Scripture & Thought
1 Samuel 7:12
“Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’”
A line from Robert Robinson’s hymn, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” says, “Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’ve come, And I hope by Thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home.”
Ask any 12-year-old about the source of the name, “Ebenezer,” and they will say, “Scrooge’s first name.” They would be correct, of course. The old guy with a twisted nose and fractured spirit has been memorialized from Dickens’ 1843 – A Christmas Carol – all the way to the 2009 movie edition starring Jim Carrey.
Actually, Ebenezer was a stone. After years of spiritual backsliding, military debacles, and moral failure, Israel repented under the leadership of Samuel, Israel’s priest/judge. In memory of this major national turnaround, Samuel selected a large stone (actually, a boulder) and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshana as a monument to God’s help and faithfulness. The rock remained there as a reminder of God’s mercy, for all travelers to see. The Ebenezer Stone represented a new beginning, a marker-event in the history of God’s people.
As humans, we tend to remember – in full color and hi-def – our failures. God wants us to put those memories behind us. The Apostle Paul understood this. He said, in Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT), “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what is ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.”
Paul knew when it was time to raise his own Ebenezer stone. If he were alive today, he might want to join you in singing the third stanza of Robinson’s hymn:
O to grace how great a debtor – daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace, now 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.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, when I reflect on my own Ebenezer stones of the past, I am encouraged to face my trials today with renewed vigor and faith. Help me build some new Ebenezer stones to remind me of the victories you have allowed me to enjoy. Help eradicate from my memory the sins of the past (that you have already forgiven and forgotten), and help me remember the victories of this year. As we go through this New Year, let it advance with new vision, new affirmation, and new excitement to help me enjoy what you have in store for me.