“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.”
(1 Samuel 7:12)
Today’s verse passage takes us back in Israel’s history to the period of the judges. For 450 years (Acts 13:20), God’s people became locked into a repeating cycle that began with favor and blessings from God. Sadly, Israel quickly drifted into complacency, then into outright rebellion and idolatry. This was followed by God’s punishment through Gentile conquest and oppression. Suffering Israel would then repent and call upon the Lord for deliverance and God, always faithful, would raise up a judge to lead a military liberation movement, which would usher in an age of restored favor and blessings. Soon the people drifted from the Lord in their hearts, and the nauseating cycle would repeat itself. We are tempted to condemn that stiff-necked nation for her constant defection from the Lord (Deuteronomy 9:6; 31:27; Acts 7:51), that is, until we evaluate our own performance in the light of God’s revealed will. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and no temptation has overtaken us except that which is common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13). So long as there remains in our flesh “no good thing” (Romans 7:18), we will continue to stumble also (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8, 10). How good it is to know that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). In the context of today’s verse passage, Israel had failed God miserably. Corruption was present even among the priests (1 Samuel 2:12-17). Completely without understanding, the people reduced the holy Ark of the Covenant (cf. 2 Chronicles 35:3) into a mere talisman (1 Samuel 4:1-5). As a result, they suffered a staggering defeat at the hands of the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:6-11) and found themselves estranged from God. For 20 long years “all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD” (1Samuel 7:2). Samuel finally addressed the nation, promising them that if they returned to the LORD with all their heart and forsook their idolatry, God would deliver them from Philistine oppression (1 Samuel 7:3). Israel fasted, confessed their sins, offered sacrifice, and renounced their idolatry, and as promised, the LORD granted His people a great deliverance (1 Samuel 7:8-11). Samuel raised a memorial stone called Ebenezer (“stone of help”), and declared, “Hitherto hath the LORD helped us.” Individually and corporately, this is our story too. Despite our past mistakes and failures, Christ the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20) has been our ever present help through all kinds of challenges, trials, trouble, and opposition. Praise God, He has no intention of forsaking us now (Matthew 28:20), but has promised to bring us all the way to glory (Romans 8:17, 30). Let us continually praise the God of heaven Who has made us the special objects of His amazing grace and abiding redemptive love!
God bless you,