A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Ebenezer? Ebenezer who? If it were Christmas, you’d understand my talking about Ebenezer Scrooge. He’s the stingy boss in Dickens’ story, “A Christmas Carol.” He’s that scowling misfit who mutters “Humbug!” until the ghosts of Christmas haunt him to repent. But what does he have to do with Thanksgiving? Stick with me and I’ll tell you what. (Actually it has nothing to do with Scrooge, but with his name Ebenezer!)
The Bible book of First Samuel tells the story of the Israelites come home from slavery in Egypt. They’d been badly beaten in battle by the Philistines, and they were facing another bloody encounter. The prophet Samuel told the people that if they would turn back to God, He would deliver them from their cruel enemies. So the Israelites did. They told God how sorry they were that they’d abandoned Him. God heard their cries, and made it thunder so terribly that the Philistines fled in panic.
To help the Israelites never to forget that God had helped them to “this very day,” Samuel set up a huge rock, and carved on it: “Ebenezer, the stone of help.” When they saw that huge rock, they were to remember that God had helped them to that very day. “Let this stone always remind you of God’s faithfulness.” (1 Samuel 7:10-14).
How can you be thankful this Thanksgiving, when things are so very hard? The economy is in frightful shape. The national debt has soared to 31 trillion dollars, a debt your children will inherit. Food prices are high. The stock market is frighteningly unstable. COVID is still untamed. Nuclear war still threatens. You may face difficult problems personally: fractured relationships, family disloyalty; an uncertain job future, the death of a cherished loved one, a perilous health problem. You may wonder if you can find anything to thank God for this Thanksgiving.
You need the reminder of Ebenezer: “God has helped me this far.” Recall the ways God has provided for you in the past: food, shelter, friends, work to do for Him. Acknowledge that you’ve had great trials. But your God has never forsaken you. He’s still your God, your Safety, your Redeemer, your Friend. When you trusted Him as your Savior, He forgave your every sin. He’s comforted you in other hard times. Your faithful, loving, wise God is not going to abandon you now.
God has said,
“I will never, never leave you.
I will never, never forsake you.”
That is why we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper,
so I will not be afraid.” (Hebrews 13:5,6)
Back in the 18th century, Robert Robinson came to know the Lord when he was 22 years old. He wrote the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” shortly after. You may have been perplexed by the meaning of the second verse:
Here I raise mine Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’ve come;
And I hope by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at Home.
What does “hitherto” mean? “Up to this point.” What does “Raise mine Ebenezer” mean? “I will constantly and intentionally remember the gracious gifts God has given me up till now.” Wouldn’t that surely make this Thanksgiving most memorable and blessed?