Are you Raising Your Ebenezer?


(Sing 226 “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” before lesson)


Have you ever wondered what the phrase “here I raise my Ebenezer” means?


We want to look at its origin this morning and see how it applies to our lives today.

Our main text for today will be 1 Samuel 7:1-13, but before we read it we need to look at some background to this text.


1 Samuel 4:1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines, and encamped beside Ebenezer; and the Philistines encamped in Aphek.  2 Then the Philistines put themselves in battle array against Israel. And when they joined battle, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men of the army in the field.  3 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies."  4 So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.  5 And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook.  6 Now when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, "What does the sound of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?" Then they understood that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp.  7 So the Philistines were afraid, for they said, "God has come into the camp!" And they said, "Woe to us! For such a thing has never happened before.  8 "Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.  9 "Be strong and conduct yourselves like men, you Philistines, that you do not become servants of the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Conduct yourselves like men, and fight!"  10 So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.  11 Also the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.


Please keep in mind that this place where this bloody battle went down was called Ebenezer. At first, the Israelites went out and battled against the Philistines, but they lost 4000 men. So, they figured they needed to bring out their secret weapon, the ark of the covenant.


The ark of the covenant had a strong history behind of it of caused those who possessed to accomplish great things. Originally, God commanded Moses to have the ark built. We see interesting things about it such as the priest caring it during the days Joshua when the crossed the Jordan River with it. When they stepped into the river the water stopped flowing and allowed the Israelites to cross over (Jos. 3).

The ark was used at the fall of Jericho as it followed by the people as the marched around Jericho (Joshua 6:12-20).


In the minds of the Israelites, the ark had become force that could not be overcome. They knew that God’s presence was with the ark and they thought all they had to do was bring out the ark of covenant and all their enemies would be destroyed.


We can see that the Philistines were aware of the ark and of their God because they were afraid at first, but the mustered up their courage and their faith in themselves was apparently greater then the Israelites faith in God, because not only were they slaughtered they lost the ark of God.


1 Samuel 5:1 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod.  2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the temple of Dagon and set it by Dagon.  3 And when the people of Ashdod arose early in the morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set it in its place again.  4 And when they arose early the next morning, there was Dagon, fallen on its face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. The head of Dagon and both the palms of its hands were broken off on the threshold; only Dagon's torso was left of it.  5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor any who come into Dagon's house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.  6 But the hand of the LORD was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and He ravaged them and struck them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory.  7 And when the men of Ashdod saw how it was, they said, "The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is harsh toward us and Dagon our god."


Though the Israelites faith was weak, we can see that God’s was presence was with the ark and the Philistines would pay high price for taking it with them. First God showed His power over their man made God Dagon as God caused it to fall apart twice. No matter where they took the ark, destruction and devastation followed it.


1 Samuel 5:11 So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, "Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go back to its own place, so that it does not kill us and our people." For there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there.  12 And the men who did not die were stricken with the tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven.  


The ark finally came to Beth mesh, but they looked in the ark which was against the commandments of God and over 50,000 men were struck dead. From there they sent the ark to  Kirath Jeraim (1 Samuel 6:19-21), and it stayed there for 20 years.


Now that we have examined the background behind our text, let’s now take a look at our text in 1 Samuel 7. As we examine our text I want you to notice the following 3 things:


1.         Samuel called for repentance

2.         Samuel prayed for Israel

3.         Samuel set up a memorial


1 Samuel 7:1 Then the men of Kirjath Jearim came and took the ark of the LORD, and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the LORD.  2 So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.  3  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."  4 So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.


The ark had been in Kirath Jeraim for 20 years but the people were still worshipping idols. So, Samuel commanded them to repent and promised them victory if they would put away their false gods and return to the Lord. Notice, Samuel didn’t beat around the bush.  He told them exactly what they need to do to get right with God, which is exactly how we should be today. We should always be clear when telling people what they need to do to be right with God.


The people at Kirath Jeraim were on the right path to getting right with God because verse two says they lamented after the Lord and longed for Him. They were upset with their present condition. The same thing happens to us we find ourselves convicted of sin.


