In Luke 19:40 Jesus said, “If we keep quiet (and don’t praise God), the stones will cry out.” Why would you and I remain silent, forfeiting to stones the joy of praising God for what He has done?
Samuel used stones as a memorial when God’s people wanted to remember His goodness and faithfulness. First Samuel 7:12 says that when God enabled the Israelites to defeat the Philistines, the Prophet Samuel “took a stone and … named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the Lord helped us.’”
Joshua also used stones to help God’s people remember His goodness. After wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the Israelites experienced the power of God to roll back the waters of the Jordan River, enabling them to cross over and take possession of the Promised Land. Joshua then commanded them to build a memorial of stones as a public testimony of what God had done for them … stones that would remind them to keep on praising Him.
Do you know the old hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”? In one stanza it says:
Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’ve come!
I doubt that many people who sing this hymn have the vaguest idea what is meant by that phrase. What was the song-writer referring to with this obscure and unfamiliar phrase about raising an Ebenezer?
When you hear the word Ebenezer, you probably think of Scrooge from Dicken’s Christmas Carol. Not too many people name their sons Ebenezer these days. But in Scripture we find this word in 1 Samuel 7:12:
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”
Literally the word Ebenezer means “Stone of Help.” Samuel set up—or raised—this stone as a memorial, a marker-stone, to commemorate the victory they had just concluded over the Philistines. This was not a stone to be worshiped; it was not to make a certain place holy, like a Mecca. But Samuel knew well that the Israelites were very prone to forget God’s goodness and God’s blessings. So, he raised this stone as an everlasting reminder of how God had helped them win this victory.
I thought that this landmark program—number 1500—was a good time to talk about Ebenezer stones—or stones of remembrances—for our own lives, by looking at the life of Moses. There were some definite Ebenezer stones in his life—stones of remembrance, stones when God helped him. And these turning points in his life relate to ours as well. As we look at Moses’ Stones of Remembrance, consider how your own life may have some similar ones. The first one would be:
The Stone of Salvation
You are no doubt familiar with the story of how his life was saved as a baby by a very creative mother and sister. When Pharaoh’s daughter saw baby Moses in the basket on the Nile, she took him into Pharaoh’s home and raised him as one of her own. He was physically saved, so there would be a stone of salvation for Moses.
Do you have a stone of salvation? I’m talking about salvation from the penalty of your sins. Can you tell of a time when you were made aware of your sins, where you were convicted of your sinful condition, and you knew that you could not save yourself?
If you have not yet set up your stone of salvation, here’s all you have to do:
Romans 10:9-10: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
As Moses grew to manhood, he was educated as an Egyptian with all the privileges that came from being raised as Pharaoh’s daughter. But he never forgot that he was a Jew, one of God’s chosen people, so he wanted to help his people. Pharaoh kept the Jewish people in bitter servitude and they were sorely mistreated. One day when Moses saw an Egyptian beating one of his Hebrew brothers, he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand. He thought he was doing the right thing to defend his countryman, but the next day, when he saw two Hebrews fighting each other and tried to stop them, they turned on him and said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”
Well, this just blew Moses away. He thought his murderous act was a secret, but now he realized it wasn’t, and when Pharaoh heard about it, he tried to kill Moses. So Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he became a lowly, humble shepherd. For 40 years Moses lived in exile in Midian.
Here Moses would need to raise a
Stone of Shame.
Overnight Moses went from the prestigious position as Pharaoh’s grandson to that of a fugitive. He had disgraced himself by killing a man, and now he had lost his honor and his position and he was reduced to being a shepherd in a foreign land—for 40 long years.
Have you ever had a Stone of Shame in your life? I have. My period of shame lasted for ten years—ten years when I decided I could run my life better than God, and I walked away from my commitment to him and did my own thing. I told myself a lie and believed it—and the lie was that life would be intolerable without a husband. There could be no happiness or fulfillment if I didn’t get a man! Now, I know I’m the only woman in the world to ever think like that, but that’s the truth!
So, my legitimate need for love and acceptance became an addiction, as I determined to do it my way instead of trusting God. During those ten years, doing my own thing led to a sinful lifestyle, one that was not pleasing to God, and one of shame.
Maybe some of you are in that place now. You know that something is not right in your life. You’re living in disobedience to God’s plan for your life, and you know it. Or there is a big dark cloud hanging over you from your past and you’re stuck at the Stone of Shame. God wants to help you put this Stone of Shame behind you so you can move forward to the good things he has for you.
Moses figured he had blown it so badly, that God would never use him again. But he was wrong. After 40 years, as Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law at Horeb, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.
