Samuel then took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer (which means “the stone of help”), for he said, “Up to this point, the Lord has helped us!” 1 Samuel 7:12
This summer my sons and I hiked a really big mountain. Like huge. We’ve hiked Baldy before, and so we knew how to prepare, what to wear, what to carry. We started the trail with confidence, chatter, and of course, because the hike was Mom’s idea, some light complaining. All went well until we came to a place where the regular trail was blocked; it was under repair and we were directed toward a detour that appeared to cut straight up the steepest part of the mountain’s face. It was grueling, the hardest stretch of any hike any of us had ever done, the kind of workout that forced us to focus on one step at a time. If I raised my head to look up the trail, I’d slow to a stop, doubting I could finish the climb. But we discovered that if we took periodic rest breaks and faced down the mountain, looking at where we had already been, we were so impressed with our progress that we began to believe we really might reach the top. And of course, we did. I have the photos to prove it.
Have you ever come to a place in life, a crossroads of change or challenge that seemed impossible? I have. Sometimes I have no idea what to do next. At other times, I see what must be done, but know I don’t have the strength to do it. When the way ahead is pitch black dark, and I don’t have an ounce of strength left, this verse tells me what to do. “Up to this point, the Lord has helped me.” If I stop and look back, to remember the deeds of the Lord, I will see He has been helping me all along.
The location of Samuel’s Ebenezer stone is significant. Samuel sets up this monument in the exact spot where Israel has already been defeated by the Philistines not once, but twice. (1 Samuel 4, 5) He sets up the stone to remember and celebrate their third confrontation with the Philistines, when God had granted them victory. But at this significant spot, symbolizing both victory and defeat, Samuel declares that all along, God has been helping them. Win or lose, God has been faithful, and He will continue to be faithful. Samuel’s words imply that he knows they will continue to need God’s help with the Philistines. At this point, the best way Samuel can encourage the faith of Israel is to remind them of God’s past, constant, and future faithfulness, in victory and in defeat. Sometimes we beat the enemy, sometimes we don’t. Either way, God remains true.
When I think about raising my three sons to be godly, loving men in this upside-down world, I can get overwhelmed very quickly. NO WAY am I equal to the task. Sin and selfishness and unbelief have dealt us some terrible defeats in the past, and if I look into the future, I know the work is impossible for me. But when I stop and look around at how far we have come, what God has brought us through, I am filled with gratitude. “Up to this point, the Lord has helped us.” Because He is Who He is, God won’t let us down now.
This week we pray for ourselves:
Father, help me to hold fast the confession of my hope in You without wavering, for You have promised, and You are faithful. You have promised me that Your grace is sufficient for me, and that Your strength is made perfect in my weakness. You have also promised to be a very present help in my trouble. I thank You, Lord, that Your compassion does not fail, because I need Your new mercies every morning. Great is Your faithfulness! Hebrews 10:23, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Psalm 46:1, Lamentations 3:23
I thank You Father, for Your Holy Spirit, my Helper, whom You have sent. Through Your Spirit You teach me all things, and You bring to my remembrance all things that You have said. By the Spirit’s help, I will remember the marvelous works You have done, Your wonders and Your judgments. John 14:25-26, 1 Chronicles 16:12
There are times, Lord, when I feel You have turned Your hand against me./ Help me to recall all You have done,/ To remember Your wonderful deeds of long ago./ Help me to mediate on Your goodness constantly,/ So that I cannot stop thinking about Your mighty works. Psalm 77: 10-12 NLT
I thank You, God, that You are not man, that You should lie,/Nor a son of man, that You should repent./ What You have said, You will do./What You have spoken, You will make good. /Because I know Your name, Lord, I will put my trust in You./For You have not forsaken those who seek You. Numbers 23:19, Psalm 9:10
Father, my soul waits for You;/ You are my help and my shield./ My heart shall rejoice in You,/ Because I have trusted in Your holy name./ Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon me,/ Just as I hope in You. Psalm 33:20-22
I will lift my eyes to the hills-/ Where is my help going to come from?/ My help comes from You, Lord,/ Who made heaven and earth./ You will not allow my foot to be moved; You, who keep me, will not slumber./ You keep all Israel,/ And You will neither slumber nor sleep./ You are my keeper, and the keeper of my family,/ You are our shade/ And the sun shall not strike us by day,/ Nor the moon by night./ You shall preserve us from all evil;/ You shall preserve our souls./ You shall preserve our going out and our coming in,/ From this time forth, and even forevermore. Psalm 121
Lyrics to "Come Thou Fount:"
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/ I'll praise the Mount I'm fixed upon it/Mount of Thy redeeming 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/ Wandering from the fold of God/ He, to rescue me from danger/ Interposed His precious blood.
Ode to grace, how great a debtor/ Daily I'm constrained to be/ And let Thy goodness like a fetter/ Bind my wandering heart to Thee/ Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it/ Prone to leave the God I love/ Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it/ Seal it for Thy courts above.
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it/ Seal it for Thy courts above.