Saturday, January 7, 2017
Do You Believe in Ebenezer?
1Sam. 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”
Samuel was the leader of the Israelites and this story becomes very significant because it lays down a truth regarding a cornerstone — an Ebenezer — which is essential for the Israelites to be the people of God. Samuel had called the people together to celebrate the return of the ark of the covenant. They had lost the ark because they had been unfaithful to God. Throughout the history of the Israelites God has used foreign enemies to get their attention when they had refused to worship God alone. In this case, it was the Philistines. Only after Samuel called the people to repentance and faithfulness was the ark returned. The scene unfolds as masses of people come together to worship God. The neighboring Philistines mistake the gathering for an army and determine to attack them. What results is divine intervention on behalf of the Israelites. God intercedes and miraculously throws the Philistines into confusion and without a military leader or strong army, the Israelites are victorious. No wonder Samuel wants to commemorate the event by raising up an Ebenezer, which is literally translated, “stone of help.” It was a marker that would remind the people that in this place, God was the one who had helped them.
This story comes shortly before the people cry out for a king which seems odd after they had just experienced God providing a military victory. The call for king was a call for an earthly military leader, and it also marked again, the peoples’ refusal to trust God. It was a rejection of the Ebenezer — that would go on to become the Cornerstone for God’s people. All that is happening in the Old Testament is drawing us into the story of God where eventually Christ comes as the Cornerstone — the Ebenezer — the foundation on which we are to build our lives. “Thus far the LORD has helped us” is a statement of faith in the past, for the present and the future.
The Israelites seem to struggle often with their faithfulness in serving the LORD. Just as it seems they’ve turned a corner, it is short-lived and suddenly they fall back into wanting to fix things from a human perspective. God saves them from a massive tragedy and instead of trusting in God for future victories, they think they need to organize a political system and have a military leader.
The LORD is often revealed in our own lives as our Ebenezer — our strong helper — and yet, we quickly forget what it is that has been accomplished for us. We fail to look upon Jesus as our Cornerstone, the one who can provide ALL that we need in our lives. Suddenly we begin planning the next phase of our journey and we become influenced by the systems of this world. We think that we need all the same trappings of the world and we fall into the temptation to become acceptable from a worldly perspective. The Israelites wanted a king because everyone else had a king!
Where are the places where we fall into this temptation? I would suggest that the church is one of the most vulnerable places where we succumb to the temptations of the world. We examine successful organizations and leadership structures of the world and determine that they would help us in the life of the church. While there are skills to be learned, let’s make sure that we are not rejecting the Ebenezer and instead crying out for an earthly king! The LORD who has helped us thus far will continue to help us in the future, if only we will allow him to be our Cornerstone - the foundation upon which everything is built!
This is a radical faith, one which relies upon the LORD in every aspect of life. God wants to do more than we could ever ask or imagine through those who will embrace the Ebenezer. This is a belief that Jesus, the Cornerstone has helped us thus far, and will not abandoned us. We do not need the powers or structures of this world to rule over God’s people, but we need to have untethered faith in the LORD who provides.
It was the LORD who brought about the salvation of the Israelites from the hand of their enemy. As long as the Israelites would remain faithful to God, they would have been safe. As long as we embrace and believe in our Ebenezer, we will be safe. The rejection of the Cornerstone, both in the past and the present represents a dependence upon ourselves, and infidelity to our relationship with God.
Lord, please help me to be reminded of the Ebenezer every day of my life. Amen.