Ebenezer….This Far Has The Lord Helped Us
1 Samuel 7:12 “Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, This far has the Lord helped us”.
Samuel had called the people together, to sacrifice unto the Lord, and as God’s word came forth, the people began to repent and call on God…. Feeling that the people were vulnerable and defenseless, it was at this decisive moment, the Philistines decided to attack them with a vengeance… God intervened in their behalf and a terrible storm began to descend upon the Philistine army.
It was so intense with its thunder lightning, wind, and darkness, that the sheer force of its power destroyed the enemy. “It says that the voice of God thundered against them.
Have you ever noticed that when you really get sincere and focused on following the Lord, some of the worse attacks come? I think the enemy, Satan, wants to know how much you really want God to be in your life, and if you really mean it when you make a commitment to follow Him. Speaking of sacrifice….
A married couple was in a terrible accident where the woman's face was severely burned. The doctor told the husband that they couldn't graft any skin from her body because she was too skinny. So the husband offered to donate some of his own skin. However, the only skin on his body that the doctor felt was suitable would have to come from his buttocks.The husband and wife agreed that they would tell no one about where the skin came from, and requested that the doctor also honor their secret. After all, this was a very delicate matter.
After the surgery was completed, everyone was astounded at the woman's new beauty. She looked more beautiful than she ever had before! All his friends, relatives and co-workers just went on and on about her youthful beauty!
One day, she was alone with her husband, and she was overcome with emotion at his great sacrifice. She said, "Dear, I just want to thank you for everything you did for me. There is no way I could ever repay you." "My darling," he replied, "think nothing of it. I get all the thanks I need every time I see my boss kiss you on the cheek."
Well, sometimes we don’t get much thanks for the sacrifices we make…Elijah got hit with great depression after the fire of God’s glory fell on mount Carmel….Joseph was betrayed by his brothers when God’s favor was placed upon him in the form of the coat of many colors….in the midst of a great and overwhelming deliverance, Samson was tempted by Delilah….John the Baptist was thrown in prison after baptizing Jesus and declaring that Jesus was the Son of God….
But if you’ll press in and stay true to the vows you have made to God….the one who brought you this far, will bring you through again and again and again….The very storm that come, which looks like it could destroy you, will be harnessed by God, to reposition, relocate and promote you.That’s right, He’ll show you that He is as faithful today as He was Yesterday and that He will be just as faithful forever!!!!
Samuel set up a stone marker. It was a large boulder, something long lasting and of enduring substance. It was something that would stand as a witness throughout the ages. It represented something permanent, something steadfast and something unchangeable. By the stone marker they erected, they were saying, “This truth will always be. The Lord helped us, Jehovah, is the rock, the I AM THAT I AM, the unchangeable God of covenant love and purpose, the eternal covenant-keeping Jehovah has helped us.
This far has the Lord helped us, and He will help His church and His people even unto the end. For He has made an everlasting commitment to us, to bring us through every valley experience, every mountain climb, every conflict and every overwhelming thing, for His Glory.
If He doesn’t take you over it, He’ll take you under it, around it, or through it, but He will take you to the other side! It’s not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord of Hosts! The past and the present declare that what He has been He will continue to be as we put our trust in Him.
After all He has done, will He now remove His favor from His church….NEVER!
Will He turn His eyes away from His church for even one moment….NEVER!
Will He ever abandon His church in the earth? NO, NEVER!
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid, for the LORD your God, He it is that does go with you, He will not fail you, nor forsake you. He has given us his promise….He remembers when all others forget!
In one church, they wanted to honor their pastor on the anniversary of the church in a special way with a meaningful marker. He had once shared the story of how he was saved at a Billy Graham crusade in a certain football stadium. This event was so life-changing that he never forgot it, he even remembered the row and the seat number where he sat as the Lord saved him and called him. So, some of the church staff took a trip to that stadium, found the seat, purchased it, unscrewed it and brought it back to the church. And on that Sunday morning worship service they presented him with the seat, which was to serve as a spiritual marker of the most significant day of his life! Needless to say, it was a very heart-touching moment.
Wherever His church exists, that is committed and faithful to the truth of the Scripture, God will show Himself to be their present aid, their future hope, their stabilizing force, their substance and their confidence.
Boldly we may say, The Lord is my helper. I will not fear what man can do unto me. This God is our God forever and ever. He will be our Shepherd and our Guide until He calls us home.
