#Realtalk Stone of Help
So far in this series, we have heard how Bill overcame a hurtful friendship through the encouragement of a friend for him to return to Christ. We also heard from Randy about how Christ’s forgiveness of him allowed him to forgive an abusive childhood and grow in grace.
There have been many times I have felt the overwhelming presence of God and have witnessed the way he comes through for his people in need, when they cry out to him. I call these moments, small and big my “Ebenezer”s taken from the second verse of a well-known hymn, Come Thou Fount and a Bible Story.
The Bible Story is found in 1 Samuel 7. In this story, the Israelites were mourning what felt to them as the Lord’s abandonment, the loss of his presence. You see, the Israelites suffered great losses in battle with the Philistines: men, their priest and the Ark of the covenant. Even after the Philistines returned the Ark with gifts, the Lord struck down 70 of them for peering into the Ark. But Samuel encouraged the people of Israel to seek the Lord again. “Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.””(1 Samuel 7:3) The Israelites followed Samuel’s advice and begged for Samuel to plead with God to save them. They found God to be faithful in giving aid. In verse 12, we find that Samuel placed a stone as a reminder of the Lord’s salvation, his goodness. This “stone of help” is the Ebenezer.
I have millions of these small stones from kind strangers who help me and my children push my car into the gas station and fill the tank, to the generosity of a friend who brings me lunch at school. I also have several large stones, boulders that cannot be denied.
One such boulder reminds me how the Lord rescued me from an abusive marriage. Having chopped down the idol of other’s perceptions built high by the lies I hid behind so no one else would “know” or think less of me, God broke my chains with truth and put numerous people in my path who built me up and encouraged me, who prayed for me and my children and my ex, who provided for our needs in abundance and revealed further to me the power, the grace, and perfect love of a Heavenly King. The truths that broke my chains are these:
1. He first loved me.
2. He sees me.
3. His love relentlessly pursues me.
He First Loved Me.
Romans 5 talks about God’s great love for us. Verse 8 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (NLT) God has made the first move toward intimacy with each of us. With his son, he built the connection with us so that we may have a secure relationship with Him. The third verse of the hymn, Come Thou Fount, says this:
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be,
Let thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
The grace that God shows us he does first and generously, then allows us to choose the relationship in response. He does not ask us to bind ourselves to the whim of a self-pleasing deity, but calls to our hearts with his faithfulness and goodness.
He Sees Me
“While we were still sinners.” He sees me for who I am, my strengths and weaknesses, my needs, my triumphs and my mistakes, my heart and intentions, my hurts and my barbs. He knows it all. In Genesis 16, Hagar, the servant of Sarai, runs from the mistreatment she suffers at the regret of Sarai’s choices. God comes to her, tells her to return and promises her a great and mighty son. She gives God the name “You are the God who sees me”. He knew who she was, what she had done, and what she had suffered, and still held a future for her and her child. He showed her love and encouraged her. He does the same for each of us. He isn’t deceived by the versions of us we present to other people, or the spins we put to shed a brighter light on ourselves or our idols. He loves the authentic us, all of it, even when we can’t recognize it.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
His Love Relentlessly Pursues Me
In the Psalm above, David sings of how well the Lord knows him and how his Spirit follows him even into the darkness!
I know what it is to be pursued into the darkness by evil, and I know what it is to be pursued while in the darkness by the Light. Both evoke awe, one at the horrors and atrocities it is willing to commit to ensnare and enslave, the other at the great sacrifices and the wondrous goodness and diligence in granting freedom. The Light is not intimidated by the darkness. In fact, in the darkness, Light does some of its best work. This Light is the love of God demonstrated through his son, Christ Jesus. This love faced ridicule, shame, complete despair, and even death for our sakes to reveal to us its immeasurable depth and width and height, its infinite reach. So:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
Did you catch it? NOTHING can separate us from the love of God! His Love chases us down in the darkness to break the chains that bind us there and free us.
What will you do with such freedom and power given also to you, beloved friends??
What Ebenezers have you set that remind you of God’s goodness and faithfulness?