Joy is on the Other Side

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.”

1 Samuel 7:12

Have you ever read 1 Samuel 7? The whole chapter is an illustration of dependence done well. How long it had been for Israel since depending on the Lord in this way. Not a dependence sprinkled in with their worldly attachments. They came to their God first. Not for a victory, not for something he could do for them. They came because they longed for the Lord.

“Time went by until twenty years had passed since the ark had been taken to Kiriath-jearim. Then the whole house of Israel longed for the Lord.”

1 Samuel 7:2

Seeking to rid themselves of all hinderances to fellowship with God, they repent of their idols and dedicate themselves to the Lord. Shortly after such spiritual victory—actually right in the middle of spiritual deliverance— their enemies rise up against them. Their response? Prayer. Dependence. A turning of their souls to remember their God.

Not their weapons and strategies, as was their common pattern throughout Israel’s history. But this time they sought the Lord. God was their first resource. Because of this, they experienced not only spiritual victory but physical as well. And lest they forget, the prophet Samuel takes a stone to be a place of memorial for the work of God in their lives.

Ebenezer literally means, “stone of help”. What a glorious memory for the Israelites! God in his might took care of his people as he had covenanted to do. His people learned dependence. That stone shouted not only of Israel’s triumph over the Phillistines but their triumph over their own hearts. A feat only to be accomplished with the help of our God.

So many times I focus on the outward difficulties of my life while neglecting the inward reality I am facing. That Christ wants me to face. God wants my heart to beat for him, to rely on him, to worship him, and to need him. He tells me to come to him and ask for help and deliverance.

Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

Psalm 50:15

O, my soul, won’t you run to him and ask for help?

The physical sets itself up as most important yet it is our eternal state and spiritual health that God is after most. One commentator said, “Samuel had first, as prophet and judge, to lead the people to a thorough reformation of their inner life before he could begin the work of external deliverance.” When seen this way, my trials are gifts of consecration and my enemies are simply tools for my sanctification under the instruction of a loving God.

Perhaps Israel wouldn’t have had to be in such a state of chaos for as many years as they were if they would have learned the lesson of complete dependence and the spiritual priority of worship.

Where are you stalling, by your disobedience, the joy God has prepared for you found when your soul gives way to his will and gives up the idols it is holding onto?

Can’t you see, soul, the joy on the other side of surrender?

Won’t you ask the Lord today—before moving one more step forward— what are the idols that have crowded my heart? That have stunted my growth? That have pulled me away from experiencing spiritual triumph in my life?

Rid us, O God, of our congestive idol-loving.

I ask for you, dear reader, for myself also, that the sweetness of God’s Spirit would carry us through this process. That we would take it one day at a time. Not fearing surrender one bit.

Joy is on the other side.