Pastor Daniel Kolenda
‘Then 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.” So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.
And Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” So 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.
Now 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. So 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.”
And 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. Now 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. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car. Then 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.”
So the Philistines were subdued, and they did not come anymore into the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. ‘
– I Samuel 7:3-13
Life is a continually repeated cycle of mountaintop experiences immediately followed by valley experiences. In other words, highs are immediately followed by lows. Victories are immediately followed by challenges and new battles to fight. But that’s part of life.
You see this with Jesus in the waters of Jordan. He hears the Father saying, “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends on Him like a dove. It is the highlight of His earthly life. But right after He comes out of the water, He is immediately driven by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Great battles follow great victories. And as the cycle repeats throughout life, each time you emerge like gold tried by the fire, there is a deeper appreciation for the grace and goodness of God. There’s a deeper love for Him and a deeper confidence in His goodness and faithfulness.
The same God that brought you through all those storms and battles will bring you out.
THE LORD KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING
The nation of Israel has fallen into one of its cycles of depravity, idolatry, and worshiping of false gods. There was a high priest leading the nation by the name of Eli. His two sons, Hophni and Phineas, frequently stole the meat that was brought for sacrifices and they engaged in fornication with women in the sanctuary. Although Eli did not stop them, he benefited from their acts.
Then comes Samuel, whose mother gives him to Eli to become the property of the tabernacle. He is growing up in this corrupt environment alongside Eli and his sons, yet, in the midst of the corruption, he maintains tenderness and purity. He is not corrupted by the environment in which he lives.
The Lord speaks to Samuel and he hears the Lord. Samuel was growing, but things got worse. The Philistines increased their attacks on Israel and managed to steal the ark of the covenant. Hophni and Phineas are killed, Eli breaks his neck, and for the next twenty years, Israel entered a season of famine.
Then comes the time for Samuel to emerge and be revealed.
Similarly, some of you may have been in a long season of being developed by the Lord for a purpose. When things finally work out, it may look like an overnight success, but you know exactly how long it took and what the Lord was doing.
TURN BACK TO THE LORD
A lot of times you are reminded that you can do it and everything will be okay. Sometimes you need encouragement, but the reality is that you don’t only need encouragement, but you also need to repent and turn back to the Lord with all of your heart.
But the thing is, whenever you begin to turn to the Lord, you are poking the hornet’s nest. When you obey the word of the Lord, the enemy will not be happy.
When the Philistines learned that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rules came to attack them and the Israelites became afraid. 1 Samuel 7:8 says, “They said to Samuel, ‘Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.’”
Samuel prayed diligently before God for Israel’s sake, and as the Philistines drew near to engage in battle, God began a thunderous storm and threw them into a panic. The Philistines were subdued and defeated by the Israelites. Samuel then took a stone between Mizpah and Shen and called the place Ebenezer, which meant the LORD has helped us.
Samuel knew that one day in the future, Israel would find herself under the boot of her enemies. He knew that one day Israel would be oppressed again, surrounded by enemies again, and entrenched in sinfulness and idolatry again. But they could look to Ebenezer and they could remember what God had done for them and they would be reminded that if God could help them at that moment, then He would also help them in the future.
If the people of Israel would humble themselves and call upon the name of God, then He would help them again.
HE WILL WALK WITH YOU
The same God that delivered you before is going to deliver you from your Philistine. The purpose of the Ebenezer is to know that you can be sure that the God that helped and saved you thus far, will help and save you in the future. You may not see it right now but God will always be with you.
Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
How are you fighting your battles? Are you crying out to the Lord for help?
Where is your Ebenezer? Where is that place that reminds you of the time that God helped you and delivered you?