For me, the name Ebenezer conjures a wizened old farmer in dirt smudged coveralls. I wonder if anyone’s been named Ebenezer since the 20th century.
I heard an interesting reference to Ebenezer in Joni Eareckson Tada’s seven-day devotional Shelter in Place with Joni.
Joni, a quadriplegic since she injured her cervical spine in a swimming accident as a teen, could have taken another road. She could have surrendered to her depression, spiritual doubts, and suicidal thoughts. She could have become bitter, resentful, someone unpleasant to be around. Instead, she turned to God, not from him, and founded Joni and Friends, a ministry that shares the Gospel, especially to people with disabilities.
Given that background, I thought her Shelter in Place devotional would be inspiring in these difficult days. And it was. (You can download the free Bible app on your smart phone. Click on “plans” and search using the title.) She made one comment that challenged me. Joni referred to her wheelchair as her Ebenezer because it was a symbol of God moving in her life, of her triumph over what could have destroyed her.
I had to find out about this Ebenezer guy or thing. As it turned out, Ebenezer was a location that was the site of a battle between Israel and the Philistines. Israel lost. Later, in I Samuel 7.12 I read how Israel eventually routed the Philistines. Samuel erected a sone between Mizpah and Shen and named it “Ebenezer” because, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” Ebenezer means “stone of help.”
Now, referring to her wheelchair as her Ebenezer, Joni was praising God for all the ways he helped her. Her wheelchair, rather than a prison, symbolized how he holds her in the palm of his hand.
Your Ebenezer can be anything that reminds you of God’s unwavering care for you. A wedding ring can be your Ebenezer because God brought you and your spouse through a difficult time. It may be a scar that reminds you of life-saving surgery. It could be a helmet that protected you from a head injury. How many small Bibles tucked into soldiers’ uniforms took bullets meant kill?
Personally, I no longer believe in co-incidences. I believe God moves in history, in time, and in our lives. I think if we look closely, we will find many Ebenezers hiding in plain sight.
What is your Ebenezer?