When You Feel Like the Runt

1 Samuel

Dearest Catherine,

Did you know that King David was the youngest of all his brothers?

In fact, when the prophet Samuel showed up on Jesse’s doorstep and announced that one of his sons would be anointed as the new king of Israel, Jesse didn’t even remember that David existed.

Jesse had son after son parade before Samuel.

Tall ones.  Handsome ones.  Brawny ones.

Every one of them seemingly fit for royal position based on their outward appearance.

The Lord rejected them.

Still, it didn’t occur to Jesse to call for that youngest boy of his.

As the parade wound down that afternoon, Samuel asked if that was the lot of them.  Any more sons?

It was like he was jogging Jesse’s memory.  Can you recall, by any chance, any other son you might have forgotten?

Of course, Jesse had indeed forgotten one.

You know, David: David the teenage shepherd boy, reeking of livestock and still far out in the fields instead of participating in this Search for Israel’s King Part 2.

Jesse brushes it all off.  Obviously God doesn’t want that son when He could have the pick of so many fine, strapping young men.  Why even bother calling David in from the field?  It’d just be a waste of the sheep’s good grazing time.

He says it like this: “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11 ESV).

Max Lucado writes that what Jesse literally says to Samuel that day is “I still have the runt” (Traveling Light, p. 107).

The runt.

Some nickname.

God picked ‘the runt,’ though.  He chose the smallest.  He chose the overlooked.  He chose the boy in the field, the hard-working, faithful shepherd with a heart for worship and prayer.

That’s what God does.  He uses the small ones, the weak and the weary, the youngest, the outcast, the dreamer.

Baby girl, it’s not the same for you, of course.  You are treasured and beloved.  We adore you so.  This year, you’ve been shining bright at school and we are so proud of you.

Still, I see it, the struggle and tension sometimes as you tag along after two big sisters, always the youngest of the King Girls Trio.

They rag on you some and pick on you at times, complaining about your tender heart and whining when you want them to play with you and they have other plans.

Those older sisters are off to bigger things and they forget that a six-year-old girl has every right to play with dolls and toys and make pretend picnics.

It seems like you grew two feet in kindergarten.  I still do a double-take at times, looking to see my Catherine hiding behind this tall, grown-up six-year-old standing in front of me.

But it’s you, of course.  You’re not a teeny girl any more, not the preschooler I have in my mind.

And it’s more than how many inches we’ve measured out on the kitchen wall.

You’ve grown in wisdom.

You rattle off your Bible lessons over Sunday lunches and you never just stop with the story itself.  You always tell me what it means.

That we should be kind to others.

That sometimes God doesn’t take away our pain, but He helps us through.

That God looks at what’s in our heart, not just how we look on the outside.

God is at work in you.  Yes, six-year-old you.  Yes, youngest sister you.  Yes, the tiniest King Girl–you.

I see it in your heart for prayer, the way you cover everything from your day as you bow your head at night.

I see it in your grateful heart, how you’re always so thankful for every gift and every opportunity. You never expect or demand; you just rejoice to receive.  You’re overflowing with gratitude and joy, celebrating the tiniest gifts like they were precious jewels laid at your feet.

I see it in your tenderness and sensitivity to those around you, treating others with gentleness and deep compassion.

You’ve announced to me this year that in addition to wanting to be a doctor, you’d like to be president some day because you’re really smart and super-good at math (as if that’s the job description of a politician).

Precious one, be who God has called you to be.

You don’t have to keep up or compete with older sisters.

You don’t have to fall for the trappings of acclaim or worldly success and push to be president because somehow that seems more important than caring for patients or any other ministry God has for you.

Remember what God told Samuel:

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV).

God values what’s in your heart, and your heart, dear one, is so beautiful to Him.

Happy birthday.

Love,

Mom

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

I’ll Wait For the 7:30

Today, I am tired.

And it shows.  Words seem tricky and hard to maneuver, elusive and even a little mocking as they play hide and seek in my mind.  This morning with my kids, I would snap my fingers and squint my eyes trying to think—“What’s that word . .  what’s that word again . . oh, yeah, shoes.  Yes, put your shoes on.”