As God spoke to him from the burning bush, he commissioned Moses to rescue his people from the hand of the Egyptians. Moses is now a humbled man, and he insists that he cannot do it. But God said to him, “I will be with you. I am who I am, and you will tell the Israelites that ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Moses feared they would not believe him, so God gave him some signs to assure him that as long as God was with him, he could do what God called him to do.
So, here Moses would raise a
Stone of Assurance
I have to believe that there are some of you who need a Stone of Assurance. You need to know that God isn’t through with you yet, and he has a plan for you. Like Moses, you may need reassurance that he will be with you, but you have to give him control of your life.
What is it that is keeping you from doing what God has planned for you to do? Is it fear? Is it that you have your own plan and you just want God to bless your plan? Is it laziness? Is it lack of trust in God’s ability to do through you what you cannot do yourself? Is it a relationship? Until you submit it to God, you cannot go forward to the good things that God has for you, the good works he put you here to do.
After forty long years Moses was finally ready to do what God had called him to do. And now begins the battle between Moses and Pharaoh to let God’s people go! You know how God took them across the Red Sea, escaping Pharaoh’s last attempt to catch them and bring them back. They crossed on dry ground, and Pharaoh and his army were drowned as the waters came rushing back over them.
There Moses could raise a
Stone of Deliverance
Surely there are many who need to raise a stone of deliverance, a memorial to God’s faithfulness in your lives. A testimony of his goodness to you in spite of all you’ve done and all your failures. Has he been faithful to you? Then raise your Stone of Deliverance.
Many years later as Moses was presenting to the children of Israel the tablets with the Ten Commandments, he said to them:
“The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared this day that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him. And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands” (Deut. 26:16 – 18).
He challenged the people to set up a
Stone of Commitment
They were to declare before God and his servant Moses and before all the people that they were committed to obey the Lord, to walk in his ways, to keep his commands, to glorify their God all the days of their lives.
Today some of us need to set up a stone of commitment, publicly and without reservation, where we say to God, “I’m not playing around any longer. I am serious about walking with you, obeying you, living for you, spending time getting to know you.”
Yes, there are landmark times when we need to set some stones of remembrance: a Salvation Stone, or a Stone of Shame, a Stone of Assurance and one of Deliverance, and a Stone of Commitment. What stones—what Ebenezers—do you need to raise maybe even today? Could you just stop and take time to think back and let God’s Spirit speak to you. It’s a good time to raise some stones of remembrance; stones that will help us to go forward to the new thing that God wants to do for us and through us this year.
Read Joshua 3 and 4.
I. THE LITERAL STONES | Joshua 4:1-9
- Read Joshua: 4:2-3, 5, 8. What were the stones of remembrance and where did they come from?
- Read Joshua 4:6-7. Why did God say they were to be collected and carried to the riverbank?
- What literal objects could you place in your home or office that would serve as reminders to you of your personal experiences of God’s power?
- What are some other practical ways you can remember what God has done for you in order to cultivate and maintain an attitude of gratitude?
- From the following passages, describe other visuals God gave His people and what each represented: Genesis 9:12-16; Exodus 12:1-13; Matthew 26:26-29; John 20:24-29.
II. THE LIVING STONES | Joshua 4:10-18
- Read Joshua 4:10. What was necessary before the Israelites could experience God’s power?
- Read Joshua 4:11. What was the living proof of God’s power?
- What do you think the crossing of the Jordan symbolizes in the Christian life?
- Did the Israelites believe their experience of God’s power meant their lives would be easy from then on? Give a verse to prove your point.
- What is significant in Joshua 4:18? How would this affect the Israelites?
- Who are the living stones today? See 1 Peter 2:4-5; Ephesians 2:19-22.
III. THE LASTING STONES | Joshua 4:19-24
- Read Joshua 4:22-24. What did the stones mean?
- Read Joshua 4:6-7, 22. What were the Israelites to do with the memories of their experiences of God’s power?
- When others look at your life, do they demand an explanation for what they see? What explanation do you give them?
- What testimony are you leaving behind for your children/grandchildren, and how will you be sure they get it?
- What are at least two reasons for us to give verbal testimony to what God has done for us? See Joshua 4:24; Luke 1:1-4; John 4:28-42; John 20:30-31; 1 John 1:1-4.
- How do nine of the 10 lepers in Luke 17:11-19 illustrate only living stones, but not lasting stones? How does the one leper illustrate both a living stone and a lasting stone?
Take a moment now to reflect on God’s blessings, grace, and power in your life. Write down what you remember and make two copies … one to keep, and one to give to someone else as a witness of what He has done for you. Then praise God for Jesus, His living, lasting Stone.