Mothers for Prodigals

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Raise Your Ebenezer

If these people become silent, then the stones will cry out. What? Stones cry out? I’ve never known a rock to say a word. What does that mean? 

Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem one week before His crucifixion. The crowd surrounding Him began to praise God loudly for all the miracles they had witnessed. Some of the Pharisees nearby told Jesus to reprimand His disciples. But Jesus said, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:35-40)

This verse from the New Testament has always puzzled me until recently when I discovered another verse from the Old Testament. It reads:

Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12 (NASB)
Before an explanation of this verse, let’s understand the verses that proceed it, beginning in the fourth chapter of the first book of Samuel. Samuel was a prophet of God to the Israelites, and the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh. Shiloh means a place of rest; it was a city of Ephraim, on the north side of Bethel. Scripture tells us in Joshua 18:1 that the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. This was the place that Israel’s leaders met with God because the ark of the covenant was kept there. 
Now the Israelites and the Philistines were enemies. Israel was camped beside Ebenezer and the Philistines were camped in Aphek, and Israel went to meet the Philistines in battle. The Israelites were defeated and about four thousand men were killed. The people were dismayed and decided to go get the ark of the covenant from Shiloh and carry it with them. They believed it would deliver them from the power of their enemies. As they brought it into their camp, all of Israel shouted loudly, and the Philistines knew that the ark of the Lord was near. The Philistines were afraid, fought hard, again defeated Israel in battle, and took the ark of the covenant to the city of Ashdod. But the ark of the Lord brought them much destruction over a period of seven months. Through a series of events and guilt offerings, the Philistines returned the ark of the covenant to the Israelites. Many years passed and the people of Israel grieved for the Lord. Samuel told the people to remove their idols and return to the Lord with all their hearts. The people obeyed and gathered at Mizpah for Samuel to pray to the Lord for them. They said, “We have sinned against the Lord,” and Samuel judged the sons of Israel there.
The Philistines discovered that Israel was gathered at Mizpah and went up against them. The Israelites were afraid and begged Samuel to continue praying to the Lord for them. As Samuel offered up a burnt offering to the Lord, the Philistines drew near to battle the Israelites. The Lord confused the Philistines and rerouted them. But Israel pursued them and defeated them. Samuel then took a stone and set it up as a remembrance of the Lord’s help. Here is the verse again:
Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12 (NASB) And Scripture tells us the Philistines were subdued, never returning to the border of Israel. This action packed story can be found in 1 Samuel 4-7. 
Samuel used a stone to remind the people of the Lord’s help, placing it at the site of God’s victory over Israel’s enemies. The people could look at the stone and remember how the Lord helped them. Samuel appropriately gave it the name of Ebenezer, meaning stone of help. The stone itself was a witness of God’s mercy and grace. 
There is an old hymn entitled “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” who’s original text has been changed over the years. Instead of studying the text and then explaining the meaning of the words, it was assumed modern people would not understand it. How sad! Robert Robinson wrote it in the 1758, penning just the right words that expressed love for his Savior. He used Scripture to express praise for the Lord. Now that you know what Ebenezer means, read the words below, paying special attention to verse two, and begin thinking about the Ebenezers in your life.
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.
I'll praise the Mount I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I 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.

So to grace, how great a debtor,
Daily I'm constrained to be.
Let Thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Have you lived a similar story like that of the Israelites? Do you feel defeated by life’s situations? If you’ve known God and turned away for one reason or another, have you cried out to Him, admitting your sin and grieving over your damaged relationship with Him? Remember He is merciful, loving, and gracious. If you haven’t known our great God of the universe, then cry out to Him for a chance to know Him and His love. He is merciful, loving, and gracious. 
Have there been times in your life that you know God has helped you? Have you ever raised up an Ebenezer in remembrance of the Lord’s help? When we remember how the Lord has helped us, a more trusting relationship with Him will develop, and trust is key to knowing that God loves and cares for you. 
Be truthful with Him right now about your life and cry out to Him about your circumstances. When (not if) He comes to you, set up a stone altar (real or imagined) and give Him praise. Raise your Ebenezer, realizing how He has been your help. If you are reminded of other times He has helped you, raise your Ebenezer higher. You will then become a witness of praise for God’s love, grace, and mercy. Others will see and be drawn to the Lord God Almighty. 
Don’t be silent about the help you’ve received from the Lord. He deserves to hear your praises for Him and the people of this world need to know of His love and mercy. Raise your Ebenezer high like Jesus’s disciples were doing as He rode a donkey into Jerusalem. They knew He had performed miracles and their praises rang out. If God’s people tell of His great love and how He has helped them, then the rocks (the stones placed in remembrance of a helpful Creator) will NOT have to cry out.   

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