If you have the opportunity to do this outdoors, please feel free to engage this devotion outside.
As you begin, take a couple of deep breaths, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to be aware of God’s presence with you and to be centered in Christ.
Listen (and sing along if you wish) to Waymaker by Sinach:
Read 1 Samuel 7:7-13
7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. 8 They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him.
10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.
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.”
13 So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines.
The Israelites come to the prophet Samuel in fear because the Philistines have risen up to attack them. Samuel prays on Israel’s behalf and the Israelites are victorious.
In verse 12, Samuel then sets up a stone and calls it “Eben-Ezer” which means, “stone of help” saying “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
Throughout the Old Testament we see at different moments where the people use a stone to mark a time to remember something (see Joshua 4). If you’re outside, or you have one in the house, find a rock to mark as your stone of remembrance for this year (if not a rock, perhaps another object to mark as an “object of remembrance”).
This past year has been a year of struggle but, hopefully, also a year of growth. As you look back on the year, consider the following questions:
- Where were the times you grew in your awareness of God’s presence?
- When were the times that you struggled the most? When were your greatest moments of growth?
- When are the times that you look back and can say, “Thus far the Lord has helped us”?
As we look ahead to the New Year, consider setting up the stone (or object) of remembrance somewhere where you can be reminded of how God was with you in 2020. Spend some time in prayer and meditation, asking God to give you a Word of Hope and Remembrance for 2021. If you are with others, share in your household and pray together.
Close with this prayer, written by Jill Duffield:
God of our past, present and future, as the calendar turns and we greet another year, we ask not so much for answers to those questions that perplex us, but for confidence in your never-failing care for us.
As we reflect on the year we leave behind, we begin with gratitude for the moments and the milestones in which we experienced your presence. As we look to the year ahead, we start with hope for a kinder, more just, lavishly loving world. Through all the years, we depend on the abundance of your grace, the generosity of your mercy and the unwavering promise of your compassion.
Aid us, Almighty God, when we fail to be the people you create and call us to be. Comfort us, Abba, when we face times of sadness, loss and grief. Admonition us, Lord of all, when we neglect the teachings of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Guide us, Triune God, all the days of this new year, and indeed, every day of our lives until that time when we see you face to face. Amen.