Christianity 201

June 30, 2013

Heretofore God Has Helped Us

 

1 Samuel 7

New International Version (NIV)

So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the Lord. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the Lord. The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.

Samuel Subdues the Philistines at Mizpah

Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.

Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the Lord for you.” When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader[a] of Israel at Mizpah.

When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. 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.” Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer,  saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Wow! It’s hard to believe it but 2013 is half over already. The passage today ends with the classic words in the KJV, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” though I much prefer the NCV’s and CEB’s “The Lord helped us to this very point.”

I know this has been a rough year for many of you, as it has for us, but I believe that you believe that God has been with you “up to this point” this year, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this. I have to believe you would have deleted all the bookmarks in your computer and cancelled all your blog subscriptions to this and other resources like it if you thought for one minute that you were totally abandoned by God.

But no, you have persevered and are persevering. And you’ve made it halfway through 2013.

This passage is also the source of a line in a hymn that some find most awkward and archaic, “Here I raise my Ebenezer;” in the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. These are the original lyrics:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Some people would like to remove the more obsolete phrases and words from the catalog of songs we sing today, but it’s interesting that the “Ebenezer” phrase is retained in David Crowder’s contemporary version of this hymn.

Yes, sometimes we should update the lyrics so that a new generation can understand, but other times we need to explain the phrasing we have: Samuel was so thankful for God’s provision that he took a stone and raised it as a monument to God’s help.

We’ve all seen historical plaques on roads and in cities which signify that something important once happened here. In Samuel’s day the technology and money wasn’t available for that type of remembrance. I don’t know what he did that distinguished this stone from any one of a number of rocks that were lying around, but the people knew. There was something that made this distinct, and we know from other scripture passages — such as when Israel crossed the Jordan river — that when God provided, the people expressed thanksgiving by making a physical representation of their gratitude.

How do you show gratitude for how the Lord has helped you “hitherto” in 2013?

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