resides with Him.
  7. Then Samuel sets up a monument to commemorate the victory.
    1. 12Then 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."
    2. This stone was not like many of our memorials.
      1. When we were in Alabama we saw their Vietnam memorial with scores of name upon it.
      2. We build monuments to those who gave their lives, to our heros.
      3. There was but one name on this memorial that Samuel set up.
      4. For it is the LORD that has helped us.
    3. Can you identify with that today.
      1. I can say that it is the Lord that has brought me this far.
      2. To bring a sinner like me from the pits of sin and make me a messenger of His word.
      3. To take an old farm boy and fill my heart and head with thought of the infinite God.
    4. Can you say the Lord has hitherto helped ME, yes ME.
    5. He is still there to help if we but humble ourselves, repent and put away our other gods, and enter in by the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.  

This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at http://toulonbaptist.com