The people of Israel had a habit of trying to add to God. They liked the God of the Bible, but if they could add the idols of the surrounding nations, then all their bases were covered. If God failed, they had idols to give them good luck. The opposite happened as they made God mad, and life got worse as the armies of the Philistines took over their land.
1 Samuel chapter 7 is a plea for the people to worship God alone. If they commit themselves to him, he will help them push out the invading armies. They put away their idols, and then they are to fight, and the prophet Samuel will offer a sacrifice as they all “cry out to God.”
As the Philistines are being pushed back, the Bible says, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” (1 Samuel 7:12 – NIV 2011)
Samuel stops and sets up a stone and calls it Ebenezer. The name means “The Stone of Help.” As God gives the people of Israel their freedom, he sees a large rock and sets it up for the people to see and be reminded of his help. I am not sure how he did it or how it looked. It is possible it was just an average stone set up in a non-natural way. Maybe it was something fancy, but that doesn’t seem to fit the context. It was just a rock set up, probably along the main road, so that everyone would see it and be reminded of the power of God. Samuel had the people get rid of their idols and gave them a visual reminder of God’s help in making their lives better.
I have often wondered if this was a good idea for every believer. What if we took a place on our property and put up a stone or planted a tree or rose bush and called it an Ebenezer? Then every time we saw it, we could be reminded of God helping us in our lives? We would have to be careful that these little monuments did not become idols that we worship, but remain small testimonies to God’s working as we worship him. Wouldn’t it be awesome to walk around and be reminded of the time God did this and then this and then this and on and on it goes?
Samuel thought it useful to raise an Ebenezer, and maybe we should too.