Twelve Ebenezers

austin-neill-139496-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

Joshua 4:1-7 (KJV)  And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,  [2]  Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,  [3]  And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.  [4]  Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man:  [5]  And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:  [6]  That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?  [7]  Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

Sunday night we talked about Israel crossing the Jordan River. But we didn’t finish the story. One of the greatest events that God brought Israel to was the crossing of the Red Sea when they left Egypt. I looked it up Monday morning. The Red Sea crossing is in Exodus 14, and is recounted in about 964 words in my King James Bible. But the Jordan River crossing is in Joshua chapters 3 & 4 and is recounted in about 1318 words in the same Bible. It is almost as if God puts more weight on what happened at the Jordan with the second generation of Israel than He does with what happened at the Red Sea. Why is that?

I think it has to do with the Ebenezers.

What in the world is An “Ebenezer”?

You’ve sung about “Ebenezers” in Church. Our worship leader has led you in singing about them. Don’t believe me? We have all sung the song “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing”. The second stanza of the song says:

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here there 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

When Baptist Minister (Stone-Yard Baptist Chapel, Cambridge, England) Robert Robinson wrote Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing in 1758 the Bible, the Word of God, was cherished by that nation. People knew what an Ebenezer was. After today you will know what it is as well. To understand an Ebenezer we need to look in 1 Samuel.

In 1 Samuel 3 we see the Lord calling the Prophet Samuel to service. Samuel’s momma Hannah was blessed by God to have Samuel. She promised the Lord that she would dedicate little Samuel to God, and she did as she promised. She took the child to the Temple to serve God with Eli the High Priest. The Bible says (1 Samuel 2:12) “the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD”. Rather than correct his sons Eli looked the other way. This would come back to kill him. But Samuel from a child was taught to love God. His heart was dedicated to the Lord. And the Lord rewarded him by calling him to be a Prophet.

As goes the Pulpit, so goes the Church. Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:17) “sin … was very great before the LORD”. Like many preachers today they not only sinned, but tolerated sin within the camp.

Because of the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, God was not respected. The Bible says that “men abhorred the offering of the Lord” (again 1 Samuel 2:17). But “Samuel ministered before the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:18). Here you see the forces of God and satan struggling. Oh Beloved, we must follow Jesus!

As goes the Pulpit, so goes the Church.
As goes the Church, so goes the Nation.

Israel went to war against the Philistines. No one believed in the God of our Bible, and Israel proved it by going to war without the Ark of the Covenant. Sunday night I spoke of the Ark of the Covenant and showed you in Scripture where the Ark represented Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. As Israel crossed the Jordan they were to keep their eyes on the Ark – but their focus was to be Christ. When Israel fought the enemy they were to keep their eyes on the Ark, but their focus was to be Christ. Israel went out against the Philistines with neither Ark nor Christ.

1 Samuel 4:1 … the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Ebenezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek.

Israel Lost To The Philistines At Ebenezer

Here we see the first use of the word “Ebenezer” in Scripture. Israel set up camp next to a place called “Ebenezer”, the Hebrew אֶבֶן הָעֵזֶר ʼEben hâ-ʻÊzer, (pronounced eh’-ben haw-e’-zer) which means “Rock of Help”. Our God is “The Rock of Help”.

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

There are no coincidences in life nor in the Bible. Israel is fighting an enemy from “The Rock of Help”. God is trying to speak to Israel, but they are not listening. “The word of Samuel” the faithful Prophet came to all Israel, but they would not listen.

Israel is fighting the enemy without God!

Israel was not glorifying the Lord Who saved them. Israel was lazy and lethargic, faithless, sadly influenced by the likes of Hophni and Phinehas. The High Priest Eli was no help either. Israel set up to do battle in Ebenezer thinking they would win. They didn’t. Israel was soundly beaten by the Philistines, losing about 4000 men (1 Samuel 4:2).

Beloved, if we will do great things FOR God we must do all things FOR God and FOR His Glory!

Jesus said in John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Israel should have regrouped, repented, and recommitted themselves to God our Savior. Instead of doing this Israel went and got their “lucky rabbit’s foot”,
the Ark of the Covenant.

The Bible tells us in (1 Samuel 4:5-7) … when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.  [6]  And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp.  [7]  And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.

The Israelites were happy and knew they were going to win because “The Ark of the Covenant” was in the camp. Israel didn’t have God, but they had a Lucky Rabbit’s Foot. I once chanced upon a video of a famous “Rap Singer” who spoke some of the most horrific words I had ever heard. As he spoke and cursed around his neck hung a golden chain with a Cross hanging upon it. The Cross to him was nothing but costume jewelry. The Cross is to many no more than a Lucky Rabbit’s Foot, a Four Leaf Clover, or costume Jewelry. That’s how Israel was regarding the Ark of the Covenant. It was a “good luck charm”. When they brought it into the camp they had a party!

