Whilst I’m out of the country on a trip to a mysterious undisclosed location, the daily blogging will be achieved through a series of travel-related posts, thanks to the kindness of my friends and family, and the wonders of post-scheduling technology.
This installment of The Travel Diaries is brought to you by Gareth Leaney. Gareth works for uccf:thechristianunions. He blogs about “art and stuff” at Gareth’s Art Blog and tweets nonsense via @gazleaney
In the brilliant old hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing there’s a line which goes, “here I raise my Ebenezer.” To be honest, it always makes me think of Ebenezer Scrooge, and invariably the version played by Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol. But the next line of the song explains what’s really going on:
“Here I raise my Ebenezer
Safely by thy help I’ve come.”
The word comes from 1 Samuel 7. After the Israelite army have defeated the Philistines, Samuel erects a stone monument, which he names Eben-ezer, or, “stone of help.” The stone is a solid, tangible reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness to his people.
It turns out there are lots of monuments like it left behind by God’s people – there are stones, sometimes individually, sometimes in piles. There are altars and wells. If you could retrace the footsteps of God’s people you’d be reminded repeatedly along the way that God was the one who’d brought you that far. The monuments and Ebenezers marked a physical journey that represented the journey of a people with their God.
I’m finding this idea really helpful as, along with lots of other people, I find myself moving on. Before long I’ll be leaving behind familiar places and people and ways of doing things, and I’ll be stepping into the unknown.
It can sometimes feels like it’s more spiritual to take a leap of blind faith at times like this, as if wanting any kind of evidence shows a dangerous lack of faith. Like the bit in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where Indy has to take a ‘step of faith’ across an invisible bridge.
But I’m relieved that God knows us better than that. Instead, He actively encourages his people to plant landmarks to His faithful along the way. He encourages us to look back even as we step forward – we can trust Him with our future because he has shown himself to be trustworthy in the past. And isn’t that how relationships work?
As I think about stepping out into the unknown, I can look back and see all kinds of monuments to God’s faithful care along the way I’ve come. Lessons he’s taught me. Times when he’s generously provided for my needs. Lessons He’s taught me. Hard situations I’ve come through by His grace. Lives He’s changed. And standing behind and above them all is the cross of Christ, the ultimate immovable monument to God’s care for his people. The true “stone of help” standing as a testimony to God’s faithful and gracious provision in Christ, and the promise of his ongoing love and faithfulness.
“Here I raise my Ebenezer
Safely by thy help I’ve come.
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed his precious blood.”
In summary: Ebenezers.