What makes Samuel's statement so remarkable here, is that he makes it not only with reference to the present and most recent past, but he is referring back as far as memory can go. "THIS FAR…..UP TO THIS POINT…, THE LORD HAS HELPED US” He means, not only in this supernatural victory over the Philistines, but throughout all those dreadful twenty years and even before that, when they had captured the Ark of the Lord- and everything that had led up to a time of seeming defeat and hopelessness.
The ark was the Glory and with the ark gone, the glory was gone….It was the cause of much anxiety and despair. But Without any help from any man, God toppled the Idol of Baal, and smote the Philistine army with hemorrhoids so that they were so miserable, they were eager to return the ark. But in it all and through it all God had helped them. (Don’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor!) I don’t think that strategy would be on my list of how to defeat the enemy!
Samuel might have said, "Well it’s about time the Lord helped us," or "Now, for this once, the Lord has helped us," or "This time the Lord helped us." He doesn’t say any of that. He says, "This far”, up to this point, always, the grace of God has been working in our behalf.
Even when the Lord brought severe chastening, even when they could not sense His presence, even when His people turned to other gods, even when the Lord brought them to tears of repentance – but always, the Lord was at work so they could receive His best. It was always His faithfulness which kept the people of Israel from descending into the destruction which they so often chose to follow instead of obeying Jehovah.
Look back, not only over the most recent events of our church life and personal life. But Look back to the beginning. Go back as far as your memory will take you. Think back, child of God, what do you see, as you look over the valleys and the mountain paths, the days of sunshine, or the nights of pain, what do you see? How do you account for all that has come and gone, that through it all, God has kept and preserved you through the years as you have kept covenant with Him? Oh, Yes, THIS FAR HAS THE LORD HELPED US! (Hallelujah!!)
The fact that the church of Jesus Christ, still exists on the earth, still confessing the truth, still promoting His Kingdom, is due to one force, one power: God's ever constant faithfulness.
Yes, there are times that perhaps personally, as a child of God we may have felt like He has forsaken us. But that can never be the case.
The wonder of God's love and grace has been forever sealed on Mount Calvary's hill and it declares to every generation, that the Lord is faithful. (The song says) “Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not, As Thou hast been Thou forever shall be. “Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!” Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! “Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!” Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. “Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!
The covenant that God has established is sure. His salvation is for all times and all places. The Lord is our light and our salvation. The Lord is the strength of our life. Of the future we know nothing except this: God is our refuge and strength, our mighty fortress, a helper ever near us. As He has been, He ever shall be. That must be our confession as children of God. At any and every point in our personal life we must say, "This far has the Lord helped me.” Whether you were in the fire, in the darkness of trial, in distress, in sickness or pain…or whether the Lord gave you the sunshine of blessing and ease, we can say, "This far, up to this point, the Lord has helped me."
When we look back by faith and see the faithfulness of God, then we can move on into the future confident and eager to do the will of God.
In Acts 26:22, we read "Having obtained the help of God, therefore I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great."
Paul tells us that his strength to go on, was knowing the Lord had helped him, when things had changed and when he was in a place of great trial and difficulty, …. When his freedom had been taken away and he was to be sent to prison and everyone seemed to regard him as some kind of fanatic, he knew the Lord had helped him…… The apostle says, "Having obtained the help of God, therefore I now continue….."
As Paul looks in the past, he can see that God never failed. God's help was always there.
On this day of commemorating a milestone in our journey together, we see the same Lord faithful, sure, and unchanging, who, for the glory of His name, told Elijah that He had maintained to Himself seven thousand who would not bow the knee to Baal…. Who for the glory of His name, because of righteous Abraham, spared Lot and his family out of Sodom….
Who, for the glory of His name, when the earth was covered in a flood, saved Noah and his family so He could maintain a witness on the earth and preserve a remnant that would demonstrate that salvation is of God and God alone….and that we are never alone!
When you see that, then you can go forward to serve Him in a life of repentance, in a life of love for His truth, in a life of love for Him and for the glory of His name… you can be confident that He will help us until we are brought to His side to stand in glory with Him.
Let’s jump over to another account of a marker of remembrance that was set up by the people under the leadership of Joshua…
Joshua 4:4 “Joshua selected twelve men from the People of Israel, one man from each tribe. v5 And Joshua directed them, "Cross to the middle of the Jordan and take your place in front of the Ark of God, your God. Each of you, shall place a stone on your shoulder, a stone for each of the tribes of Israel, v6 And when your children ask you, 'What are these stones to you?' v7 you'll say, 'The flow of the Jordan was cut off in front of the Ark of the Covenant of God as it crossed the Jordan. And these stones are a permanent memorial for the People of Israel”…
These stones served as a memorial of God’s power to remind the Israelites, and anyone else, that their God was a God of miracles, signs and wonders.
