Have you ever wondered, as have I, why in the face of adversity, the human race continually fails to look back and see where the hand of God was working?
I find it hard to wrap my head around the incredulity demonstrated by early Hebrews, who after being freed from slavery by their God (a God who performed extraordinary miracles in their sight to force the Egyptian pharaoh to free them from their servitude and allow their exodus), would nonetheless turn their backs on him during a time of need during their exodus.
Their spiritual amnesia defys logic in my thinking. But when you think about it, don’t today’s Christians often display a similar amnesia?
Failing to look back at your life and acknowledging a time where God has provided for your needs, can exclude him from your present adversity.
I call the place I look back to, my ebenezar.
The word “ebenezar” comes from the book of 1 Samuel. The place where the Israelites camped before their battle with the Philistines is called Eben-haezer (or Ebenezer in English translations). During their battle with the Philistines, they were defeated, raising questions among the elders as to why.
They then brought the Ark of God into camp and carried it into their next battle with the Philistines – thinking they would surely be victorious, only to be soundly defeated a second time, allowing the ark to be captured by the Philistines.
After capturing the ark, the Philistines took it to the Philistine city of Ashdod. For seven months the ark was moved from city to city, because everywhere the ark was present, God brought devastation and affliction, so the Philistines returned it to the Israelites.
For twenty years following the ark’s return, the Israelites lamented their separation from God, until Samuel brought the whole house of Israel before him to exhort them by saying, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
After doing what Samuel had told them, he assembled them at Mizpah, where they fasted and confessed their sin. Samuel then interceded on their behalf before God.
When the Philistines learned of their gathering at Mizpah, they sent their rulers to attack them, and upon hearing this, the Israelites feared another defeat at their hands, so they implored Samuel to not stop interceding for them, so that they might be rescued from certain defeat. Samuel then offered a sacrifice unto God, and began crying out on their behalf for God’s help, and God answered his cry.
With loud thunder, God threw the Philistines into a panic and they were routed by the Israelites.
To commemorate what had just happened, Samuel set a stone at the place where the Philistines were defeated, and named it Eben-Ezra, which means “stone of help“.
Looking back at our Eben-Ezra will serve to remind us of how God worked for our good then, and will embolden us to trust him for help now.