09/15/T – Ebenezer

1 Samuel 6:13-7:17; John 6:1-15; Psalms 106:13-23; Proverbs 23:13-14

OT: “Time went by until twenty years had passed since the ark had been taken to Kiriath-jearim. Then the whole house of Israel longed for the Lord. Samuel told them, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, get rid of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths that are among you, set your hearts on the Lord, and worship only him. Then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” So the Israelites removed the Baals and the Ashtoreths and only worshiped the Lord. Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord on your behalf.” When they gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out in the Lord’s presence. They fasted that day, and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the Israelites at Mizpah. When the Philistines heard that the Israelites had gathered at Mizpah, their rulers marched up toward Israel. When the Israelites heard about it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. The Israelites said to Samuel, “Don’t stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, so that he will save us from the Philistines.” Then Samuel took a young lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on behalf of Israel, and the Lord answered him. Samuel was offering the burnt offering as the Philistines approached to fight against Israel. The Lord thundered loudly against the Philistines that day and threw them into such confusion that they were defeated by Israel… Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, “The Lord has helped us to this point.”” (‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭7:2-10, 12 ‭CSB)

When you hear the name “Ebenezer” most people think of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge is a bit of an ironic name… an oxymoron, if you will. For most of the story, Scrooge lived up to his last name: miserly old man with a bad attitude. As the story unfolded, Scrooge ended up living up to his first name, Ebenezer. The name “Ebenezer” means stone of help. From the Book of Judges, we learn that Israel was under Philistine oppression for 40 years. At some point in the midst of that 40 years, the nation finally came to their senses and longed for the blessing they had under the covering and leadership of the Lord. After hearing their cries, Samuel told them that if they truly wanted to return to the Lord, they had to do it completely… they had to completely renounce their trust and reliance on other gods, destroy their idols, and commit to only worship the Lord. As all of Israel gathered to repent from their unfaithfulness and turn to God, the Philistines saw that as an opportunity to rid themselves of their Israelite nuisance. What a test for the nation of Israel! Faced with an immanent attack from their enemy, would they stay faithful to the Lord and trust Him, or would they reject the Lord’s covering and take matters in their own hands? In dramatic fashion, the Philistines arrived to attack just as Samuel was offering the sacrificial lamb in worship. Because the nation of Israel sought the Lord in worship, The Lord stood against the Philistines and won the nation of Israel a decisive victory. As a memorial, Samuel set up a stone and named it Ebenezer to always remind Israel that The Lord God is their steadfast and rock-solid source of help in time of trouble if they will remain faithful to Him and abide with Him through worship.

NT: “After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias ). A huge crowd was following him because they saw the signs that he was performing by healing the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, a Jewish festival, was near. So when Jesus looked up and noticed a huge crowd coming toward him, he asked Philip, “Where will we buy bread so that these people can eat?” He asked this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish — but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place; so they sat down. The men numbered about five thousand. Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks he distributed them to those who were seated — so also with the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were full, he told his disciples, “Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.” So they collected them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This truly is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”” (‭‭John‬ ‭6:1-14‬ ‭CSB)

Jesus, desiring a little respite from the crowds, headed into the remote countryside with His disciples. The crowds, however, found out where He had escaped to, and soon 5,000 men with their families were coming toward them. As they day progressed, it became evident that the crowd needed food, and no one had come prepared. As Phillip considered the situation, he surmised that 6+ months of wages wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for the crowd. Andrew found a boy who was willing to sacrifice his small meal, but that was all they had. They were faced with an impossible situation. Jesus, however, knew where to go for help in time of need. Jesus had everyone sit down. Then He looked up to heaven, thanked His Father, and began dividing the loaves and fishes. Miraculously, everyone was fed with 12 baskets of left-overs. When the crowd considered what had just happened, they knew that Jesus was no ordinary man – but was the Messiah. This was the 4th sign that proved that Jesus is the Son of God and that we can have life in His name. Jesus is our Ebenezer. He is not limited by our lack. If we offer what we have to Him in worship, He will multiply our little into an abundance that meets our needs and the needs of those around us.

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