The trouble started just a few weeks ago when my toddler appeared by my bedside at 6:00 a.m. and announced it was morning and time to get up for the day.

Now, many of you are routinely early risers and prefer waking in the darkness and sipping hot coffee leisurely over your devotions before heading out for your morning commute.

At our house, however, morning begins at 7:00 a.m. So, when my early riser appeared another morning at 5:45, I mumbled, “It’s still night time.”

“No, it’s morning,” she answered and pointed out the window to the few glimmers of sunlight visible through the blinds.

Unwilling to give in, I explained, “You really need more sleep.”

With a simple, “I’m awake,” she bounced out of my room ready for cheerful activity while I shuffled behind her like a zombie.

What my toddler doesn’t understand is that waking me too early in the day ultimately short-changes her.  I’m a happier, more cheerful, more productive, more energetic, more playful mommy when we all agree to sleep until 7 a.m.

Impatience typically has a way of short-changing all of us.  We miss out on God’s best because we’re not willing to wait for it, settling instead for whatever barely acceptable option presents itself.

Or, while we wait we make it clear that we hate this.  We hate the unknown of it all, the required patience, the uncertainty, the lack of control, and the destruction of our own agenda.  We whine.  We nag.  We grumble and complain.  We envy others who already have that ministry, that relationship, that job, that child, that clear direction, that future.

It’s as if we pop up to the throne at 5:45 and announce, “It’s time!  I’m awake. Let’s get going.”  God’s plan, however, is to present us with His 7:30 best.

In 1 Samuel 8, the people of Israel wanted something from God. Following the leadership of Moses and Joshua, a series of judges had led the nation and delivered them from the perpetual persecution of the Philistines and other surrounding enemies.

This era of judges ended with Samuel the prophet, who led the people to rededicate themselves to God.  When he tried to pass the baton of authority to his sons, however, the people quickly complained:  “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5 ESV).

The people didn’t trust God’s ability to choose their rulers and they were no longer willing to wait for Gideons and Samsons and Deborahs to deliver them, to direct them spiritually, to lead them into battle or to arbitrate their disagreements.

They wanted what other nations had—-assured succession and an inherited throne.  Not only that, they wanted it at 5:45 and they weren’t willing to wait until 7:30.

In her book, A Heart Like His, Beth Moore writes:

“God had already planned a king for the people.  Their lack of patience was to cost them dearly.  If they had waited for the Lord’s choice instead of demanding their way, how different might the story have been?” (pp. 32-33).

God’s design for a Messianic line and for an eternal kingship to emerge from the tribe of Judah and through the house of David required the king of God’s choosing at the time of God’s choosing.

Instead, the people wanted a king and they wanted one NOW. So they settled for Saul.

Then, years later, unwilling to wait for Samuel to offer a promised sacrifice on the eve of battle—full of as much impatience as the nation that had demanded a king in the first place--Saul did the unthinkable.  He, a king and not an anointed priest, sacrificed to God.  That cost him his reign.

Thus, Samuel traveled to a man named Jesse’s house and anointed a ruddy and handsome young shepherd to be God’s chosen king.  Indeed:

He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
from following the nursing ewes he brought him
    to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand (Psalm 78:70-72).

God wanted a shepherd to shepherd His people, just as He later chose fishermen to become fishers of men. 

That was God’s best.

God’s best was a man who would write:

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation (Psalm 62:1, ESV).

The Message version says:

God, the one and only— I’ll wait as long as he says.
Everything I need comes from him,
so why not?
He’s solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul (Psalm 62:1-2, MSG).

Unlike the impatient nation of Israel demanding a king like other nations had …
Unlike Saul impatiently giving up on the tardy Samuel and offering a sacrifice on his own …

David waited for God, waited in silence, waited as long as God saidIf we want God’s very best for us, we must do the same.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King



The Sound of Silence

When I was pregnant with my very first daughter, my husband and I prayed the normal prayers of soon-to-be parents.  We asked God for her health, her character, her faith, and her future.

