Monday, I suggested making a pile of rocks. This story is one reason.
Most of us don’t have archenemies. Israel did. The Philistines.
They were called Philistines before that became a name for the culturally inept, the artistically challenged. The Philistines had argued with Abraham. They gave Isaac a place to live. They were waiting on the most direct route from Egypt to Israel, but God sent the refugees the long way, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” They were the enemies of Samson and other judges.
And one day the Philistines were headed toward Samuel. The Israelites were terrified. They knew the reputation. They knew their ancestors had struggled against these armies.
So the Israelites did the only thing a self-respecting army can do. They asked Samuel to pray. And to keep praying. And to not stop praying.
So Samuel prayed. And just as the Philistines were ready to attack, they heard a sonic boom. They panicked. They ran. And they left the Israelite s alone.
Samuel found a rock. He moved it, adjusted it, claimed it. His touch made it his. His words made it theirs. He called it Ebenezer, which means “stone of help.” This stone was a reminder for everyone who walked by, who knew the stories, who needed to remember that one time that God won a battle all by himself. All that the people had done was to encourage Samuel to pray incessantly. All Samuel had done was to pray.
Samuel knew they all needed a rock, a reminder of God’s help. Because we all forget. We start to think that it was our wisdom that found the right answer, our brilliant argument that carried the day. And when we are tempted to believe our awesomeness, we hit our shins on Ebenezer: an old rock placed by an old leader for generations who often forget. Like me.