There is a fine old hymn many of us have sung and many of us may have tripped over that stone in verse two, not knowing where it came from or what it meant.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
  Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
  Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
  Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
  Safely to arrive at home.

The hymn was written in 1757 by Robert Robinson. Most of us associate Ebenezer with the character in “A Christmas Carol”. Ebenezer had a few problems but he did become a different man at the end of the story.

Today we look at a story from the Bible found in 1 Samuel 7 beginning in verse 7.

7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines.

The people told Samuel to not stop asking the Lord to rescue them from the Philistines (v 8) and Samuel sacrificed a suckling lamb to the Lord (v 9). Verses 10 and 11 tell of Israel’s victory. In recognition of the victory because of the help of the Lord we are told of Samuel’s action in verse 12.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

One thing we do not want to pass by here is the very first few verses of this chapter. The importance of repentance, verses 2-4. The people come together and confessed their sins and Samuel offers a sacrifice on their behalf. (verses 5-9) Ebenezer means Stone of Help, and Samuel put it there as a reminder to all Israelites that saw it of the Lord’s power and protection. The Lord had kept his promise to bless his repentant people.  V 3–4: Samuel insists that a returning to the Lord must include the putting away of foreign gods and idolatry, and involve a wholehearted commitment to serve Him. The Israelites do this and ‘served the Lord only’.

The people had not been living a Holy life and verses 3-4 indicate the seriousness of their actions. They embrace the fact that they must turn from their sins and do so in mind, body and soul. Not only do they turn from their sin but they dedicate themselves to changing the way they live. Repentance always demands a certain amount of contrition but without change it is a meaningless gesture. Back to verse 12… 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” We know from a previous episode that the Israelites carried the ark into battle only to suffer a resounding defeat. The Israelites presumed they could not be defeated in battle with the ark among them. An interesting thought I acquired while doing research for this blog, from the Reformation Study Bible.

“Now God has given them a great victory over the same enemies. Samuel sets up a memorial stone with the name Ebenezer, “Stone of Help,” not only to commemorate the victory but also as reminder of the different results brought about by presumption on the one hand and by repentance on the other.”

When we seek to live a Christian life, the challenges of this life do not cease. We won’t always be successful but from these scriptures we see that God is receptive to prayers for forgiveness and herein lies another lesson. Showing contrition and seeking forgiveness without changing our ways is worthless. Maybe I am being to harsh here. This I do believe to be true. Contrition, forgiveness and change of how one lives is a process that in the Christian world succeeds only when we give ourselves over to God completely, remembering this from verse 12… “Thus far the Lord has helped us”. We might ask ourselves if “thus far, have we have served our Lord faithfully?”

Life is Good

jk

 

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