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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 7

The Church Pulpit CommentaryChurch Pulpit Commentary

Verse 12


‘Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.’

1 Samuel 7:12

‘Ebenezer,’ the help-stone. It was the custom of the Jews to commemorate their victories by erecting stone pillars to the glory of God. It was one way of writing history. One of the first of these help-stones was erected at Bethel, as recorded in Genesis 28:18. This Ebenezer-stone was set up between Mizpeh and Shen, to commemorate the triumph of Israel over the Philistines. Inspired by the thunder-voice of Jehovah, they rushed down the hill upon their foes, and the result was a defeat—a route—a débâcle. God fights for those who fight for the right. The battle is never too strong for him who hath the Almighty for his comrade. ‘They that trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved.’ A God-fearing army is practically irresistible—the Ironsides, for example.

I. ‘Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.’—It was no formal thought or transient word of mouth; but a solid, substantial pillar of stone. They gave a visible and tangible proof of their gratitude to God for the victory. Their thanksgivings were embodied in durable stone, for without the aid of the stone mental impressions too often fade away. The Lord loves to be helped by man, strange as this may seem; and man also loves to be helped by God, and he is never so triumphant as when he has the Omnipotent for his Helper. ‘We went through fire and through water; but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.’

II. And yet myriads of us forget to rear our pillars!—Thousands of favours received, and yet not a single Ebenezer erected! This non-recognition of the Divine help is practical atheism. Too many of us are crying out with Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Is not this great Babylon which I have built?’ This Christian land ought to be covered with Ebenezers; but, alas, how few they are! What heartless ingrates the great majority of us are in reality! If we only considered seriously what the Lord has done for us individually and collectively, our help-stones would cover the land and our psalms of praise would rend the sky.

III. ‘Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.’—It was not Israel’s military prowess that achieved the victory; but Jehovah’s help. God is in history, deny it who will. He is at the very heart of the ages, keeping them sweet, and pure, and harmonious. He is not the Great Absentee; but a God who is immanent in all the centuries, directing their onward and upward movement. It was the Lord that nerved Israel for the fray; and His glory must not be handed over to secondary causes. Woe unto the man who insults the Almighty by offering Him less than His due. ‘Ebenezer—hitherto hath the Lord helped us.’ His arm brings salvation, and on no account must we give His glory to another. The Ebenezers are His by Divine right.


(1) ‘We delight to look down a long avenue of trees. It is delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of verdant temple, with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves; even so look down the long aisles of your years, at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of lovingkindness and faithfulness which bear up your joys. Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely there must be many, and they all sing of mercy received “hitherto.” ’

(2) ‘The stone of Ebenezer was set up to commemorate that glorious deliverance; and it is interesting to notice that it stood upon the very spot where Israel met with the great defeat that led to the capture of the ark. How wonderful that the story of victory should be recorded on the plain which had witnessed so crushing a defeat! ( 1 Samuel 4:1; 1 Samuel 7:12.) At the very place where you have fallen, you shall stand, for “God is able to make you stand.” Where you have been overthrown, you shall be more than conqueror. The rocks which were strewn with the autumn leaves shall be festooned with the flowers of another spring. Where you have sown the seed in tears, you shall come again, bringing your sheaves.’

(3) ‘There were two fights on this one field. In the first, Israel were disastrously defeated, yet, in spite of all disadvantages, the victory this time is with Israel. This reversal of the defeat of the past may also be applied to our sorrows and disappointments. There are no irrevocable defeats nor any losses that cannot be more than made up. There are infinite stores in the purposes and in the sweetness of God to fill all emptiness, and make up for all losses. Divine joy is often struck out, like a spark from a flint, by the hard blow of a sharp sorrow on the heart. Our sorrows and pains cut deep letters on our hearts, which often bleed in the process; but they are cut so deep that, as lapidaries sometimes do, He may fill them with gold.’

Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 7". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/1-samuel-7.html. 1876.
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