A Stone Named Ebenezer

Lorna Johnston /Friday, November 15, 2019

A Rock Habit

I have this odd habit--I like to collect rocks. I find them fascinating—each one is unique and in its own way, interesting.

I am as likely to come home from a holiday with a rock as I am with some other memento. I have rocks of all types in my home and in my garden, and each of them at the time was marking a particular event or memory (some of which, I confess, are now lost to my memory).

Some stand out as unique and remind me of particularly memorable family events. The big rock at the corner of the walkway from a family holiday when our kids were really young. Quite a few rocks from fun family times in a favorite swimming hole. Rocks from beaches. Rocks from the creek at our friend's place on the Sunshine Coast. We've even inherited some rocks—a piece of petrified wood from an uncles' ranch; a rock with fossils that sat on the mantle in my childhood home—it's origin unknown.

A Rock with a Name

In 1 Samuel 7:12 we encounter this verse: "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."

I always smile when I read this verse, because it's about a rock--one that got named.

The story of that rock and its name have survived in scripture, as a testimonial, just like my rocks, of a particular memory. The memory is of a time when the people of Israel, after having the Ark of the LORD captured by the Philistines and then returned, repented of their sins before the LORD. While they were worshipping God and offering sacrifices to him, they came under threat of attack from their enemies, the Philistines. (To get the context, I encourage you to read 1 Samuel 4-7.)

As they faced this potential battle they asked the LORD for help. The LORD miraculously delivered them from certain defeat by making a really big, thunderous noise that created confusion and 'turned the tables', allowing the Israelites to be victorious over their enemies.

Really?!? God made a big noise and scattered the Philistine army? What a crazy story!

 After that event, the prophet Samuel set up the stone and named it Ebenezer to remind the people of God's miraculous intervention at a point of true desperation, when they were on their knees before him. Ebenezer, Scripture tells us, means 'Thus far the LORD has helped us.'


Stories of God's Faithfulness

Although I don't always have rocks to mark the moment, I do have those stories of when God 'turned the tables' and made it clear that he was acting on my behalf—intervening in places where I felt powerless, or didn't know what to do.

  • When I got 'the job' and found ideal housing in an unfamiliar city, as a direct answer to my request for confirmation of God's blessing on my relationship with the man who is now my husband of 31 years.
  • When God sent a magazine from the UK as part of confirmation of his call to us into mission, leading us away from a stable paycheque, to walk by faith.
  • When God faithfully provided what we needed, again, and again, and again

Stones of Remembrance

I have rocks in my garden that are unnamed.

But I have stones of remembrance, memories in my heart, that serve as markers of God's faithfulness. While I haven't named them, they could each bear the name 'Ebenezer', "Thus far the LORD has helped us."

Every now and then I pause to re-consider God's faithfulness and intervention, thanking him for his 'turning the tables' in a situation that was beyond my control; and then I can draw courage for the places where I once again need him to 'turn the tables'.

How about you? Today I encourage you to consider what 'stones of remembrance' you have in your life where God 'turned the tables'. Why don't you pause, thank God for his faithfulness, and draw courage for the things yet ahead.​


Lorna Johnston in the Diaspora Ministries Leader at Outreach Canada. She leads two national teams--Loving Muslims Together (LMT) and Simply Mobilizing Canada (SMC). She works with teams of diverse and experienced leaders and ministries across Canada to alert and activate the church in Canada to the changing opportunities to engage God's mission right here in Canada.



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