Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ebenezer - 1 Samuel 7:2-14

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth"...
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Opening thought
Our popular American nostalgia tells us that the first Thanksgiving was held by the Pilgrims in 1621 after the arrival of the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock. Their motivation? They were Christians who realized that all blessings come from the Lord. The 1621 Pilgrim Thanksgiving in Massachusetts was a time of thanks giving to God. Governor William Bradford proclaimed the entire month of November to be dedicated to "Thanksgiving unto the Lord." Bradford wrote in his diary that their voyage and settlement was motivated by "a great hope for advancing the Kingdom of God."

Two years later in 1623, after a severe drought that ended the day in which the Plymouth colony concluded of a colony-wide day of prayer and fasting, Bradford proclaimed another Thanksgiving. This was the Thanksgiving most Americans picture:
In as much as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetable, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings. William Bradford, Ye Governor of Ye Colony.
Celebrations of “thanksgiving” would become a deeply rooted American tradition, usually brought on by periods of great hardship. Israel had some of the same kinds of hardships.
Contextual Notes:
At the point of our passage today, Israel has just come off their lowest place. The worst thing imaginable had happened to Israel. They had lost the Ark of the Covenant, the box that Moses made for them at Mount Sinai and in it placed the Ten Commandments! It was a national tragedy. They had lost all that made them Israel, the very presence of God. The Philistines captured it at the Battle of Aphek (1 Sam 4:1, 11). At no other time, not even the Holocaust of Hitler, had Israel and the promises to Abraham been so close to extinction.

From this point of repentance and trust in God, Israel would rise to her highest peak as a nation, and it culminated with the thanksgiving Israel gave to God at Ebenezer.

Key Truth: Samuel wrote 1 Samuel 7:2-14 to remind the Israelites to be thankful that the Lord is our help.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about being thankful.
Pray and Read:  1 Samuel 7:2-14

Sermon Points:
1.   God begins with Confession & Repentance (1 Sam 7:2-6)
2.   God moves against Attack with Redemption (1 Sam 7:7-9)
3.   God brings Victory & Thanksgiving (1 Sam 7:10-14)
Exposition:   Note well,

a.   1 Sam 7:4 – Lightfoot observes that a spirit of repentance and conversion came upon the people like no other up until Acts 2-3
b.   Notice that the preparation time of 20 years of mourning and seeking the Lord went into the nation’s restoration, then a time came to make a full repentance and put away those things that hinder and hold back. That is called repentance.
c.   1 Sam 7:6 – Targum: "they poured out their heart in repentance, as water;''and of the atonement and expiation of their sins, which passed away as water to be remembered no more, This is evident from the figurative expressions, “poured out like water,” in Psalm_22:15, and “pour out thy heart like water,” in Lam_2:19, which are used to denote inward dissolution through pain, misery, and distress (see 2 Sam_14:14). Hence the pouring out of water before God was a symbolical representation of the temporal and spiritual distress in which they were at the time, - a practical confession before God, “Behold, we are before Thee like water that has been poured out;” and as it was their own sin and rebellion against God that had brought this distress upon them, it was at the same time a confession of their misery, and an act of the deepest humiliation before the Lord.
d.   APPLICATION: When we are in a low place, the place to start is with the Lord. He will direct you in the way you should go. For Israel it was repentance, and it may be the same with you. Pour yourself out before the Lord, and see what He will do for you.
a.   Samuel stands in the priestly position of an intercessor for the nation, and sacrifices a suckling lamb, utterly innocent like our Lord the Lamb of God, on behalf of the nation of Israel.
b.   APPLICATION: Every time the Lord begins to work in our lives, in our families, in our business, in our relationships, in our finances, in our health, in our church, the enemy will always make a move to stop the work of God going forward. There is always an attack, and we must continue in prayer and intercession. The battle takes place in the spirit and later manifests in the natural. Samuel’s sacrifice on the altar was his turning this danger over to the Lord through the blood of the lamb, pointing toward Jesus Christ.
c.   ILLUSTRATION: During the horrendous winter of 1777 when George Washington’s tattered army posted winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the "[Congress] recommended [a day of] . . . thanksgiving and praise [so] that “the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and join . . . their supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to forgive [our sins] and . . . to enlarge [His] kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” 24
d.   The following year the French government joined the American cause and a Prussian officer, Baron von Steuben, arrived to train Washington’s troops as they held their own against the mighty British army. Accordingly, the Continental Congress asked the citizens of the states to set aside a “ day of public Thanksgiving and praise; that all people may with united hearts, on that day express a just sense of his unmerited favour; particularly in that it hath pleased him by his overruling providence to support us in a just and necessary war, for the defense of our rights and liberties, by affording us seasonable supplies for our armies; by disposing the heart of a powerful monarch to enter into an alliance with us, and aid our cause, by defeating the councils and evil designs of our enemies, and giving us victory over their troops; and by the continuance of that union among these States which, by his blessings, will be their future strength and glory...

