When Ebenezer is Just a Word
1Sam. 4:1 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. ¶ In those days the Philistines mustered for war against Israel, and Israel went out to battle against them; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.
This is a sad time in the history of God’s people. In the previous chapter we had learned that it was rare to hear the voice of the Lord. Now, the Philistines are wanting to do battle against the Israelites. We are told that the Israelites encamped at Ebenezer. Interestingly this location does not get it’s name until chapter 7 of 1 Samuel. This book is written after the fact and they are noting that the location where the Israelites encamped was near what would become known as Ebenezer.
The irony of the name is that it means “stone of help.” This was a place where they would eventually note that it is God who is their help. However, when this story unfolds the Israelites have been ignoring God and are simply going about their lives trusting in themselves. When it comes time for this battle they suddenly think that maybe it would be good to trust in God and they have the Ark of the Covenant brought to this location. However, their faith in God is not sincere and the Ark is lost to the Philistines.
Eventually the people turn their hearts back to God and they are able to bring the Ark back home and they celebrate this fact by raising up a stone, their Ebenezer as a reminder that God truly has been their help. But what happens when Ebenezer becomes simply a word like it was at the first part of this chapter? At that point they were not trusting in God and he was not their help. He was simply something to be used in their time of need.
How often do we simply use God, or the church, or the Bible or other items to “save” us in a difficult time? Ebenezer should be more than a word naming a place! The Ebenezers in our lives should be great reminders of our faith and trust in a God who is our helper and who can make a difference in the lives of God’s people.
The Israelites had taken God for granted and expected him to swoop down and save when they called on him. God’s desire is for us to understand that he is our daily Ebenezer. He does not just want to step into our lives from time to time. Instead he wants to be actively engaged in all that we do every single day. He wants us to call on him, he wants us to trust in him. He wants us to understand that he is the one who wants to lead us through every facet of our lives. He wants to be there and recognized as the Ebenezer — the rock who is our help.
The Ebenezer is not just a word. Our Ebenezer should be carried with us, day in and day out. Then, when the battles come, Ebenezer will be more than just a word, but will be a reality.
Lord, thank you for your daily help. Amen.
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
1. 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 Thy redeeming love.
2. Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I'll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.