I threw in a prayer asking that she be a good eater and sleeper. The Bible says we can ask, right?

Then we bowed our heads together and prayed something truly bold. We asked that God would entrust us with a child who had something different than us—a talent, passion or personality trait that set her apart from her mom and dad.

After that prayer, we thought we’d give birth to an athletic superstar. I imagined soccer practices and track meets far into my future life as a mom.

God, however, rarely fits into the boxes we create for Him.

As she grew older, we realized that she was no sports prodigy.  Yet we’ve discovered many ways that she’s different from us—how she’s such a people person and how she spends hours on art projects and how she loves to be fancy.

Still, there’s one way God answered our prayer that I absolutely can’t miss.

God gave my daughter the heart of a dancer.

We don’t understand this.  I never in a million years expected to be a ballet mom.

My husband and I didn’t even slow dance at our own wedding, not because of some super-spiritual anti-dance philosophy.  It’s because we . . . . can’t. . . . dance.  At all.

Victoria, however, puts on a ballet performance at outdoor concerts along the beach and to the soundtrack of every movie we watch in our home.

She also dances at church.

That, my friends, is the rub.  The first time she pointed her toe and began stepping out of her pew to dance to the worship music at church, my palms grew sweaty with nervousness, which is kind of a problem when you’re the church pianist.

I know what Scripture says.

Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!  Psalm 149:3

 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!  Psalm 150:4

Still, while I agree that dancing is part of the Biblical description of worship, I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about my daughter being the dancer.

After all, this isn’t just a gentle swaying to the music.  She throws her head and her arms back and swirls, twirls, and pirouettes.  It’s total abandon and absolute passion.  She’s not ashamed or afraid to dance for God.

When we arrived home after her first praise dancing session, I chatted with her about it.  I hinted that it might be better to stand still and try to sing the songs, just like everybody else.

She stared at me for a moment.  Then she announced:

“The Bible says we should dance for God.
I’m dancing to make Him happy and Jesus likes it.
I think it makes Him smile when I dance.”

Alrighty then!

After being put in my place and given a Bible lesson by my five-year-old daughter, I really didn’t have anything else to say.

Most of the time, after all, silence is the only appropriate response to unmistakable truth.

This is difficult for me because I’m an excuse maker and a justifier.  If you tell me I shouldn’t have done that, I’ll give you 20 reasons why it was necessary.  I feel the need to explain myself all the time.

It’s the people-pleaser in me, hoping to convince others through my combative defensiveness that I was right, even when I was wrong.  Because I don’t want to be wrong, not ever.  I don’t want to mess up, not at any time.

Life would be so much easier for me if I was just perfect.

When God speaks truth to us, our response shouldn’t be excuses and explanations.  It should be the humble bowing of the head and the submissive silence of repentance.  Because we’re not perfect, not any of us.

Even the Pharisees knew that arguing with Jesus was impossible.  When He challenged them on issues of healing, the Sabbath, resurrection, and faith, “they were silent” (Mark 3:4, Luke 14:4).

Later on in the early church, Peter presented his case in favor of Gentile believers to the Jerusalem church elders.  When he finished reminding them of Scripture, his own personal testimony, and the evidence of faith they’d seen as Christianity spread, “they fell silent.  And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18, ESV).

Then there’s Job.  For forty chapters, Job and his friends had debated about God, discussed, dialogued, and orated.  They had yapped and yapped.

Then God showed up.  He finally decided to speak up for Himself.  Job “answered the Lord and said: ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer You?  I lay my hand on my mouth.  I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (Job 40:3-5, ESV). 

The truth stings sometimes, I know it.  It requires that we admit mistakes and demands we take the often difficult steps to change.

But He’s a gracious and merciful God, who only speaks truth to us because He loves us.  So, instead of arguing with Him, let’s choose to place our hands over our mouths and bow our heads in silent obedience. Like Samuel, we say, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10, NIV).

