Recently, I began reading in I Samuel where battle lines were drawn between the Philistines and Israel at a place called Ebenezer. My mind drifted as I first thought of an old Hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing; and, then the famous Dickens’ tale, A Christmas Carol with its colorful character Ebenezer Scrooge. Quickly, I moved on to the word Ebenezer, itself; I discovered that it is a Hebrew word meaning “Stone of Help.” Over the next few chapters the word appears twice more, I Samuel 5:1; 7:12. These four chapters bracket as a unit around the word Ebenezer.
In I Samuel 7, Israel finally seeks the Lord’s help. Samuel instructs the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart… put away the foreign gods…direct your heart to the Lord… serve him only….he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” I Samuel 7:3. After years of anguish, Samuel’s message is met with affirmation; the people put away their idols to serve God. Samuel calls for a great convocation and pledges to pray on the people’s behalf, when they gather. The Philistines learn of the great gathering and plan to attack Israel while they worship. I Samuel7: 5-14 presents the story.
Israel in sorrow and fasting seek God; repent of their sin; and, just as Samuel offers the burnt offering of atonement, the Philistine attack. Wham! God delivers a counter attack creating confusion not seen since the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. In response to God’s great victory over the enemy, Samuel takes a boulder from the battleground and sets it up as a memorial pillar for future generations to remember God’s help over their enemy. The Bible notes, “The hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.” I Samuel 7:13
This account might simply be a story, unless we recognize it as a chapter in the greater story of God and His redemption. As we think of Ebenezer, it points us to the greater Stone, evoking worship to Christ. I Peter 2:4-5 calls true believers to draw near the Living Stone – to be formed into the people of God, the Church. Although many stumble over Him as “a rock of offence,” we rejoice, for we do not stumble; He is our sure foundation. With the enthusiasm of victory let us worship Him now, knowing that our praises to the very “rock of help,” will sustain us until we someday worship Him, face to face.
- Selby Brannon