Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” (1 Sam 7:12 ESV)
One of the most terrifying aspects of sin is that it ravages our memories. Though the Lord might part the waters of the Red Sea in our lives in the midst of extraordinary trial, it does not take long for our sinful hearts to forget his goodness when we perceive that we appear to be walking through a desert. Left unchecked, we begin to grumble and long to return to Egypt, forgetting that our previous condition was slavery. Our hearts are truly prone to wander and when we do not walk with the Lord in the power of his Spirit, what began in our hearts as boiling fervor for the Lord will eventually grow cold.
The children of Israel were suffering the consequences of their sins, but at Samuel’s command, they put away their idols and devoted themselves to serve the Lord even as the Philistines drew up their battle lines to destroy them. But when Samuel cried out to the Lord on their behalf, the God of Israel responded immediately with thunder from heaven. He threw the enemy into confusion before Israel and their great army was completely routed and defeated. And Samuel upon their victory, set up a stone of remembrance called Ebenezer, which in Hebrew means “Stone of Help.” It was not the stone that helped them, but it was a reminder that the Lord had helped them. Every time they glanced at this boundary marker, they were to recall the magnificent deed that the Lord had done in fighting for them.
When we Christians are discouraged, we too are called to remember the wondrous deeds of God. Paul urged his young disciple Timothy to “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Tim 2:8) even as he exhorted him to suffer as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. The Psalmist, despairing that the Lord’s goodness seemed to have ceased from his life, declared that he would combat his spiritual despondency by remembering the deeds of the Lord and the years of the right hand of the Most High (Ps. 77:10-11). How important the act of remembering is! And whether we set up physical stones for ourselves, or write entries in a diary that we review on a regular basis, or discipline ourselves to read God’s Word regularly so that we do not forget our God, we are called to constantly remember and never forget.
Christian, has your own sin driven you into a place where you face suffering and trial? Or are you discouraged and battered by problems that loom larger than a Philistine army in your life? Are you in need of a divine helper to come and deliver you from this trial that is simply too great for you? Then turn to our Lord and cry out to the God of heaven so that he might fight for you!
Brothers and sisters, we must never underestimate the importance of remembering in our lives. In our times of despair, we must not look inward, but upward. We must look at the Ebenezers that we have set up to mark God’s miraculous works in our lives so that our hearts might be encouraged when we are tempted to forget. We must never make the mistake of thinking that that our own hands have given us our success or that our God is too small to save. The God who has helped us “thus far,” will never change. Our Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And if he has helped us thus far and given his only Son for our sins, we can rest assured that he will never abandon his children in their hour of greatest need. So, in these moments of our greatest trials, let us not charge in with our own strength, but stop and remember the strength of our God who is our help.