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Packing Up the Tent, Part II

You can read the whole article here; it was a news story that touched me.  In a special “renaming” ceremony, a central district in India allowed almost 300 girls to choose any name they wished.

Their families had named them “unwanted” in Hindi.

Imagine every time your mom called you to dinner, you remembered that you were unloved.

But now, these girls were tossing their parents’ burdens overboard and were framing for themselves a new future, starting with new names.

It’s something I’m guessing the two sons of the High Priest Eli would like to have done.

Eli’s name meant something grand and wonderful: “God is High.”

But, he stuck his two sons with some not-so-grand monikers.

Hophni meant “tadpole.”  Did he look like one at birth?  Had his father been unprepared to see the screaming red and wrinkled new baby look and tadpole was the first thing that popped in his head?

Even worse was Phinehas, which my Bible says likely comes from an Egyptian word meaning “Black One.”  If that’s true, that means the son of Israel’s High Priest bore a name from the land of slavery and a country with foreign gods.

It sure doesn’t seem like Eli set his sons up for much spiritual success.  Not at all like Hannah, who named her much-prayed for son, Samuel, meaning “Name of God.”

And the names seemed to matter.  Samuel became the great prophet and leader of the nation who anointed two kings of Israel.

Eli’s kids?  Well, Scripture tells us, “the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord . . . the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12, 17).

In Part I of Packing Up the Tent, I asked you to consider what impact you’re having on others, what legacy are you leaving?  When you pack up the tent of this world and head off to heaven, for what will you be remembered?

And now, I’m going a step further.

It’s not just a matter of what blessings and good lessons your kids will remember when you’re gone.  Not just the good advice or the good example.  It’s not just the acts of kindness that will testify to your love or the living witness you were for Christ.

We leave burdens behind, too.

So, what kind of chains am I placing on my kids that they’ll have to contend with later?

What kind of weights are we attaching to youth in our churches that will hinder their faith and worship in years to come?

It seems Eli didn’t really care about the burdens his kids would carry on into the future.

Most of us do this unwittingly, but nevertheless we do it.

I can see it in my daughters’ fear of the dark, fear of spiders, fear of roller coasters, fear of death . . . Yes, that fear is mine.

I can see it in my older daughter’s need to be perfect, to be the smartest, the brightest, the fastest, the first, and the best.  Yes, that unrealistic standard of perfection comes from me.

Too often our kids receive from us the burdens we’ve passed down to them from our own backs.

And too often this happens in our churches, too.  We weigh the youth down so much they’re eventually squashed out of the church.

But as long as we’re happy and comfortable, does it matter?

It didn’t seem to matter to Eli what his kids had to endure.  Nor did the state of the next generation matter to King Hezekiah.  He was a godly king who had relied on the Lord to save his people from the enemy.  When he lay on his death bed, God healed him and extended the length of his reign.

But when he showed off the treasures of the temple for some Babylonian visitors, the prophet Isaiah brought this godly King a message from the Lord.  Conquerors from Babylon would carry off all of the treasure and even the king’s own descendants would be carried off into captivity and forced to become eunuchs in the Babylonian palace.

Did Hezekiah plead with God to save future generations?  Did he get revolutionary and repent of his own sin, making changes so that his kids and his kids’ kids wouldn’t face captivity as their destiny?

Nope.  The King shrugged it off.  He asked, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” (2 Kings 20:19).

In other words, “Why worry about them as long as I’m comfortable?”

Scripture is clear.  Our mission to tell the next generation about God and what He’s done for us isn’t optional.

The Psalmist wrote:

“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18)

and

We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done (Psalm 78:4).

The prophet Joel similarly commissioned Israel to “tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation” (Joel 1:3).

This is our goal as parents.  This is our mission in our churches.  And if we’re too busy passing along heavy and cumbersome burdens, then we’re missing it.  If we’re not dealing with our own issues and just allowing our kids to inherit our junk, we’re hurting them.

