Another Memorial Day is upon us yet as we head into the weekend it occurs to me that few know what they are actually celebrating. For them it is a Monday holiday that takes place in May. It’s a great time of year for a little extra rest and relaxation, to invite some friends over and fire up the barbecue. I admit, I must count myself among those with this mentality. However, yesterday as I pondered this upcoming Memorial Day the LORD impressed something on my heart. He said, “Ebeneezer.”
You may be thinking to yourself, “Ebeneezer? Why would the LORD talk about a crotchety, greedy old man?” It’s true. Most of us associate the name Ebeneezer with Ebeneezer Scrooge, the central character of Dickens’ famous play, “Christmas Carol.” While what I am talking about may bear the same name, the meaning is entirely different.
In 1 Samuel 7 we find the nation of Israel in dire straits. The Philistines had come in force and they were bent on the destruction. The people were greatly afraid (with good reason) and so they sought out God’s prophet. These were the words with which he addressed the people.
“If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”
The children of Israel had sinned against God. They had broken the first commandment and had departed from their first love. In response the LORD had removed His hand of protection from the nation. Their arch rival was massing before them and was ready to spill much blood. The key to what takes place from here is in the response of the people. Upon hearing Samuel’s warning it says, “So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.”
While there is much more to the story (I encourage you to read 1 Samuel 7) it is important to note the well-defined sequence of events. Israel sinned against God. God was ready to respond in judgment towards the people. The sin which caused this judgment to stand literally outside the gates was identified and the people repented with all their hearts.
It was this sequence of events that set the stage for the LORD to prove Himself faithful and merciful yet again. The text reads in verses 10-11,
“Now as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the Lord thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car.”
In response to the people’s repentance God stepped in. It’s important to note that He didn’t have to. The people had sinned against Him. Their hearts had departed from Him and they were worshiping other Gods. So when God allowed the Philistines to surround Israel He was just. The people had broken His covenant. There was nothing in the law that guaranteed or even insinuated that He would be merciful and yet He was.
It’s here that we find a word that most have overlooked. After this miraculous victory in verse 12 it says, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebeneezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” Obviously Ebeneezer is a significant name then, but what does it mean?
The word Ebeneezer אֶבֶן הָעֵזֶר comes from the Hebrew word “eh’-ben haw-e’-zer” which simply means “stone of help.” The idea is that of a memorial. It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Every time that the people would see this particular Ebeneezer they would remember how the LORD had delivered them from the hands of the Philistines. While this is the only specific story of an Ebeneezer being erected in scripture, it’s likely that this was not the only time such a monument was set up in remembrance of God’s faithfulness.
So while we spend time with friends and family, feast and enjoy, what we likely have never realized is that this Memorial Day celebration is not just a time to remember those who have fallen in service to our country. It is a time to remember the LORD’s faithfulness and His mercies. See, like the nation of Israel, we have gone astray. The problem is that we have not progressed through the pattern we see established in 1 Samuel 7.
The fact is that most have not seen the danger. Most don’t realize that this nation is on the edge and that what lies before us is chaos and destruction. The enemy is amassing and they are intent on destruction. Meanwhile we as a nation continue to thumb our nose at the King of kings and Lord of lords. In our stubbornness we persist in the worship of idols. Unlike the nation of Israel who heard the warning and cried out to God, we hear the warning only to hit the proverbial snooze button.
God is faithful. We see it time and time again as we look through history and particularly at this nation’s great conflicts. Yes, men have fought and died for a greater cause. They have spilled blood and have shed their own on the field of battle. They have been willing to give it all to see the ideal of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness preserved in this land. Along the way spiritual Ebeneezer have been erected. They point to God’s faithfulness and His mercies. They stand as memorials that will never be destroyed, even if this nation should fall.
The questions we must ask in this hour are simple and yet they will define our destiny. “Will we turn from our wickedness and seek God? Will we tear down our false idols, repent of our worship of them and seek His face?” Remember the progression that led up to Samuel’s erecting of an Ebeneezer. The people repented. They tore down their false idols and they consecrated themselves unto God. Only then did He deliver them. Without a doubt, if the nation of Israel had seen the warning signs but refused this course of action they would have been destroyed.
I believe that God is offering up another Ebeneezer. On this Memorial Day He is saying, “If you will tear down your idols and return unto Me I will be faithful and merciful but if you refuse to heed My warning I will snatch from your hand not only your idols but all that you hold dear.”
America, tear down your Satanic altars. Only then may an Ebeneezer be erected in their place. May the LORD bless this nation and may He bless you.
~ Mitch Salmon
Mitch Salmon is a follower of Jesus Christ and proclaimer of the Good News – The Gospel of Christ Jesus!