Yeah, when I read the word I could only remember A Christmas Carol and Ebenezer Scrooge. (In fact there was also a house tune that had a line that said ‘He’s a scrooge, He’s a scrooge, He’s Ebenezer Scrooge.’ Not that I was into house music much in the past, but a good friend of mine was and I heard that tune from him and it was weird at the time, but it’s stuck wit me since. Anyway.)
Ebenezer, however, has a far richer and deeper meaning than a man who needed some ghosts to discover the true meaning of Christmas. For the defeated people of Israel this name highlighted a turning point in their relationship with God as they discovered the true meaning of being the people of God.
The role of Samuel in this situation cannot be underestimated. As the people of Israel are still recovering from the Ichabod effect and humiliating defeat to their enemies, now Samuel sees the time is right for the people to do what is necessary. Return to the Lord. Returning to the Lord was a matter of the heart. Returning to the Lord was a heartfelt response of getting rid of everything that had taken his place and crying out to Him, even to the point of corporately fasting expressing their need for Him and Him alone.
This was clearly pivotal in the response that God gave when He saw His rebellious people return to Him. Now He became their fortress and their defender. When the enemy sought to take advantage of this time of repentance and corporate sorrow, God came in and confused the enemy. The victory that was won that day was hugely reflective of what God does when His people return to Him – He in turn returned what had been taken from them.
Samuel’s role in that was to be the spearhead as the people pursued the enemy. Samuel was to continue to cry out and as it was abundantly clear he had a close relationship with God, the people were happy to recognise that and affirm that in his position as a judge over the people. A godly man serving the people helped to cultivate a position where the enemy could not oppose again, not because of the man’s military prowess, but because of his spiritual affinity with the Lord of hosts.
So to the place that Samuel named Ebenezer – a signal to all that the Lord had helped them to that point. A declaration that victory, recovery and a renewed sense of identity and strength had been brought about by God Himself.
These episodes are recorded in scripture to train and assure us in the way of completely relying on God and in times where we have strayed recognising that there is a way to return and see Him recover and restore what really belongs to us – our identity in Him, our relationship with Him and seeing His will expand where it belongs as He helps us to this point.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden