The word to finish my title is Ebenezer.
No, not Scrooge either.
The only place I had heard this word in the context I am referring to until I did some research on it in was in an old hymn we used to sing in the churches I grew up in, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. This was one we sang often, and when I close my eyes I can still hear my Nana belting it out in her sweet southern soprano that never failed to lift above and drown out the other voices in the room. We all knew who the real song leader was, despite who was on the platform.
But it wasn’t until a few years ago while I was doing some research on the biblical concept of remembrance that I learned what an Ebenezer is. In the Old Testament, patriarchs often took time to tell their stories to the next generations coming after to speak of God’s faithfulness in their lives and the lives of the ancestors before them, to pass on the heritage of faith and trust in God. They also took time to build monuments for passers-by to remember how God brought victory in that place. The word Ebenezer comes from one such monument.
1 Samuel 7:12 tells the story. It says, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” In that place God rescued the Israelites from their enemies, the Philistines. They were coming to attack them, sending the Israelites into a panic. In fear they cried out to Samuel and he in turn cried out to God. God answered with thunder so fearsome the Philistines themselves panicked and ran right into the hands of the Israelites, who won, thanks to God. In that place he raised an Ebenezer in remembrance.
We see the same concept in Joshua 4 after the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on their journey to taking possession of the Promised Land. It was during flood stage they crossed. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap (Joshua 3) allowing the people to cross over. After the nation finished crossing, God told Joshua to choose twelve men, one from each tribe, to go back the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and pick up twelve stones. They were to carry them to and set them down in the place they would stay that night. Verses 6-7 say, “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
A memorial, just like a monument, was erected in remembrance of all God brought them through.
What has God brought you through in your life? How often do you pause and give thanks for it and pass on the stories to help build faith in the hearts of those who’ve come after you?
For me, this morning I couldn’t help but pause in remembrance. God has brought me through so much. Injustice, betrayal, rejection, my own shortcomings – each of these moments of my past are now, as I look back, moments God has brought redemption to, moments of miraculous victories, moments of healing so deep I am better equipped now to understand and help bring that same healing to others in His name. I am thankful. I can’t help but give Him praise. Here I raise my Ebenezer. Won’t you raise yours with me?
Copyright © 2014 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.