For sixty seconds each morning, with toothpaste foaming, I smile as my eyes rest on two perfectly round stones that make their home on the edge of my sink. They came from the coast of a tiny French town where my husband talked me into jumping off an abandoned stone fishing pier into the frigid Mediterranean. The sun was just setting as I paced and giggled nervously before taking the unplanned plunge. It was refreshing — not so much the water but the surge of adrenaline, the surge of being alive and being spontaneous with the one I love. Now these stones, 4000 miles from their home, daily remind me to keep jumping. They have become an “Ebenezer” calling me to not take myself so seriously, a visual reminder to take the leap and to trust my God who calls me to more. It’s a reminder to be bold and live confidently, especially on an average day where there is no ocean and the jump He’s calling me to is the way I live my life.
“Ebenezer” sounds like a funny church word, but it’s packed with powerful purpose and meaning. Simply put, an Ebenezer is a physical, visual reminder pointing us to recall God’s faithfulness. The word was coined by Samuel after the Israelites won what seemed like an impossible battle, but God provided victory for his people (1 Samuel 7). As a way to commemorate and glorify God, Samuel set up a stone of remembrance, an “Ebenezer” so the people would not forget what God had done.
Throughout scripture we see the spiritual practice of remembering because, let’s face it, God knew we would have a tendency to forget. Often, after a battle was won or a miracle preformed, a pile of stones would be set in a prominent place so, with the return of the everyday rhythms of life, people would see and recall the faithfulness of God and tell of His glory. This is important because the message of the miracle is never just for the moment but for the masses to remember long after. A beautiful example of this is in Joshua 4 when the Israelites were finally on the cusp of entering the Promised Land.
The first generation was gone and now their children were being led by Joshua into the place they had longed for. In this climatic moment, God miraculously splits the Jordan River – much like he had split the Red Sea for the previous generation – and allowed his people to walk into their promised home. Can you even imagine? Waters split open and the people walk on dry land! They had heard stories about the Red Sea, but now they were experiencing their own miracle – God was making a way. After all the people had passed over the land, God commanded Joshua to send leaders from every tribe back into the dry river bed, back into the miracle, and hoist a large stone on their back and carry it to the center of the camp to remind everyone what God had done. He was to build an “Ebenezer.”
Because God knew they were about to face unfathomable obstacles in the days, months, and years ahead – EVEN in the Promised Land – and they would need to remember that their God was faithful and He would come through. Their God would provide. Their God would not give up or forget them. Those stones would silently proclaim, “Remember the past and do not fear the future!”
God had shown his power by splitting the waters, so surely, he could have easily chosen the stones and dropped the pile in the camp by himself, but no. God always invites people into the process and gives them a role in the remembering. He called for people to step back into the miracle and carry the message of hope in the form of a stone on their back to the rest of their family.
In the same way, God invites us to step into the miracles he has done in our lives and claim stones of remembrance and proclaim hope to the world. Our stories are megaphones for His glory.
Let’s get practical.
Creating an Ebenezer, which is a visual reminder and spiritual exercise set in motion by God to herald the unwavering-always-come-through-message of God’s provision and care for his children, isn’t a commandment, but it is helpful in so many ways in our walk with the Lord. So, how do you do that? How do you make an “Ebenezer”?
Maybe you do have a pile of tiny stones like the two rocks that keep me company as I brush my teeth each morning. My stones remind me to be brave, to jump, to run, and do the promised things God has called me to do. Yours may do the same. But, it doesn’t have to be stones; your Ebenezer can look many different ways. You can simply make a list of the ways God has provided for you and post it in a place where you can see it daily. Or you could journal about God’s goodness in your life, or post words of God’s love on your refrigerator, or fill a jar with notes on strips of paper proclaiming how God has provided for you. Anything that lifts your eyes up to Jesus when you’re tempted to only look at the obstacles in your circumstance can be your “Ebenezer”. Begin now, so in a few years you will have a treasure trove of hope and history to share with the world about the faithfulness of your Father.
Let’s be the kind of people that remember, because remembering God’s past of faithful deliverance builds our future faith and makes us bold. People who remember, are grateful people. And grateful people live with open arms and open lives and want to invite others into the story God is writing – because we have seen and experienced Him. The memories – these Jesus stories– are not just for your sake, but the for the sake of others. The Gospel and gifts of God that we have experienced are never meant to end with us. No! They are meant to move through us and propel us with a message of hope to a hurting and broken world that desperately needs the Hope of all Hope – his name is Jesus.
Today, remember well. Trust God. And walk confidently into your future.
Emily Vogeltanz is part of Passion City Church where she helps lead The Grove, a monthly gathering for the women of Atlanta. Emily has 4 AMAZING kids, a never-ending pile of laundry, and a deep love for the Word of God. Her love language is cooking, so come over for dinner sometime.