Deuteronomy 27:2 “When you have crossed the Jordan into the land the Lord your God is giving you, set up some large stones and coat them with plaster. v3 Write on them all the words of this law when you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.”
Your test becomes your testimony, as you recall the many times God has overcome trials in your life, and as you draw strength from those moments, you can continue to claim new territory for the Lord.
A student said to another student…Wow, isn’t that Great news, the teacher says we have an exam today come rain or shine.
The other student was confused and said “So what in the world is so great about that” ? Well, look outside….IT’S SNOWING!!!! (come rain or shine, or snow, some tests will come)….
What’s important is to recall the Lord’s deliverances in the past, so you can move forward with confidence and share with others in order to comfort, encourage and strengthen them in their walk with the Lord. Dig a well that others can drink from….
The New Testament reminds believers how they are to become as “living stones” to those in their circle of influence. That means we are to be joined with other living stones, to form a living temple for the Lord. Paul says we are joined together as a building for the Lord… we bring others into this living temple, as a place where God’s presence, His Spirit, His peace, healing, deliverance, anointing and power can operate and dwell among us. People will listen to your testimony as a living stone, before they will ever listen to a sermon. Your very life should serve as a memorial to all generations of the reality of God and His work of grace in your heart and life.
Ephesians 3:20-21) Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that now works in us, v21 Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen”.
Robert Robinson was born on September 27, 1735, in Norfolk, England. At the age of 14, his widowed mother sent him to London to learn a trade as a barber. However, his mentor, found that young Robert enjoyed reading more than work. He was converted to Christ at the age of 17, and later became a minister. He pastored for some time in Cambridge, England and wrote a number of hymns. His later life was filled with many difficulties and not an easy one, (he only lived to be 55). One day, as he was struggling through a very difficult time, Robinson met a woman who was singing a hymn, and she asked him how he liked the hymn she was singing. In tears, he replied, “Mam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them to give, to enjoy the feelings now that I had back then.”
The hymn was “Come thou fount of everyblessing” some of the words are ….“Prone to wander Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart Lord take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above….. 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”.
At some point, Robinson had forgotten his Ebenezer. But I trust today, that we will never wander far from ours. And I hope that as you re-establish and re-dedicate yours, that you will never depart from it. I pray that we will always remember that “this far, the Lord has helped us”!
Today, as we gather together, we are setting up a memorial.. a marker in our journey. We are declaring that the God who has brought us this far, will bring us to our destination. The one who has begun His work in us, will finish it, for His glory!
1 Chronicles 28:20 “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even your God, will be with you, He will not fail you, nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD”.
It is important that we cherish our markers, our mile-stones, that mark the path the Lord has brought us upon….I want each of us here, to receive an “Ebenezer Marker”. These commemorative plaques are to serve as a milestone of this place in our journey. Let us look back from this place and remember God’s faithfulness, let us look at where we now are, and declare God’s faithfulness, and let us look ahead, and see God’s faithfulness… recalling God’s great deliverances will give you the needed encouragement and strength to carry on. If God has brought us this far, then there is no obstacle too big for Him to overcome! We can trust the Lord and rely on Him in any test we may face, knowing He will indeed fight on our behalf!
There was one other man, who raised his Ebenezer, for the place of transformation he experienced in his journey….
His name was John Newton and he was captain of his own ship, a ship which was used to transport and sell slaves brought over from Africa. Although he experienced religious instruction from his mother, she died when he was just a child. He had long since given up any religious convictions and his lifestyle was that of a typical ungodly sailor. But it so happened that on one particular voyage, while he was attempting to steer the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he refer to later as his “great deliverance, his Ebenezer.”
He recorded in his journal that when all seemed lost and the ship was doomed, he cried out “Lord, have mercy on us.”
Later, when he and the ship were saved, in his cabin he reflected on what he had said and realized that God had indeed answered him through the storm and that grace had begun to work in his life.
For the rest of his life he observed the anniversary of May 10, 1748 as the day of his transformation (at the age of 22), when he subjected his will to the will of God. His Ebenezer which he raised, was in the form of a song he wrote as a result of that life changing event….
(song) Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. “Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come, ‘tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,I have already come. ’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”
Let us set our life’s compass by our Ebenezers…. And if we do, the one who is the same yesterday, today and forever, will lead us in a triumphant processional, that will accomplish more than we ever dreamed, and will take us places we could never have imagined we could go, and will do what we thought was impossible….