As Paul said:


2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.


Samuel told them to put away their false gods and prepare their hearts to serve the Lord only. James says we should do the same:


James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up


The children of Israel obeyed and put away their idols. Some today think that idolatry is not problem because many do not find themselves bowing to manmade idols. Idolatry comes in different forms:


Colossians 3:5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  6 Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,

If there is one think that people in the USA struggle with it is covetousness and Paul calls it idolatry. In fact, anything that you put between you and God could be considered as idolatry because when you allow things or hobbies to come between you and God, then that thing or hobby has become precious to you than God all mighty. Paul says, when we do that and continue it, we will face the wrath of God.


So many people are oppressed by sin because they are putting other things before God.  This is no different than the Israelites being oppressed by the Philistines for putting other gods before our God.


1 Samuel 7:5 And Samuel said, "Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD for you."  6 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.


The name Mizpeh means watchtower. Samuel prayed for God to watch over the children of Israel who had turned their hearts back to God. Our text says they fasted. Fasting was their way of showing their devotion to God. Of course fasting was still practiced during the life of Christ and is still practiced by some today. However the pouring out of water was not something commanded in Scripture, but was probably done to express the idea that they were pouring out their hearts before Lord as they repented before Him or it may represented their tears being poured because of the sorrow of their sin:


Lamentations 2:19 …  Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord…


At the moment the children of Israel were getting right with God Satan began to attack and test the faith of the Israelites because Philistines were about to mount an attack against them. It shouldn’t surprise that the Satan will do what he can to destroy faith of those who have just got back on the right path: As Peter says:


1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.


These Israelites were probably somewhat afraid because they had not done well against the Philistines the last time. Samuel had prayed for them, and as James teaches us:


James 5:16  … The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.


Of course God heard Samuel’s prayer and saw His repented people before Him.


1 Samuel 7:7 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.  8 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."  9 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.  10 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.  11 And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car.


The Philistines had moved in for the kill, but God was with His people. When Samuel offered the burnt offering to God He thundered down on the Philistines and they became confused. As Hezekiah said:


2 Chronicles 32:8 "With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles." And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.


Just as God was with His people, God is with us today. As Paul wrote:


Romans 8:31  If God is for us, who can be against us?


When we put our faith and trust in God, we can know that He will help give us strength and help us fight off the devil and his ways so that we can stand victorious before our God in the end.


1 Samuel 7:12 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."  13 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.


Samuel set up a memorial. He raised up this great stone and called it Ebenezer; which means “the stone of help”. Back in Samuel Chapter 4 Israel was defeated at Ebenezer and the ark was taken, but now Samuel is raising up this stone is the same place the ark was taken from them. At first, this was a place of defeat, but not it would serve as memorial of how the Israelites turned their hearts back to God by putting away their idols and trusting in the Lord, which allowed their enemy to be defeated because God was now with them because their faith was intact.


Now that we have a deeper understanding of what “raise my Ebenezer” means listen to words of 2nd line of our song as I read them and see how more meaning the words have:


Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by thy help I’ve come;

And I hope by Thy good pleasure Safely to arrive at home;

Jesus Sought me when a stranger, Wand’ring from the fold of God;

He to rescue me from danger Interposed His precious blood.



God was with Israel all the days of Samuel against the Philistines. He will be with us all of our days as well: As Paul says:


Romans 8:38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


However,  we must have lives right with God and our faith intact. As:


Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.


God will be with us just as He was with Israel if we believe in Him and commit ourselves to Him.  As:


Psalm 121:1 From whence comes my help?  2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.  3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.


Are you raising your Ebenezer?

Is Christ your stone of help?


If not, I hope you will repent of whatever you are allowing to come between you and God so that you can get right with Him and receive the help that you need in your life. If you are hear and you have never become a child of God, why not make today the day you become victorious over the devil by obeying God plan of salvation..etc…


Adapted from Greg Dial’s sermon Are you raising your Ebenezer.