By Joseph Ametepe
"Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the LORD has helped us'" (1 Samuel 7:12).
The context of this verse is so rich. Israel had suffered back to back defeats at the hands of their bitter enemies, the Philistines. In their first defeat, the Philistines killed four thousand men on the battlefield (1 Samuel 4:2). It was a humiliating defeat for Israel. But their second defeat at the hands of the Philistines was probably one of the most humiliating defeats Israel suffered since settling in the Promised Land. They thought that taking the ark of the covenant of the Lord to the battlefield would guarantee them victory. Remember at this time, they were not following fully after God. They were not looking to God Himself. And so, they were defeated in battle. The ark of God was captured. Thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel fell. Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, who carried the ark into the battlefield died. Eli, who later heard the news of the death of his two sons and the capture of the ark of God also died. Phinehas's pregnant wife also died in childbirth (see 1 Samuel 4). It was the worst defeat of Israel at the hands of the Philistines.
Sometime after the back to back defeats, the prophet Samuel exhorted Israel to return to the Lord with all their hearts and remove the foreign gods from among them. They did. During this time of repentance and renewal, the Philistines went up against Israel. They were looking to extend their winning streak against Israel. Since Israel had now returned to the Lord and was now relying on Him, they asked Samuel to pray for them. They knew without God's help, they would suffer another humiliating defeat. Samuel prayed and the Lord routed the Philistines. It was after this victory that Samuel set up "the stone of help," that is, "Ebenezer." This story teaches us that: God's people who humbly and honestly look to Him for help will not be disappointed. Whatever you are going through today: Come to God with a cleansed heart! Commit yourself to seeking God's help! Call on God. Cry out to God to release His help into your life and situation! Count on God to bring His timely help! Create a memorial to remind you of God's help!