"Ebenezer Indeed"

W.W. Fereday

From "God's Emergency Man"

When God moves, Satan becomes active. A spiritual revival arouses his intense hostility. Nothing is so distasteful to him as to see the people getting right with their God, and placing themselves in a position in which He can bless them. His invariable practice is, first to endeavour to destroy the work of God, then when it becomes apparent that the thing cannot be done, he seeks to corrupt it. In the history of the Church both methods have been employed.

"When the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together at Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel' (I Sam. 7:7). Here we have the marshalling of the hosts of the enemy, urged on by Satan, who understood better than they the significance of the happenings in Israel's camp. "And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines." Happy change from chapter 4: 1, when, in utter insensibility to their evil condition, they presumptuously provoked conflict with the foe. More happy still their language in the presence of danger. After their first defeat in Eli's day, they said, 'Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of Jehovah out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies." Now they appeal to Samuel. "Cease not to cry unto Jehovah our God for us, that He will save us out of the hand of the Philistines." There is a gulf of difference between "it' and "He." Moreover, they now say 'Jehovah our God." The sense of relationship with Him had at last been recovered.

Woe to the enemy when he confronts a people who are wholly cast upon their God! Praying jehoshaphat, surrounded by women and children, secured a victory over the Moabites and their confederates (2 Chron. 20:13), greater far than his onetime million of armed men would have gained by ordinary military methods (2 Chron. 17:12-19). Hezekiah was more dangerous to the Assyrians clothed in sackcloth than if he had been clad in a coat of mail. An overwhelming disaster ensued for the insolent invader (Isa. 37). In like manner, Israel's very real dependence upon God at Mizpeh brought them a divine deliverance as remarkable as they had ever known. Let us not forget, beloved brethren, 'Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort (or encouragement) of the Scriptures might have hope " (Rom. 15:4).

Samuel now became the mediator between Jehovah and His people. He "took a sucking lamb and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto Jehovah: and Samuel cried unto Jehovah for Israel, and Jehovah heard him" (1 Sam. 7:9). The out-poured water had already testified to their sense of utter weakness; the fast was the expression of their self-abasement; the sucking lamb spoke to Jehovah of the Christ who was to come, in and through Whom alone, men are delivered and blessed. This is the only express mention of a sucking lamb being offered to Jehovah in sacrifice, and its moral suitability at this juncture is very apparent. It typified Christ as the One Who was obedient and devoted to God from His youth, offering Himself as a sweet savor on behalf of men who had nothing but wilfulness and disobedience to show.

What lessons are here! Have we ears to hear, and hearts to understand? Is not Israel's plight in I Samuel 7, a picture of the Church's forlorn condition today? Have we not sinned against our God? Have we not in large measure lost contact with the invisible and the eternal? Are we prepared to lie low before our God concerning these things? And will He not come to the help of those who take the place of self-judgment in His presence, and who plead the Name of His Christ alone?

A great deliverance ensued for Israel. The word in Isaiah 65 relative to the day of Millennial blessing, "before they call, I will answer, and while they are yet speaking I will hear," became literally true in their case. "And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel but Jehovah thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them: and they were smitten before Israel." In the very place where they experienced their former disgraceful defeat, involving the loss of the ark, they now experience the delivering power of God. The contrast is great between their carnal shout of confidence when the ark came into the camp, and Jehovah's thunder out of the heavens. Laodicea is suggested in chapter 4.; Philadelphia in chapter 7.

"Israel's God is ours." So we frequently sing, and it is blessedly true. We may, indeed, be very far down the dispensation, and the Church's darkest moments may be upon us, but deliverance and blessing await those who are willing to take a sufficiently low place at the divine feet. The Lord knows how to show Himself strong on behalf of those who put their trust in Him. Our part is to heed the call, to be "zealous and repent" (Rev. 3:19); He will do the rest.

The victory at Ebenezer left no room for human boasting. It was Jehovah's thunder that overwhelmed the enemy; Israel had but to pursue them, and complete their ruin. "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Cor. 1:30). With becoming gratitude, the people erected their memorial stone between Mizpeh and Shen, saying, " Hitherto hath Jehovah helped us." The Philistines gave no more trouble until the unfaithfulness of Israel's chosen king furnished the opportunity, when again God let them loose upon the guilty nation. The very cities which the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored. Peace prevailed all around, not with the Philistines only. The people were sustained by Samuel's intercession. Who can estimate the value of a man of prayer, whether in times ancient or modern?