In the Old Testament, stones were often used as reminders.
Stones were used to make altars. The physical process of collecting and stacking the stones was an external marker of the inward reality of one’s heart being actively prepared for worship. Stones were set upright in the ground as reminders to both parties of peace agreements, so that anytime the stone was passed, or seen on the horizon, people in each clan or tribe would be reminded of the old pact to be honored.
Sometimes, stones were even named.
In 1 Samuel 7:12, the prophet Samuel does that very thing:
Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”
When the Israelites were terrified, going into battle against the Philistines, they begged Samuel not to cease praying for them. So Samuel went before the LORD, offering sacrifices and prayers. Because Samuel saw the mighty answer of God on behalf of a needy and weak people, he erected the stone Ebenezer. Though they won the battle that day, it wasn’t a stone to mark victory.
Rather, it was a stone raised to remind everyone who saw it that God was faithful.
Dependable. Rock-solid, even in the face of frightened human flesh.
RAISING OUR OWN “EBENEZERS”
One of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount, says:
“Here I raise mine Ebenezer, Here by Thy great help I’ve come.”
One of the rhythms of life that Doug & I have tried to build into our family is to regularly remind ourselves of the times God has specifically been faithful to us. We want to remember that it’s by HIS help that we are in this place.
Sometimes we’ll sit around the dinner table, put the kibosh on all the silly talk, and remind the children of when Daddy lost his job, and how we all prayed for a new job. We remember gifts given to us in our time of need, friends who came to encourage us, and the detailed ways God has cared for us in each trial we’ve faced.
MAKE AN “EBENEZER TIMELINE” OF GOD’S ACTIVITY
Another activity I’ve personally found helpful is to, every few years, draw a timeline of my life and mark out God’s activity in it. I have done this once for my entire life (in 5 year increments, looking for God’s activity in each season), and more recently, for 3-5 year periods of time, to prompt me to remember God’s recent kindness in my life.
Let me encourage you…
Take time this week, or soon, to do this.
We grow deeper in godliness when we actively notice God’s work in our lives and praise Him for it.
You can make it part of your regular journaling/quiet time, OR set aside time after the kids are in bed, or during nap time, to complete this at a time when you are undistracted and free to actively “remember.”
It may take an hour or more, but I promise- it will be worth it– very faith-building!
Draw a line across the center of your page, from left to right. Along the way, mark years in one color ink. Then go back through your memory and mark the highlights, and the lowlights, of each time period. It helps me to mark positive changes above the timeline, and hurts and challenges below it. Put dates when possible.
Questions to jog your memory as you make your timeline:
- What were the noteworthy events, turning points?
- What has been your most challenging issue faced in the last season of life? Most enjoyable?
- What were the highs & lows, losses & gains, blessings and stresses?
- Who has entered your life? Who has exited your life?
- What have the relationships been like with family members? Close friends/co-workers?
- What happened in your family during this season? In your extended family and network of friends?
- What are the EGGs (Evidences of God’s Grace) in even the hard seasons?
With a different colored pen or highlighter, mark specific moments of God’s grace and activity on your timeline. Consider (actively pray through and seek to identify):
- Out of the blue blessings
- Answers to prayer
- Spiritual growth and maturity (both for you and in the lives of people you love)
- Ways that God’s Body– other believers– ministered to you in times of need
- God’s physical/material provision for you and your family
- Depth of understanding of God’s Word and of God Himself
AFTER YOU MAKE YOUR TIMELINE
Look back over your timeline and consider these things:
- Note lessons you’ve learned, what you’ve benefitted from, and what you wish you’d done differently.
- Turn the paper over (or make room at the bottom) to identify action steps or something you want to do in response.
Each time I do this, I am confronted with my own weakness and need for God, and comforted by His continuing, gracious, overwhelming GENEROSITY in the way He loves me and offers peace and provision along life’s road.
I pray that this will be a tool that God uses to strengthen your faith and encourage your heart… that it would truly be a mini-Ebenezer raised in your life to remind you “Thus far has the LORD helped me.”
[Personal note: We are pregnant with our 7th child (due in February). He’ll be our 6th little boy. Fairly early on in the pregnancy, Doug & I decided that his name will be Luke Ebenezer. After a tumultuous year of unexpected challenges and changes, we want our son’s name to be a reminder to us that God has been so very faithful. And– His faithfulness has not because of us, but because that’s who He is.
God is, by nature, faithful & dependable. In fact, Revelation 19:11 begins a portion of Scripture that takes my breath away in its description of Jesus, coming down from Heaven. The mention of Him there tells us He is “called Faithful and True.”
Echoes of Ebenezer.
My heartfelt prayer is that our son’s name, his life, and our entire existence as a family, would point to the Savior, and His enduring faithfulness.]
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