What is one place you have been that you never want to forget? Israel was one of those places for me. My first trip was in June of 2001. At the time, all I had with me were six disposable cameras, each capable of 36 pictures. So I did my best to capture the experience in 216 pictures. Last year in 2019, I returned to Israel. Only this time I had my iPhone and with digital speed and real time feedback, I took over 2,000 pictures. Every picture capturing a moment in time, a memory worth remembering. Pictures are just one of the many ways we remember the stories of our past to share in the present. I love dusting off the photos and recounting important, memorable moments in my life and story. Often those stories are filled with laughter and reminders of family, fun and faith. Yes, faith … God’s presence in every picture. His faithful hand, His loving care, and His generous provision.
For thousands of years, long before even written words, people told stories, drew images and even made physical reminders of the faithfulness of God. In the Old Testament, in Deuteronomy 8, Israel was told, to remember and never forget. One of the ways they remembered was by placing a stone of remembrance or help. In Hebrew it is called a ebhen hā-ʽezer stone or an Ebenezer stone. Samuel was told by God in 1 Samuel 7:12 to set up a stone which would commemorate God's help to the Israelites in their victory over the Philistines at Mizpah.
There are numerous examples in the Old Testament where stones are used as tangible reminders of the faithfulness and help of God. After 40 years in the wilderness, Joshua saw God stop the Jordan river so that Israel could walk into the promised land. After they crossed, God instructed them to take 12 stones and set them up so that, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ Joshua 4:21.
When you and I are going through difficult times, it is good take out the memories, the stones, the pictures, the stories and be reminded of God’s faithfulness. Our past pictures of God’s miraculous presence and power can give us faith to press into an unknown future. Because our God does the impossible. He can make a way in the face of a dead-end. When your marriage is faltering, you are struggling financially, or your health is failing, you can have faith in a God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. You can anticipate better days because we serve a God who does the impossible.
If you take the time to look back through the lens of past memories, like me, you might be overwhelmed by the presence of God great care, concern and compassion. Psalm 103:8-13 reminds us, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the East is from the West, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”
This Week: Take out some pictures and share some memories with each other. Look for God’s presence in the past, paying special attention to His care, concern and compassion for you remembering what God has done for you and your family. One idea shared in Sunday’s message was to take smooth stones or pieces of paper and create your own Ebenezer, by placing them in a jar or a bowl so that the memories of God’s faithfulness will not be forgotten.