Summary: Remembrance Day message.
Message for Remembrance Day 2011 – Calvary Baptist Church
1 Samuel 7:7-12 – Here I Raise my Ebenezer
It is a pleasure for me to share with you today, on this very special day, a word from the Bible. My family and I honour this day in particular because my grandfather served in the Canadian Air Force, stationed in Iceland in the Second World War. With all that is going on in the world today, the political and social unrest, seen even in our own country, it is good to remember what we have. Yes, there are things wrong in society, with the government, with the system, yes. However, if we look around the world, at countries where your faith or my faith might be illegal, where speaking out is grounds for offence, where a citizen is not allowed to vote, where standing up against the rulers is grounds for execution… Canada is such a great country to live in. And on days like today, we take time to remember why.
I’d like to share with you a thought or two. I want to share with you a story from the OT, a battle in fact, from a war between the Israelites and the Philistines. I don’t know if it’s callous or appropriate to read about an ancient war, here on Remembrance Day, but certainly no disrespect is intended.
In today’s scripture we find the Israelites in a long, drawn-out war. The people were growing tired and losing heart. But the nation had a godly leader in Samuel. He was not the king, but what we call a judge: a leader appointed by God to help the people remain faithful to the Lord. Samuel called on the people to revive their affections for the one true God, to get rid of their back-up plans, their idols, those things they would pray to when other things didn’t seem to work. Samuel told them to rid themselves of all their Plan B’s.
He also instructed them to come back to God, to repent, to admit fault and blame. The people, led by Samuel, gathered at a place called Mizpah, where they sacrificed animals to the Lord, as a symbol of restoring their faith in Him. Meanwhile, the Philistines heard that the people were gathering at Mizpah, and they thought that a sneak attack would be a great idea. But God had other plans. The Lord fought for His people that day, and threw the enemy into confusion. The Israelite army thoroughly routed the enemy Philistines that day.
And Samuel wanted the people to remember that day, the day that God fought for His people. So Samuel took a stone, a single stone, and set it up where the army had won the battle. He called it Ebenezer, which means “stone of help”. It was meant to help people remember what God had done for them. Samuel himself said, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” The King James puts it this way: “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” Hitherto.
The word Ebenezer has come to mean something else. We usually attach it to the word Scrooge, which of course means someone miserly and cheap, mean and bitter. But before Charles Dickens forever changed what we think about the word Ebenezer, someone else wrote about this. His name was Robert Robinson, and he wrote the lyrics to the song that we know by the first line:
Come thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
The 2nd verse says this:
Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
The word “hither” really means “so far”. The songwriter and Samuel both looked back at where they had been, where they had come from, and realized that the Lord had been with them. They got to the place where they were, not by themselves, but because the Lord had brought them this far.
I remember going blueberrying when I lived in northern Maine. There was a place called Horse Mountain in Baxter State Park, some 45 minutes from our house, and I went every summer blueberrying up that hill. We’d climb and struggle and sweat, working our way up that hill, for the reward of those little blue bundles of sweetness. And we’d get to the top, look around, and see the sights. The hills, the lakes, the winding road from the civilization in the distance. And the view of what God had created was wonderful. And as I looked down towards the car in the distance, I’d see how far I’d climbed.
Ebenezer was like the top of Horse Mountain for me. Stopping, looking around, seeing God’s handiwork, and being thankful for what He had done. Remembering where they had been, and what had happened, and how things were now.