“Samuel said to all the house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’ So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.
“Then Samuel said, ‘Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.’ So they gathered and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, ‘We have sinned against the Lord…’ Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when [they] heard of it, they were afraid… And the people of Israel said to Samuel, ‘Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines…’ And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car.
“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 Samuel 7:3-8,9b-12
“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth… You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17
Over and over through their history, Israel made poor choices and got into trouble, and the LORD of Israel helped them. His nature is holy, compassionate, and merciful. He always hovered, and again and again came to their aid when they repented. Samuel thoughtfully, intentionally set up a stone to memorialize the Lord’s great deliverance, to remind His people that it was not their strength or smarts that routed the enemy, but He alone. (Deuteronomy 33:26-29; Psalm 20:7; 103:4,8)
We must remember that our resolve will weaken, our strength will fail, our wits left to themselves are foolishness, our might is naught compared with Almighty God’s. Our first stone of help is acknowledging our addiction to idolatry and desperation before Jesus. He hears our cries and delights to answer. Throughout our days we remain needy, and erect other stones along the way of repentance, worship, dependence, the pledge of obedience, thankfulness, and victory. (2 Chronicles 20:12; Proverbs 16:1,9; Romans 5:6-8; 1 Corinthians 3:18-20)
Where in my life are significant signposts to the gracious work of God’s Spirit- His capture of my heart, conviction of sin, repair of broken relationships, gifts of insight or appropriate words? What stones mark significant pivoting? In what temptation has He given freedom, depression- hope, confusion- clarity, or self-will- surrender? Where am I recording, who am I telling, how am I recalling, my Ebenezers?
Father, may I faithfully remember and gratefully mark Your daily and very present help to me, that Your mercies be known and Your name praised. (Matthew 5:16)