By CRAIG HARRIS
1 Samuel 7: 10-13 (NIV): While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us." So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again. Throughout Samuel's lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines.
We sing the song "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" in church and the second verse says, "I will raise mine ebenezer...", but we may not know what it means. This Scripture passage happened while Samuel was judge in Israel, before Saul and David became kings. The Israelites were under attack from a hostile neighbor and cried out to God for his help.
The people had just repented and stopped worshiping and following other gods. They assembled together to cry out to God. But while they were together, the enemy drew plans to attack them. Samuel sacrificed an innocent lamb and the people fasted and prayed. God "thundered" against the enemy and threw them into confusion. Israel won the battle and the war.
So Samuel set up a stone to mark the occasion. He called it Ebenezer, which means "stone of help", saying "Thus far has the Lord helped us." It is good for us to set up markers to remember what God has done for us. It is good for us to remember how he has brought us through, walked with us, intervened on our behalf when we prayed, and shown us his mercy and grace.
This Holiday season, I encourage you to mark the occasion by being thankful. I gave everyone in my churches a small stone Sunday and told them it was an “ebenezer stone” to help them remember that God is good — and God has been good. Thus far has the Lord helped us.
Craig Harris is the pastor at Brushy Creek United Methodist Church in Brushy Creek and Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in Pert. Sunday services are at 9:30 a.m. at Brushy Creek and 11 a.m. at Pert. See more of his columns at www.instantmessagelive.com.