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Return to the Lord

Devotions

The hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” written by Robert Robinson, celebrates God’s protection and grace. But did you ever wonder about this puzzling phrase: “Here I raise my Ebenezer. . . .”? The line refers to the name of a monument made of stones that was set up by Samuel after the Lord defeated Philistines. Samuel wanted to remember what the Lord had done on their behalf. The name, Ebenezer, meant “stone of help.”

The events in today’s text took place twenty years after the ark returned to Israel. The decades that followed the ark’s relocation to Kiriath Jearim were marked by spiritual revival. Israel “turned back to the Lord” by destroying images of the Canaanite fertility goddess Ashtoreth and her male counterpart Baal (vv. 2–4). God’s people sealed this commitment with a solemn assembly where they confessed their sin and poured water out before the Lord. This was a symbolic gesture of devotion. They may also have denied themselves water for a time to show their sincerity.

During this ceremony, the Philistines attacked, viewing the gathering as either an opportunity or a threat. The terrified Israelites asked Samuel to intercede with God, and he did so by sacrificing a lamb as a “whole burnt offering” (v. 9). The Philistines chose this moment to attack, perhaps thinking that Israelites would be most vulnerable while worshiping. Notice that God’s answer to Samuel’s prayer was immediate. As the enemy attacked, God responded with “loud thunder” that sent the Philistines into a panicked retreat (v. 10). Samuel commemorated the victory by setting up a stone to remind them that God was the source of their victory.

>> Do you have a reminder of what God has done for you? It does not have to be elaborate. Think of a way you can pay tribute to God’s work in your life. It can be as simple as a verse from Scripture posted where you can see it.

Pray with Us

Prayerfully consider the lessons in today’s dramatic account of the Israelites’ victory over the Philistines. God is always in control and His will always prevails! Thank Him for His victories in your life.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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