We need our children to inherit blessing from us, not the burdens we’ve been unable or unwilling to lay down at the cross.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Much More Than We Deserve

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her fifth chapter: “Cat Appreciation Day”

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“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”
Luke 1:46

The Christmas lists have begun in our house.  My kids spot fairy costumes and toys, games, and crafts at Wal-Mart and suddenly they’re pleading and begging.  My response is nearly automated, “Maybe that’s a good thing to request for Christmas!”

My kids know they’ll have presents under the Christmas tree this year because we love them and we enjoy giving them good gifts. Unlike Santa’s treats, our gift-giving doesn’t depend on whether they accumulated enough nice points and avoided the naughty list.  The gifts we give them are gifts of grace.

Just like God does for us.

It’s so easy for us to blur the lines between grace and works.  It’s easy to slowly forget just how incredible this unreasonable and abundant grace of God’s really is and to start drifting ever so slowly into working, doing, serving, and earning God’s affection and blessing.

Not that there aren’t consequences for behavior.  Sometimes we lose out on God’s best for us simply because we didn’t follow His commands in the first place.

But sometimes blessing is more than just avoiding the pitfalls of bad choices. Sometimes God chooses to rain down good gifts on His children simply because He loves them.

There are times, though, when we’re searching, searching, searching the sky for any sign of showers of blessing.  Maybe we’re even toting an umbrella around in hopes for a drop of grace or two.  But we feel overlooked instead.

Worse yet, sometimes it looks like others are receiving so much.  And then the jealousy kicks in because we’re too busy watching the weather patterns in other people’s yards.

Jeremiah felt the same way when he asked, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” (Jeremiah 12:1).  Job asked, “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power?” (Job 21:7).  The Psalmist wrote, “How long, LORD, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant? (Psalm 94:3).

This was probably Hannah’s struggle on a daily basis.  Her husband loved her, but it was his second wife, Peninnah, who had all the babies.  While Hannah prayed continually for a son, she remained childless.

It just didn’t make sense.  Hannah was a righteous woman.  She prayed faithfully and worshiped God.  All this while Peninnah purposely “provoked her severely, to make her miserable” (1 Samuel 1:6).

Well, that just doesn’t seem right and certainly doesn’t seem fair—does it?

And it’s true.  We don’t always understand the whys and wherefores of when God blesses, who God blesses, how He blesses and why.

In Psalm 37, though, David tells us, “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither away, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” (Psalm 37:1-2).

In other words, don’t spend time worrying about others. You just worry about you.  Trust in God.  Obey what He tells you.  He’ll take care of what you need.

God did finally give Hannah the desire of her heart.  Maybe it was because of her persistent prayer or the pain that she poured out on the altar before Him.  Maybe it was because she vowed not to keep the blessing for herself, but instead to turn over the promised son to the service of the Lord.

Or maybe, as she says herself, it was because “by strength no man shall prevail” (1 Samuel 2:9).

You see, Hannah was humble.  She knew that any blessing she received from God was just that—a blessing, a gift, not something she deserved because she prayed hard and long enough or went to church often enough. 

“For by strength no man shall prevail,” she said.  That means it’s never because of our strength, effort, or ability that we get anything.

It’s always because of His grace.

In her prayer, she reminds us of the same principle expressed in 1 Peter 5:5-6: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

Hannah says, “The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up.  The Lord makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up.  He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory” (1 Samuel 2:6-8).

Mary had this exact reaction when Gabriel told her that she was chosen by God to be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah!  It was the greatest honor any woman could receive, but she knew it wasn’t about her.  It was about Him.

She sang:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
 he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
   but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
   but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors” (Luke 1:46-55).

Sometimes we begin to feel that we deserve God’s grace, that we’ve earned good gifts from Him or have merited His favor. It’s the sneaking influence of spiritual pride and deep down we begin to think God owes us something.

But Hannah and Mary remind us that God loves a humble heart.  He enjoys blessing those who receive His gifts with true gratitude and who respond with praise, thanking Him for His mercy, for His grace, and for giving us much more than we deserve.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Strings Tied Around My Finger

I had a crisis moment the other night.  When I was reading the Bible, it reminded me of something I had read and copied into my journal a few years ago.  So, I pulled out my recent journals and the one I needed was missing.