And it is further recommended, that, together with devout Thanksgiving, may be joined a penitent confession of our sins, and humble supplication for pardon, through the merits of our Savior, so that, under the smiles of heaven, our public councils may be directed, our arms by land and sea prospered, our schools and seminaries of learning flourish, our trade be revived, and our husbandry and manufactures increased, and the hearts of all impressed with undissembled piety, with benevolence and zeal for the public good...Done in Congress this 17th day of November, 1778, and in the third year of Independence of the United States of America.

These Thanksgiving proclamations are theology lessons. What do these proclamations reveal about the theology of the Founders? Their view of the Sovereignty of God? Of sin? Of Providence? Of redemption? Of law? Of the relationship of government to God? Is your pastor as theologically orthodox as these congressmen?
e.   APPLICATION: For all of us, our only option is the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Most of us here have realized that and trusted him, but some of us here have not. I implore you to do that today. But for those of us who have, the trust in the Lamb does not stop today. It continues. Walking with the Lord takes as much, even more, trust today than it did yesterday. Do you need to make a commitment to trust him more today, not for your salvation, but for your walk with the Lord?
a.   1 Sam 7:10 but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines; which fulfilled Hannah's prophecy, 1 Sam_2:10 and this, as Josephus says, was attended with lightning, which flashed in their faces, and shook their weapons out of their hands, so that they fled disarmed; and also with an earthquake, which caused gaps in the earth, into which they fell: and discomfited them; disturbed, affrighted them, and threw them into confusion and disorder, as well as destroyed many of them:
b.   1 Sam 7:11 – Beth Car “house of the Lamb.”
c.   1 Sam 7:12 -- and called the name of it Ebenezer; (Matthew Henry) Samuel erected a thankful memorial of this victory, to the glory of God and for the encouragement of Israel, 1 Sam_7:12. He set up an Eben-ezer, the stone of help. If ever the people's hard hearts should lose the impressions of this providence, this stone would either revive the remembrance of it, and make them thankful, or remain a standing witness against them for their unthankfulness. 1. The place where this memorial was set up was the same where, twenty years before, the Israelites were smitten before the Philistines, for that was beside Eben-ezer, 1 Sam_4:1. The sin which procured that defeat formerly being pardoned upon their repentance, the pardon was sealed by this glorious victory in the very same place where they then suffered loss; see Hosea_1:10. 2. Samuel himself took care to set up this monument. He had been instrumental by prayer to obtain the mercy, and therefore he thought himself in a special manner obliged to make this grateful acknowledgement of it. 3. The reason he gives for the name is, Hitherto the Lord hath helped us, in which he speaks thankfully of what was past, giving the glory of the victory to God only, who had added this to all his former favours; and yet he speaks somewhat doubtfully for the future: “Hitherto things have done well, but what God may yet do with us we know not, that we refer to him; but let us praise him for what he has done.” Note, The beginnings of mercy and deliverance are to be acknowledged by us with thankfulness so far as they go, though they be not completely finished, nay, though the issue seem uncertain. Having obtained help from God, I continue hitherto, says blessed Paul, ActS_26:22.
d.   1 Sam 7:14 – and were restored: A. B. Simpson observed that the high point of Israel’s history began at Ebenezer. “He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the Lord helped us’” 1 Samuel 7:12. This is ever the consummation of penitence and believing prayer. The sorrow is turned into joy and the prayer is translated into praise. This is the true way to show that we really do believe God. Not until we cease our pleading and begin to thank Him that the blessing is given shall we really have cause for thanksgiving. . . The glorious renaissance which led through Samuel’s reformation to David’s throne and Solomon’s glory, all began in the stone of Ebenezer, and the praise of a trustful, thankful people. Let us set up today over against every place of failure, over against every sorrow, over against every sin as we cover it with the cleansing blood, not a banner merely, nor even a son, but a stone of Ebenezer, and write upon it, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”[1]
This is Thanksgiving week. Will you trust him today? Will you make a commitment to him today to let him help you? Will you this week remind your family of how the Lord has taken care of you, saved you, provided for you, and been gracious to you this year? Will you make a commitment to that today?

[1] A.B. Simpson, The Christ in the Bible Commentary, Volume 2, pp. 240-241.