Raising the Ebenezer

As part of the Flame Supporters’ weekend of celebrations we raised an Ebenezer. Perhaps you have sung the hymn “Come Thou font of every blessing” and sung the verse:

“Here I raise my Ebenezer, Here by Thy great help I’ve come
 And I hope by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home”

Have you ever wondered what “raising an Ebenezer” was all about? Throughout scripture we find moments where, in response to a move of God, stones were laid. In some cases, these were for devotion. These were the altars made to bring offerings to God, for instance, the altar that Abraham constructed. Initially it was going to be a place where his son was going to be sacrificed. It became the place of Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord provides. In other places, stones were laid as a memorial. After the people of Israel had crossed the Jordan into the promised land, Joshua sent 12 men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, to gather a stone and bring it back to construct a memorial. This was in order that when the children asked, “What are these stones for?”, they could be told about the account of how the Lord miraculously made a way for them to enter the promised land and take possession of it.

We find the account of the raising of the Ebenezer in 1 Samuel 7. God’s people had been called into repentance, to get rid of the idols and foreign gods that they had in their midst and to worship God only. Their enemy came against them, and they asked Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:8) God answered, he thundered from heaven. The enemy was defeated. Samuel took up a stone and laid it as a memorial to God’s glorious intervention. He gave the stone the name Ebenezer which means “Stone of help” and prayed out “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

For the Supporters weekend, we raised an Ebenezer to create a memorial in recognition of all that God has done in, and through, Flame International over the last 20 years. God has been our stone of help and “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” A stone was laid for every year Flame has been on mission. Each stone had the date painted on it and the person who laid it spoke on behalf of the country that was visited that year. Each time a stone was laid we made the declaration “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” Each time a stone was laid we were praising God for the transformation, deliverance, healing, restoration, forgiveness and stronghold breaking work he has done.

Isaiah 61:1-2 remains pivotal for the work that Flame does. It is with supernatural love for those we are ministering to that we still go. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.” It is who he is, it is what he does and in his strength, it is who we are, it is what we do.

This Ebenezer ceremony gave us the opportunity to look back, to consider where we are now, and to look ahead to the future. We looked back with a heart of praise and thanksgiving. “Thus far…” We understand that we can do nothing, but by the power of God. Everything Flame does is birthed and bathed in prayer. All of the glory goes to God. We thank him for the faithful prayer warriors who intercede on our behalf, who hear from God, send words, pictures and scriptures that not only inform us of what the Lord is saying over the mission, but have also forewarned us of enemy attack. “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” We do not operate from a place of presumption on the blessing of the Lord. In each instance his guidance and direction were, and are, sought. His faithfulness endures forever. We totally rely on the rock of our salvation; he is the chief cornerstone. All things are for him and for his glory, all things hold together in him. It was the moment to look back with thanksgiving for all that the Lord has done, to see that in every circumstance he is our rock of help, he is our Ebenezer. “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

We then looked to the present. Flame is not the same as it was 20 years ago. There are of course things that have remained the same from the very beginning: prayer is central to everything, every teaching is rooted in the Word of God, the primary drive of love for those who have been traumatised and held captive. We build on the foundation that has been laid. In recent times there has been pruning. We see the Lord’s hand in this, it is he who wields the pruning knife, but we know that this is to bring more fruit; it is to clean the branches, to ensure that we are utterly reliant on the vine, abiding in him. We give him all the glory. “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

Now we look ahead too. The final stone that was laid on the Ebenezer was a prophetic stone for what is to come. “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” We will continue to rely wholly on him. We will continue to birth and bathe everything in prayer. We will continue to love the people that God sends us to, with his supernatural love. We will continue to give him the glory. We will constantly remind ourselves that we can do nothing without him, but that with him all things are possible. Let us declare with thanksgiving all that the Lord has done. Let us look to him for his strength for what we do in the present, and in anticipation for all he has for us in the future.
“Thus far the Lord has helped us!”

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