Tag Archives: Ebeneezer

The best I can do?

O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple.

Let the people on Mount Zion rejoice. Let all the towns of Judah be glad because of your justice.

Go, inspect the city of Jerusalem. Walk around and count the many towers.

Take note of the fortified walls and tour all the citadels, that you may describe them to future generations. 

For this is what God is like. he is our God forever and ever, and he will guide us until we die.

(Ps 48. 9,11-14)

I used to wonder why the psalmist exhorted his hearers to go and count the towers of Jerusalem, it seemed a pretty weird thing to do as a way of worshipping God! But I now realise that this physical act of walking and counting was a very practical way of directing attention to how God had kept his promises to his servant David, that a temple would be built, and a city established where a king would reign. The city itself was a memorial, a testimony to God’s faithfulness. Yes, it was strong, but it was God’s strength which established and maintained it, and it was His presence which made Mount Zion a place of rejoicing

The Old Testament stories are full of memorials, ways that God appointed to help the people to remember the truth about Himself, so that their faith could be strengthened and passed on to future generations. The twelve stones carried from the bed of the Jordan river to create a pillar at Gilgal when Joshua led the people out of forty years wandering into the Promised land; the Ebeneezer stone raised by Samuel marking the defeat of the Philistines; and the great Passover Feast itself, which recalled the dramatic events leading up to the deliverance from Egypt. These each in their own way prompted the people to recognise that it was God who was at work – rescuing, leading, preparing the land for them – and to celebrate the God who was so powerful on their behalf and crucially to trust that God would continue to be with and for them in the future.

As followers of Jesus, we have one particular memorial, established by him, the night before he died. The Lord’s supper, communion, call it what you like, is a memorial, a physical act which he commands us to carry out for just the same reasons. When we take bread and wine, remembering his death for us, we recognise that God was at work, celebrate His power to achieve what was beyond us, and strengthen our faith in His ongoing presence and work in our lives now.

There is another reason for memorials, hinted at in the psalm – that we might tell future generations about the God whose acts are celebrated.

We may not be confident in debating the philosophical grounds for belief in God, but we can legitimately share our personal experiences of His power at work in our lives. We can tell the stories of our own private memorials – celebrating times when we saw Him at work; showing people the God who has saved us and come to live with us. We can do what the early disciple Andrew did, when he went to find his brother Peter, in order to bring him to meet Jesus. We can pray for others for God to bless them in the way that the four friends of the paralysed man fought so hard to bring him into Jesus’ presence. We can do as the Samarian woman did after she encountered Jesus at the well in the noonday heat – bringing her neighbours to meet the man who knew all about her.

We cannot in our own power force anyone to accept Christ as their Saviour, but we can and must make every effort to ensure that our lives reflect Him. We may be the only stories about Jesus that a person ever hears, what are we telling them?

It is always good to care for physical needs, to show practical love and care, but the best thing we can do for anyone, is to bring them to Jesus, because ultimately their eternal salvation matters more than anything else. It is God alone who convicts people of their need, who brings faith to life, and we can have confidence in His power to do this. Our job is to say, “Come, we have found the Messiah, we have found God dwelling with us!”

May we have confidence to obey, and wisdom to know how to do it, so that many souls will yet be gathered into the kingdom!

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Ebenezer

Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

(Isaiah 46 v 3 & 4)

it is likely that for many of us, the name Ebenezer has bad connotations, because we think of the character in Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol”, and the miserly Mr Scrooge comes to mind. Yet that story is one of redemption and hope, of change for the better! It is a pity then that this name, which means “stone of help”, should remain an unattractive one.

In the first book of Samuel, this stone is erected as a monument after a significant victory in battle, a physical reminder to the people of Israel that God had been with them, and that he continued to be their help and support. The bible is full of such exhortations to God’s people to remember his faithfulness to them in the past, as a basis for thanksgiving but also for hope in whatever the current trying situation might be. The underlying message is that God is not changed by the years as we are: he is not wearied by age, or decayed by illness, and we can trust him to be as active, vigilant and committed to his people now as he has ever been.

The quote from Isaiah reflects the same truth, as God speaks through the prophet to a dispirited people, all too aware of their own frailty and advancing years. They are still his people, and as such, the recipients of his tender care and faithful love. The prophet goes on to remind the people that there is no one like their God, reliable, powerful and purposeful.

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: my purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (Isaiah 46 v 9 & 10)

We often find ourselves reflecting at New Year, reviewing the recent months and looking ahead to what may be in store for us. I am no fan of making resolutions to do things differently, or of making so called “bucket lists”, which I need to complete in order to feel satisfied with my life. Rather I find this time of year a good opportunity to raise my own Ebenezer, to pause and look back with deep thanksgiving for months and years of God’s faithful upholding and providing. Thus far; to my fiftieth birthday, to two nearly grown children, to an orphan status, but with siblings and many friends and a loving, long- suffering husband, thus far I say, the Lord has helped me, and I praise his holy name. Even this last year, I see many examples of help, of God’s personal touches of love, and of his changing me – I trust for the better!

The words of the prophet also encourage us to take assurance for the future, because the same God who has been faithful, promises to go on being faithful – unto old age, until all that is planned has been carried out. For believers in Jesus Christ, this promise carries us into eternity, to the new and glorious life we shall enjoy at the resurrection. God has told us that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, the first of all who are to come, who trust in him alone for their salvation, and who will dwell with him hereafter.

What encouragement this is as we face the future, well aware that our lives may change in an instant, with pain and joy often blended, and no guarantees that our health, security and families wil be immune from trouble. We have an utterly faithful God, committed to sustaining and carrying us, desiring that in all things, we seek him first because in him alone our help lies. And in the end, he will carry us home.

All praise to our God, through the Son, by the Spirit, for his mercy to us and his bountiful love. As we raise our Ebenezers, may we be filled with joy and give the glory to God, stepping forward in confidence in him and at peace in our souls.