“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” (1Samuel 7:12).
The word “Ebenezer” is from “Eben” which means stone and “Ezer” which means help. So literally a stone of help. But it is not the stone that helped them. As Samuel said: “The Lord has helped us this far”. The stone was simply a memorial to remind them of the Lord’s faithfulness. We need to be reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness because we are forgetful and so easily become overwhelmed with our present troubles.
Jacob had a similar experience when he raised the stone he used for a pillow, poured oil on it as a thank offering, and called the place “Bethel” – the house of God (Genesis 28:16-18). The stone was not an object of worship nor was it a talisman, it was simply a reminder to Jacob, and his descendants, that there he had met with God.
When Israel crossed over the Jordan into the Land, Joshua instructed a representative from each of the tribes to each collect a stone from the river and to erect it at their camp site as a perpetual memorial of God’s faithfulness in bringing them across the river and into the Land. (Joshua 4:6-7).
For Israel, the purpose of the feasts was also to remind them of God’s mighty works in the past and His faithfulness. Thus the Lord instituted various memorials, days and symbols to act as reminders to a people who so quickly and so often forgot that the Lord had never failed them.
In the New Testament we no longer raise stones and other memorials but we do have the Lord’s Table which serves to remind us regularly of the cross, our salvation, and the Lord Jesus.
Here in the US we celebrate Thanksgiving this week. Sadly, most people do not even know Who they should be thankful to and the day has degenerated into a day of gluttony, family fights, selfishness (as the poor and lonely are forgotten) and of greed as people flock to the stores before the turkey has even settled in their stomachs. But for the believer, it is a good opportunity to reflect deeply (not just say a hasty prayer of thanks before the gorging starts), on the Lord’s faithfulness.
Indeed, thus far the Lord has brought us, and as the hymn writer says, He will bring us safely home. It does not matter how big the obstacles and problems may be that we face today. And yes, to many of us they seem insurmountable. But, we need to be reminded that God has never failed us. He has saved us, kept us and provided for us in every way. He has proven His reliability and faithfulness in spite of our faithlessness.
David said “I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.” (Psalms 37:25). Paul testified before Agrippa: “Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand…” (Acts 26:22). He also said “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 1:6).
When King Hezekiah faced an impending invasion by the Assyrians he said: “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. “With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles…” (2 Chronicles 32:7-8).
Social and the News Media love to remind us that we have more problems than ever and indeed, Covid, inflation, political upheaval, global warming and a host of other problems may beset us. But, we do not have a single verse in the Bible that tells us to keep record of all our problems. No! We have one task and that is to remember that the Lord has never failed us and he will see us through. We have come thus far, not because of our own skill or ability, but because the Lord has brought us thus far.
May we again remind ourselves of the many waters, fires and wars He has brought us and He has promised: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.” (Isaiah 43:2). As we sit down to eat, may we remind ourselves and our children of God’s goodness and faithfulness and that His faithfulness in the past is our assurance of His willingness and ability to see us through whatever the future holds.
Come, Thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s unchanging love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I come.
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wand’ring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my yielded heart to Thee:
Let me know Thee in Thy fullness
Guide me by Thy mighty hand
Till transformed, in thine own image
In Thy presence I shall stand