1 Samuel 7:12-14
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.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites.
When the ark of the covenant was lost it was removed from Ebenezer and ended up at Ashdod. This signified a movement from a place where the people had trusted God, to self-protection. Sadly, God’s people, who were to be holy, were no longer in God’s holy presence.
Now, the journey seems to have come full circle. The ark had been returned and Samuel, their new leader called the people to faithfulness. They turned away from the other gods and dedicated themselves to serving God alone. They physically destroyed all symbols of the other gods that they had worshipped. Next, when they found themselves under attack from their enemies, they called upon Samuel to intercede not their behalf. He cried out to God, praying for the safety of the Israelites. Miraculously they were saved from the Philistines.
The result was a period of time when there was peace. Again, they took a stone and set it up as a monument to God’s intervention in their lives. It was an Ebenezer — rock of my helper! Whenever they would see this rock they would be reminded, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” The people of God were again living in relationship with their holy God. In this place of complete and entire trust and dependence, we are transformed into the holy people of God.
Through grace God is continually drawing humanity back into a relationship in which we can be made holy. This is God’s plan, for us to be in the image and likeness of the Triune God. This can only happen when we are in a face to face relationship, in the presence of God. In this way, we reflect the very holiness of God.
We must turn away from the other gods in our lives, if we are to be made entirely holy. We may not have wooded gods in our homes, but we may have allowed other aspects of our lives to become our idols. Even good things become idols when they take first place in our lives. Our commitment to family, the suffering, the environment, to justice — while all worthy — can become our idols. Anything that casts a long shadow across our relationship with Christ is our idol.
We, too, must be dedicated to serving God alone — even when it doesn’t make sense to the rest of the world. That’s when the attacks come. The enemy will do everything possible to destroy our fledgling faith, and create havoc with our community and lifestyle. The ways in which we live our lives will not be pleasing to the world. They will find ways in which to ridicule, cut-down and destroy the Christian life and faith. Instead of succumbing, we must call upon the Lord. Uniting together in prayer, as the people of God, will help us face the enemies of our day. This is not our battle, this is the Lord’s. We are not expected to have all the answers, but God does. Our entire dependence upon God results in God’s holiness entirely reflected in and through us. It’s those spaces of self-dependency that block the reflection. Now, entirely consecrated and faithfully seeking the face of God, we are transformed into God’s holy people.
It is in this place that we may raise our Ebenezer. Total dependence results in seeing the hand of God at work. When we are self-sufficient we miss out on the opportunities to see what God can and will do for us. God is my helper. God is my strength. God is my salvation. God is my provider. Christ in us — the hope of glory.
The Israelites had come full-circle. They had left Ebenezer, but God provided a way for them to come back home.
Lord, please help me stay in that space where I live entirely dependent upon you. Amen.
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