The Philistines heard that the Ark was in the camp of Israel, and began to fear. They thought they were going to lose because the God of Israel had come into the camp. Both were wrong. The unbelievers rallied themselves, attacked, and beat Israel soundly. As a matter of fact the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and took away Israel’s rabbit foot at Ebenezer.

1 Samuel 4:11 (KJV) … the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

When Eli heard this the High Priest (1 Samuel 4:18) “fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died”. Israel was without God and without hope. The glory of God had departed His people!

Ichabod Was Written On That Nation!
The Glory of God had departed!

For twenty years – yes 20 – the Philistines dominated Israel. It was not until “all the house of Israel lamented after the LORD” (1 Samuel 7:2) that the people would hear the Prophet Samuel. Samuel told them:

1 Samuel 7:3 (KJV) … If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.

Israel was to REPENT and RECOMMIT themselves to God. God does not give victory to His people because they follow a rabbit’s foot. He gives victory to His people when THEY ARE HIS PEOPLE. When the hearts of God’s people are on the Lord He knows.

Psalm 119:1-3 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. 2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart. 3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

We Serve A Mighty God Who Loves Us So

When Israel repented of their sin and turned their hearts back to God “putting away the false gods, the Baalim and Ashtaroth, and serving the LORD only”. Israel heard the message and turned their hearts to the Lord. Guess what?

Their hearts on God, Israel beat the Philistines.
Israel was beaten at Ebenezer because of their hearts.
Israel lost the Ark at Ebenezer because of their hearts.
Now Israel beat the Philistines because of their hearts.
God was in their hearts!

When Israel committed their hearts to God the Lord fought through them. They defeated the Philistines. To help Israel remember this day the Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 7:12) “took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us”. Samuel established a SECOND Ebenezer.

The Ebenezer is a reminder that God is the Rock of Help.

This is what is at the heart of what God has the Children of Israel do on the other side of the Jordan. Let’s read again:

Joshua 4:1-3 (KJV)  And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,  [2]  Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,  [3]  And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.

What God asked was simple. Israel had crossed over the Jordan as if on dry land. The priests holding the Ark of the Covenant – a picture of Jesus Christ our Lord – were still standing in the middle of the Jordan. The raging water was stopped by God upstream, and stood up like a crystal pillar for all to see. God was in no hurry.

Pick a leader from each of the twelve tribes.
Let each man go into the middle of the still dry Jordan.
And bring one stone per man back to where Israel is.

Why pick a stone? It is an Ebenezer. It is what Samuel would do over 400 years later. Joshua explains to the Israelites:

Joshua 4:5-7 (KJV)… Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:  [6]  That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?  [7]  Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

The stones that the men were to carry from the middle of the dry Jordan were to be “carried on their shoulders”. These were not to be insignificant little rocks you put in your pocket. These were to be BIG stones, something heavy, something that took effort to lift.

God Did The Impossible
The Twelve Did The Hard But Possible

God held back the Jordan, but now these twelve men were to do their BEST. They were supposed to go above and beyond what I like to call “close enough for government work”. They were to understand that the Ebenezer they picked up was to glorify God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Colossians 3:23 … whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

They were to seek EXCELLENCE for the Lord. Not half hearted. With Excellence! These stones were to be used as an example and a memorial for the future generations of Israelites. When the children of their children would look at these stones and ask “why are these stones here?” that their parents could remind them of the great things that God did with Israel. God is so good to us all. He deserves our excellence. He deserves our praise.

When our children and children’s children look back at what mark we make, what will they see?

Joshua 4:18-24 And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before. 19 And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho. 20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. 21 And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? 22 Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: 24 That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever.

What mark will you leave for the Lord?

In 1880 a Wells Fargo agent named Lester Moore was killed and buried by Frank Dunston (or so I’ve been told). Dunston was angry over a package that arrived both late and damaged. Having words with Moore, Dunston pulled his .44 hogleg and shot him to death. Lester allegedly was buried in Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona. His grave marker – his Ebenezer – reads:

Here Lies Lester Moore
Four Slugs From A 44
No Les
No More

Jesus gave everything for you. What will you do for Him? Let us live to glorify the Lord Whom we love! May God lead someone to Christ through this message.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
This entry was posted in Joshua, Sermons Preached and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.