Do You Remember?
Do you remember?
It may be my favorite line of any hymn.
Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by Thy help I’m 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.
The Ebenezer stone of 1 Samuel 7 was a significant monument in the history of Israel. It was the point at which the hearts of the people turned back to the Lord. In a sense, 1 Samuel chapters 2-7 are the story of how the stone got its name and how it came to represent one of the darkest times for the people of God. It was a time that included using the Ark as a pawn after losing to the Philistines on the field of battle, losing the Ark in the next battle, the death of the priest and his two sons, and the destruction of a good number of people upon the return of the Ark for failing to treat the symbol of God’s covenant as holy.
Some twenty years elapses between the events of chapters 4-6 and chapter 7, and the people are once again troubled by the Philistines. The Ark has been all but forgotten at the house of Abinadab. The people have forgotten their covenant of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. They have forgotten the stones of remembrance laid out by Joshua in Joshua 4 and their promise of Joshua 24. They have turned aside to idols.
This is their condition when Samuel proclaims to the people that the Lord would deliver them from the hand of the Philistines if they would only put away the foreign Gods and return to Him. The people, fearing the Philistines, do as they are instructed. They beseech Samuel to cry unto the Lord during the battle for their deliverance perhaps fearing that God would so soon forget His promise.
It is after this battle at Mizpah, in which God defeated the Philistines, that Samuel sets the stone between Mizpah and Shen. He called it Ebenezer meaning, “Thus far Jehovah (from the hebrew YHWH) has helped us”.
Where is your Ebenezer? Do you hold a memory of how and when the Lord has helped you? So many times we see in the Testaments God’s providential care of those who love and trust him, and yet for many today it would seem that any thought of providence is fanciful at best. Ebenezer was a reminder not that the Lord helps those who help themselves (as convention dictates), but the Lord helps those who turn to Him.
Mine is not the hand of deliverance, and it is not by my will alone. Paul is certain of this in Romans 8 when he proclaims the eternal victory found in the love of Christ (Romans 8:26ff). It is the knowledge of God’s victorious care that allows him to make the bold assertions of 1 Corinthians 15.
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “ Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is this love and care for His people that Paul refers to as unsearchable riches of Christ in Ephesians 3:8, and later in that same chapter he would describe it as surpassing understanding. He would even end the passage with this prayer.
20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen
There should be no doubt that we serve a mighty God, but also a God who cares for His undeserving people (Psalms 8:4-9). It is a sentiment echoed by the Savior in the early verses of Matthew 7, and repeated again in James 1:12;17-18.
While it is marvelous to serve a God who so abundantly cares for His people, we would do well to remember the lessons of the people in 1st Samuel 4 and 6.
It was in the 4th chapter that they treated the symbol of His covenant as a common token and lost the Ark to the Philistines in battle. In the 6th chapter they did not revere Him as Holy. Instead they opened the Ark to peer inside and many were struck down for their sin.
The gravity of these lessons should not be lost on us. We do not keep God with us that we might invoke Him to our own ends. Rather we submit to Him as Lord that we might be His indebted people. The great lesson of His grace is that, while free to all men, those who partake in it are constrained to be His people.
It is this truth that Paul articulates in his letter to Titus (Titus 2:11-14). Because of God’s grace we are compelled to a transformation that resembles His holiness and goodness. We are a people looking forward to the return of Christ. We are a people purified for His own possession. We are a people who are zealous for His good things.
Let us remember How the Lord has helped us thus far, and let us trust and desire that He would ever help us to walk more closely to Him.
O to Grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee. Never let me wander from Thee, Never leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.