For several years, I kept two homemade placards on our entryway mirror. They read Ebenezer and Jehovah-Jireh. Two powerful words from Scripture, meaning “stone of help” and “Yahweh will provide.” In other words, up to now the Lord has helped us – and he will continue to do so.
Now as the year 2020 draws toward its end, those long-gone placards came to mind. And they seem both a fitting epitath to this year – and a great banner to raise for 2021.
An Ebenezer year
2020 has been, perhaps, the strangest year many of us have ever seen. Even my 85-year old father says it’s the strangest he remembers. This pandemic has brought so much worry, isolation, and sickness, along with rising poverty and unemployment. Yet in looking back, I can say “up to now the Lord has helped us.”
Ebenezer in Scripture
Ebenezer was located between the Judean mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. In a fertile valley with perennial springs, it was often used as a sort of ancient retreat or getaway. An easily defendable spot as well, it also served as a strategic battleground.
It was here, in 1 Samuel 4, that the Israelites went out to fight the Philistines. And where, due to their sinful hearts, they faced defeat and lost the precious ark of God.
And also where, in 1 Samuel 7, we find the Philistines marching to attack Isreal. But at this point the Isrealites, who had repented of their evil, implored the prophet Samuel to call on God’s help. God sent thunder and confusion into the enemy camp, and they fled of their accord.
After Isreal’s victory there, Samuel set up a stone as a memorial of God’s help. Saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” And he called it Eben-ezer: stone-of help.
Israel lost the battle in 1 Samuel 4 because their sin had caused the Lord to withdraw his presence from them. They went into battle without God’s stone of help in their midst.
But they entered the second battle with God’s presence, their stone of help. And he gave them victory.
We find important lessons in Ebenezer.
It underlines the necessity of living a life pleasing to God. And shows that when we do so, we can always count on him being our Eben-ezer, our stone of help.
But does that guarantee that we will always have victory? That all our problems will disappear? Hardly!
Israel faced many difficulties through the years. Sometimes caused by their own sin and lack. But other times, because God was working out his plan and purpose for humanity.
It takes but a quick perusal of the lives Joseph, Esther, Daniel, and other godly men and women of God who suffered through no fault of their own.
But in each of these instances, God had a greater plan in mind. Through Joseph’s imprisonment, the Israelite nation and many others were saved from starvation. The Lord used Esther’s captivity to save her people from annihilation. And Daniel to help lead his people back to reclaim their homeland.
But the greatest beauty of these godly persons’ lives is that they kept their eyes fixed on that same Eben-ezer rock. Even through all their trials, they kept looking back to say, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
Into a Jehovah-Jireh year
And this helped them go forward with Jehovah-Jireh on their lips: “God will provide.” They knew God as a firm, solid, and unchanging rock. They lived with the certaintly that if he had helped them thus far, he would continue to do so in the future.
2020 has been a difficult, trial-filled year. In which (sad to say) I often complained, chafing under all the restrictions. But looking back I have to say that it was also an Eben-ezer year. Thus far the Lord has helped us.
And I’m certain that the next will be a Jehovah-Jireh year. God will provide. With Eben-ezer and Jehovah-Jireh as our banners, I think we can enter 2021 in safety and with confidence.
Even not knowing will it bring. The pandemic could either be conquered or worsen. We may face even more poverty, unemployment, and sickness. Or perhaps even new calamities will arise.
But I want to encourage you with this thought. If you’re reading this, it means God has been an Eben-ezer to you. He has brought you through. You may be battle-scarred and feeling weak – but he has been your stone of help. And because one of this rock’s names is Jehovah-Jireh – he will continue to provide.
Has the rollercoaster of 2020 left you feeling dizzy or even battle-scarred? Remember this one thing: the Lord has been your Ebenezer. He has brought you through!!Tweet