This might not seem huge to you, but it was sad and frustrating and a little worrying to me.  My journals aren’t personal diaries of my experiences and feelings.  They are records of the verses, quotes, prayers and thoughts I’ve had as God interacts with my life.  Oftentimes, I can vividly remember exactly where I was and what was happening in my life when I wrote an entry in my prayer journal.

The entry I was looking for that night was written while sitting at the Ben & Jerry’s in Yorktown, Virginia, eating a scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream on an incredibly sunny day.  I was struggling with some ministry issues and I copied down a quote from David Crowder’s book, Praise Habit, that encouraged me.  Of course, what really helps me remember this particular entry is the ice cream!

Losing my journal is like losing some of my testimony, the written record I keep of God at work in my life.   In the Bible, many of God’s people created monuments or kept mementos of times when God rescued them.  It was their way of remembering that God saved us then and He can save us again.

Samuel the prophet did this 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 the LORD has helped us.”  We often sing the hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing without realizing that when it says, “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” it’s referring to this monument Samuel created.  Literally, it means “a stone of help.”

Samuel’s stone reminded Israel of how God delivered them when they repented and returned to Him.  After rebelling against God and being punished as a result, “then all the people of Israel turned back to the LORD” (1 Samuel 7:2, NIV).  Following this new beginning, this repentance and restoration, God routed the enemy Philistines in a mighty and miraculous way.  All of Israel could see that God was faithful to save them as long as they walked in obedience.

But Samuel didn’t want the people to forget what God did in that place.  We humans are forgetful creatures.  God saves us.  We praise Him.  Things are good for a while.  Then a crisis occurs and we fret, we worry, we wonder, “Is God going to let me down this time?”

We need a string around our finger to help us remember who God is.  We need an Ebenezer, a record of what God has done, so when life is hard and we need healing and provision and intervention, we can look at the monuments of the past and say, “Look what God did for me.  He saved me here, and here, and here—-and He’ll do it again.”

That’s one reason our testimonies are so important.  It’s our way of reminding ourselves and encouraging others that God is still at work in people’s lives.  Every once in a while, our pastor takes the microphone around the church and we listen to others share, at first a little hesitantly, and then with great emotion and boldness, about how God has been real to them.   I love those Sundays because the testimony of others–their Ebenezer–reveals God to me.

The Bible is like “testimony” time to me also.  God passes the microphone around and different people share how God changed them.  Jonah gets up and says, “See, I’ve been struggling with obedience lately, but God . . .”  Sarah says, “I have something to confess.  Sometimes I like to ‘help’ God out with His plans, but God . . . ”  Mary says, “I was just a really simple, God-fearing girl, but God . . . ”

All these people in the Bible are broken, sinful, and imperfect, just like me, and yet they encountered God.  Their testimonies help me remember not just what God has done in my life, but what He has done in others’ lives throughout history.

Eugene Peterson wrote:

With a biblical memory, we have two thousand years of experience from which to make the off-the-cuff responses that are required each day in the life of faith.  If we are going to live adequately and maturely as the people of God, we need more data to work from than our own experience can give us.

Our lives are short.  Our experience with God is just a fraction of His activity here on earth.  So, when we look at life through the filter of our personal experiences alone, we miss out on what the Bible offers us.  By reading Scripture, we tap into 2000 years of people experiencing God.  We read the testimonies of people who lived a long time ago and find out they needed God as much as we do and He loved them and cared for them just as He loves and cares for us.

Thankfully, I found my missing journal the next day and—amazingly, if not miraculously—it was flipped open to the exact page I was looking for.

I hope you find ways this week to create Ebenezers in your life–a prayer journal,  testimony book or verse cards.  Don’t stop there, though.  Connect with other Christians who can share their testimonies, through church, small groups, community Bible studies, and by reading Christian books.  Then, dig deep into God’s Word and read it as if it were a testimony time of the saints written just for you.  All of these things will serve as strings tied around your finger, physical reminders of what God has done and what He will continue to do.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King