Ebenezer: Stones of Remembrance

Text: 1 Samuel 7:1-14

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” —1 Samuel 7:12

“Right now I’m having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time. I think I’ve forgotten this before,” comedian Steven Wright once quipped. The older I get, the more I appreciate the living canvas of memories. I’m often intrigued by the things I remember with great detail versus the things I can only vaguely recall. It’s interesting to me that the Bible seems to encourage selective memory.

There are some things God wants us to let go of in regard to the past.

The Apostle Paul practiced his own rendition of selective amnesia: “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13). Through the prophet Isaiah, God said, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” A few verses later, God admitted that even He will not recall certain things: “I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:18-19, 25)—this only through Christ’s blood on the cross (Matthew 26:28, 1 John 1:7-9).

Then there are things that Scripture admonishes us to never forget.

We are to “not forget the works of God” (Psalm 78:7). We are to “forget none of His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). We are to “remember His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations” (1 Chronicles 16:15).

In 1 Samuel 7:1-14, during a time when Israel experiences revival under the leadership of Samuel, the nation repents of their sins and begins to seek the Lord. Samuel gathered the people at Mizpah where they confessed their sin, and he offered a sacrifice on their behalf. As they gave their hearts to repentance and renewal, the enemy attacked, but God “thundered” with supernatural help. He threw the enemy into a severe panic and they were routed before the Israelites. Israel’s victory over the Philistines was decisive, and it was a long time before the Philistines thought about invading Israel again!

To commemorate that divine victory, Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, naming it Ebenezer; saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us” (v. 12). Ebenezer meant “stone of help.” Thereafter, every time an Israelite saw this stone, it would serve as a reminder of God’s power, provision, and protection. This stone marked the spot where the enemy had been routed and God’s promise to bless His repentant people had been honored.

Early in our marriage, my wife took a spice rack and converted it into a “memorial” rack for our very own Ebenezer stone collection. To this day, that rack hangs in our kitchen, lined with many stones representing victories God has given us over the years. Occasionally I pick up some of those stones and remember—at times with a tear and at times with a smile—how God has taken care of us over the years. Those stones make for great testimonies that we are able to share with others.

In Stones of Remembrance, Daniel Amen says: “Memory enables us to bring the joys, dreams and lessons of yesterday into today. As we recall God’s faithfulness, we remain centered and growing, and we move forward with a sense of purpose. Memory allows us to keep our loved ones close, even when they are far away. It assures us that our personal history and experiences matter—that we have something valuable to teach the generations to come. This is the way God designed our minds to work—to remember. It’s been that way from the very beginning.”

What can you erect in your life that will cause you to remember what great things God has done, and to share those testimonies with future generations? Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week!

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, help us to be a people who forget the things we need to forget, but remember the things we need to remember. Teach us the kind of selective memory that is healthy for our soul, glorifying to you, and edifying to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection and/or Family Discussion:

  1. What do you remember most about your early childhood?
  2. Over the course of your life, what victories has God given you that stand out the most in your memory?
  3. Why do you think God doesn’t want us to forget His works in our lives?
  4. In what ways can you memorialize what God has done in your life?
  5. What can we learn about the importance of repentance and confession from 1 Samuel 7? How does it correlate with victory? Is there a need for this in your life right now?

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