What's An Ebenezer, Anyway?

I'm part of a running group who gets together to run (or walk) on Saturday mornings. Each week, we meet in a different location. We are blessed to live in a beautiful part of the country. Sometimes we run along the Potomac River or on back country roads where cows and horses stare as we amble by. A favorite location is Ebenezer Church. It's located in a very rural place and when you live in the fastest growing county in the country, you rejoice in rural.

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The humble little country church sits on a hill overlooking beautiful, Virginia farmland. A sleepy cemetery sits behind and to the side of the church. There are huge oaks who have surely witnessed history. Sometimes cows can be heard crooning for their breakfast but most of the time it's quiet. This place is a sanctuary. The name of the church begs us to consider, "What's an Ebenezer?"

If you've been in church for any length of time, you've likely sung the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. It's so popular that modern Christian musicians continue to record the song. One particular line says, "Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I'm come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home." Raise my Ebenezer? As a kid, I could only think of Ebenezer Scrooge but knew enough that the hymn could not be about a Charles Dickens story.

1 Samuel 7 tells of the time that Samuel judges Israel and tells them to put away their false idols and return to God. The people then gathered together and Samuel prayed for them and dedicated these people back to God. A fierce enemy, the Philistines, heard the people of Israel were nearby and sought to make war. Only with God's help, the enemy Philistines were defeated and in recognition of God's help, Samuel set up a stone at the place of defeat and called the place Ebenezer.

A stone or monument that means, "only with God's help." I love how throughout the Old Testament, God's people set up stones, altars or monuments wherever and whenever they received a miracle or victory. We don't really do that anymore. Sadly, we have to be reminded to put down our idols and turn back to God. We often forget where our help comes from.

Have you overcome enemies in the last few months? Did you have a task that seemed insurmountable? Take time to recall and remember the victories of the past few months, even the very smallest. You may be in a very dark season and have to look further back. Set aside time to give thanks to God for only what HE can do. Set aside a place and raise your own Ebenezer - maybe a stone in a garden (spring is around the corner!) or a beautiful vase on a table with fresh flowers. Every time you see your little monument, you can confidently join with the Psalmist and say:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

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