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Pastor Josiah Elias - Ebenezer

On Mother’s Day Pastor Josiah shared how Hannah poured her heart out to the LORD. He

heard her and met her need miraculously through the birth of Samuel. Pastor Josiah continued his study of Samuel and the LORD’s direction.

1 Samuel 3:11 “And the LORD said to Samuel: ’See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.” God shared His intention of what He would do for Israel. As Christ followers we should “Read the Scriptures with the intention of increasing our faith.” We need our spirits shocked to get out of the vicious cycle of slumber and sluggishness just as failing hearts need to be defibrillated in order to be shocked back into life. After having our hearts revitalized, we need to have our weakened spirits enlivened through being hungry for Him and His Word. In Eli’s case, God was going to execute cleansing. Eli was not a good father and allowed his rebellious sons Hophni and Phinehas to selfishly steal some of the offerings people gave to the LORD. Eli’s leniency toward his sons disrespected the LORD.

1 Samuel 4:3-4 “After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp,

and the elders of Israel asked, ’Why did the LORD allow us to

be defeated by the Philistines?’ Then they said,’Let’s bring the

Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from Shiloh. If we carry it into

battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.’

So they sent men to Shiloh to bring the Ark of the Covenant of

the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the

cherubim. Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli were also there

with the Ark of the Covenant of God.” (NLT)

The leaders of Israel had problems with their thinking. They transferred their thinking from the LORD to one of His creations. “When He becomes an it… you’re already trending in the wrong direction.” God is relational, and if we “dumb down” our relationship with Him into an it situation, we damage our relationship with Him. What a loss for us to settle for an it instead of Him. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and sovereign. Why would we want to settle for less than a relationship with the Master of the Universe for an object He created?

Another weakness in their thinking was that they “valued their own ideas more than His.” Too often we do not consult Him for the direction of our lives: where we should work, where we should live, what we should do. If He cares about the sparrows and knows the number of hairs on our heads, wouldn’t He love to show us the best He has for us? But we often turn to google, our best friends, or our own ideas instead of asking the Creator of the World. Can google know more than the Creator of the Universe? All we need to do is ask Him, seek His Word, ask the Holy Spirit. Since the LORD is relational, He wants to converse with you and me. “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Psalm 116:2 (NLT) That is the type of relationship I want with the LORD, which means I need to practice listening to His voice and seeking His direction unlike the Israelite leaders did. Instead of guess work let us have a Spirit- led life. Instead of “I suppose” life, let us have a God-led life.

At one point we need to realize He is not our life jacket anymore since He has already saved us from hell. We can stay in the life jacket mode where we float around instead of seeking the next level. We have been saved for a purpose-sharing Jesus with whomever we encounter. Who else needs to hear of Jesus? We need to walk in salvation and share the LORD with others.

1 Samuel 4:10-11 “So the Philistines fought desperately, and Israel was defeated

again. The slaughter was great; 30,000 Israelite soldiers died that day.

The survivors turned and fled to their tents.

The Ark of God was captured, and Hophni and Phinehas,

the two sons of Eli, were killed.” (NLT)

The Israelites focused on it instead of Him. It is a great picture of taking the LORD’s name in

vain. For example claiming to be a Christian and living like the devil are blasphemy. It is taking God’s name and living for themselves. They tried to leverage His power and name to fulfill their own ambitions versus a genuine relationship with Him, the LORD. I had never thought of taking the LORD’s name in vain in that light and seeing how Pastor Josiah connected that phrase not with using the LORD’s name inappropriately but willfully living in our own selfish ways with no thought of the LORD’s guidance is taking the LORD’s name in vain. Authentic claims to being a Christ-follower should be married to Christ-like actions. “Faith should be married to obedience,” stated Pastor Josiah.

1 Samuel 5:1 “After the Philistines captured the Ark of God, they took it to Ebenezer to the town of Ashdod.” The Philistines captured the Ark and put it in their temple. Several times their idol fell in front of the Ark, and the people were plagued with tumors. The Philistines feared having the Ark of the LORD in their towns. Their solution was to have two cows that recently had birthed calves which they isolated from the mothers pull the cart with the Ark on it. The cows took the Ark to Israel. The Ark was important to the LORD, but it was not the LORD.

1 Samuel 7:2 “During that time all Israel mourned because it seemed the LORD had abandoned them.” Did the LORD abandon the Israelites? He had sent prophet after prophet to warn them to return to the LORD, but they did not listen. For us “How far have we drifted from the LORD?” He has not drifted from us because God is love and Love pursues us. And we love because He first loved us.

Knowing and believing that He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us means we need to get serious about our relationship with Him. Pastor Josiah reminded us that “If you’re serious about your relationship with God, then remove things that are keeping you from Him.” What things, attitudes, or actions are keeping you from Him: “I am sorry” vs “I am serious.” What is distancing you from God versus I’m serious about an authentic relationship with God.” What each person needs is genuine repentance. “Usher in true freedom of your faith with true repentance.” It is not enough to get rid of the world in us, but it is about filling the cleaned out spot with the LORD. Take the junk out that kept you in bondage and replace it with the authentic Jesus. What a change that change makes.

Jesus called us to be the Temple of the Holy Spirit. How can that be done? We can learn from the Israelites in 1 Samuel 7:6

“So they gathered at Mizpah and in a great ceremony, drew

water from a well and poured it out before the LORD. They

also went without food all day and confessed that they had

sinned against the LORD.” (NLT)

The recipe for spiritual break though is

1. Remove hindrances.

2. Fast and pray.

3. Confess our sins.

4. Press into God

A time when I had to examine my heart to see if I had any idols I did not recognize was in 2010. The pastor encouraged us to “Identify your idols.” The Holy Spirit came on me, and I almost asked out loud,” Is my job my idol?” My spirit affirmed the truth. That year I had not planned to but I retired. The LORD had plans for me that I did not know.

From 1 Samuel 7-11, the Israelites learned their lesson and sought the LORD when the

Philistines mobilized their army. Samuel sacrificed a lamb and offered it to the LORD. The

LORD spoke, and the Philistines were thrown into confusion. The Israelites defeated the

Philistines and built a memorial to the LORD at Ebenezer, naming it “Thus far the LORD has

helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12 Ebenezer means “the stone of help.” The LORD is our Rock and

Redeemer. Whom shall we fear?

May we seek the LORD and His counsel in all times and in all areas of our lives so that we can

be salt and light in this dark world.

Written by Larry & Annette Linthicum

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