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
You have probably seen signs along highways that say, “Historical Marker ¼ mile ahead.” The purpose of a historical marker is to point out a particular place where some significant event transpired, and to give a mini-history lesson. Something worth remembering happened at that place.
We need to have spiritual historical markers — landmarks that we can look back to when we are facing spiritual battles. The experience of salvation is such a marker; sometimes people say, “I could take you to the very place where God saved me.” One man in our congregation testifies, “In the tabernacle, right under the flagpole, that was my spot.” Receiving sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Ghost are also landmarks in a Christian’s life.
Additionally, we need to have faith landmarks, times when God worked for us personally. When our son was a senior in high school, God made it possible for him to have a job-school arrangement that was different from any others in his school. His counselor said, “I have never heard of this being done here before.” We told our son that her comment was an additional confirmation sent by the Lord, so that when the enemy came and said the circumstances “just happened,” we would have that verification of the miracle. That experience has been a reminder to our family that God can do the impossible.
You and your family may have similar stories of times when the Lord helped financially, gave miraculous healing, or protected from danger. Some people write these experiences down to help preserve the landmark.
In our focus verse, Samuel established a historical marker. He had Israel put up a memorial to commemorate the great victory that the Lord had won for them. They called it Ebenezer and said that the Lord had helped them to that point.
We can benefit from the example of the Israelites. Just as they established physical landmarks, let us make certain we establish spiritual landmarks. Then, if we take time to review them periodically, our faith will increase in God who performed these miracles in our behalf.
The departure of the Ark of the Lord, captured by the Philistines in battle, signified that God had forsaken the people of Israel and would not help them. The Philistines quickly learned that the presence of God’s Ark was not compatible with their idolatrous ways, and in time, they voluntarily returned it to Israel. The Ark eventually was taken to Kirjath-jearim, where it was put in the care of Abinadab and Eleazar and remained there until King David brought it to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6).
Having spent twenty years in a state of defeat and subjugation, the Israelites realized that they were in a pathetic condition. With the help of Samuel who exhorted and prayed for them, Israel turned back to the Lord. The nation repented and destroyed the idols. In the Canaanite religion, Baal was the son of Dagon, and the chief god. Baalim is the plural form of Baal, which indicates there were many statues of Baal at different places.
Israel recommitted themselves to the Lord. Their confession, “We have sinned against the Lord” (verse 6) was crucial to God working for them. The glory of God returned to Israel. The power of God was once more upon the people, and they regularly gathered together to worship Him.
The Philistines heard that the Israelites were gathering, and waged war against Israel. At this time, Israel did not have a standing army (a permanent army maintained in peacetime as well as war). Samuel and the people called upon the Lord, and God thundered on the Philistines, causing them confusion, and giving Israel a miraculous victory.
The meaning of Ebenezer is “stone of help.” It was placed as a memorial to remind Israel that they had only received victory because God had helped them. This memorial is referenced in the old hymn, Come, Thou Fount, by Robert Robinson, when it says, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’m come.”
Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges. He was also a prophet, a priest, and a ruler. It appears that almost single-handedly, through God’s help, he was instrumental in this national revival and in educating the people again in God’s laws.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The judgeship of Samuel
C. The deliverance by Samuel
1. The defeat of Israel
b. The capture of the Ark
(2) The return of the Ark
(c) The Ark at Kirjath-jearim (7:1-2)
2. The victory of Israel (7:3-17)
a. Samuel’s promise of deliverance (7:3-4)
b. The defeat of the Philistines (7:5-14)
c. Samuel’s ministry summarized (7:15-17)
God is our Helper. As long as we maintain our loyalty to Him and stay within His will, we can expect to have victories that will cause us to praise Him for His supernatural works.