Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites are urged to remember. The more time they spent reflecting on all the ways God has carried them, blessed them, and provided for them, the less likely they were to stray from him.
A Visual Reminder of God's Faithfulness
On the battlefield, where years ago they had suffered defeat, Israel pled with God for help, and he granted them a miraculous victory. Their priest and leader, Samuel, set up a monument to remind them of God's strong hand in their triumph, and Samuel named the pillar Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the Lord has helped us" (1 Samuel 7:12). This stone pillar called God's people to recall, and recall often, the time when God turned events from bad to blessed.
Each time an Israelite saw the Ebenezer stone, they remembered God's help in the past, God's help relied on today, and God's help assured for tomorrow. The Ebenezer was a visual reminder of the Lord's readiness to hear their cries and save them. And it reminded them that victory came from God.
A Written Reminder of God's Faithfulness
Just as the Ebenezer stone called God's people to remember, the psalmists built a similar monument with words. They reached back into the history of God's people and named the marvelous things God had done, the many ways God had delivered them from their enemies, and all the times he forgave their disobedience. The reminders are specific: Didn't God lead you out of bondage in Egypt? Didn't he feed you in the desert and keep doing so, even though you grumbled and complained? Didn't he forgive your repeated idolatry and rampant rebelliousness? And if he did so much for you in times past, can't you depend on him to do as much, if not more, today? And won't he still be there for you tomorrow?
"I will utter hidden things, things from of old," the psalmist said, "things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us"—to help you remember … to remind you of God's power … to give you trust and confidence in him … to teach you to lean on him … to be your Ebenezer for as long as you live this side of heaven (Psalm 78:2-3).
Your Personal Ebenezer
It's important for us to create our own Ebenezer as a reminder of all God has done and continues to do. And it can be a meaningful activity to do with your group. Luckily, creating your own Ebenezer doesn't require a hammer or chisel. You don't need to sit down and pen eloquent songs, as the psalmists did, either. To create your personal Ebenezer, all you need to do is mentally page through your memory album and recall the many victories God has given you.
You might begin by remembering the gifts of life, parents, home, health, education, and family. Your memories could include the blessings of friends, livelihood, community, and nation. But, especially, remember certain events in your life—times when God turned what appeared to be disaster into an unexpected opportunity, or when he took you through hardship so you could gain the gifts of maturity and wisdom. Your personal Ebenezer turns you away from fear, doubt, and disbelief in the present because you realize once again how many times God has forgiven, protected, and healed you in the past.
Begin setting up your personal Ebenezer stone and write the record of your spiritual history—in your mind or own paper. By naming specific people and recalling certain events of your life, you will see God's hand at work and recognize his compassionate love that has brought you through to this day.
- when loving adults sheltered, nurtured, protected, and taught you as you were growing up. Who were they?
- when devastating circumstances shattered your world, and you learned firsthand of people's compassion and generosity. What happened?
- when a hard-earned lesson left you older and wiser, with the experience you need to sympathize with and guide others. Who have you been able to help?
- when serious health problems brought you to a heightened appreciation of life. How has your outlook changed for the better?
- when the loss of a loved one made you realize how important friends and family are to you. What have you said and done to show them how much they mean?
- when your hopes were dashed, but a new and better opportunity presented itself. Which door closed, and which door opened?
- when times were tough, but you survived them by God's grace. How has this given you perspective on the ups and downs of life?
- when you were in danger, but you found a way out. Where was God in this?
- when you found yourself on the wrong spiritual path, but someone guided you back to the way God would have you go. What did you learn?
- when you repented, and God brought peace to your mind and heart. How did this draw you closer to God?
Work through this list in your group, or have group members work on it during the week, bringing their key insights to your next meeting. Your Ebenezer, your historical record, is your present-day monument to all God has done for you in the past. Your memories reveal his presence throughout your life—even when you didn't recognize his presence at the time. Let these memories free you to rely on him today and through every tomorrow. Just as God has been with you in the past, he will remain with you to help you, strengthen you, and bless you now and in the future.
— Patricia Mitchell is a freelance writer in Kansas City; copyright 2011 by Christianity Today. This article originally appeared on ChristianBibleStudies.com.