24 August 2020: Raise my Ebenezer.

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One of the things that appears requisite to any restoration is repentance. We don’t like this term. We want to think we are self sufficient. Israel was placed under oppression in the time of Eli, the priest, who did judge Israel. They had begun to worship the Gods of the people around them, and imitate their way of living. We were never called to be pagans. We were not called to remain in our sin. The first step to healing is action: put away that which harms us.

I got a new job that pays a lot of money—compliment me! I just broke my personal deadlift record—compliment me! I went on an all-expenses-paid journey to Dubai thanks to a generous benefactor—compliment me! My content went viral and now I’m some kind of famous—compliment me! When you receive a compliment, dopamine is released and you feel good. If you get attached to this pathway, you live entirely for others in the hopes they compliment you, and when people no longer want to do so, you become like a desperate drug addict who will do anything for just one more hit.

Understand that this was a time of Crisis for Israel. They were being called together by the last prophet and judge: they were being asked to put away their idols. For us, our idols are often those things are hacks that allow us to feel good, as if biochemistry is real life. Real life intervened, in that the Kings of the Philistines realized that dividing tribe by tribe would no longer work, so tried to destroy this revival by force.

1 Samuel 7:3-13

3 And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.

5 Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 6 So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah. 7 Now when the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the people of Israel said to Samuel, “Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 So Samuel took a sucking lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. And Samuel cried out to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him. 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were routed before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out from Mizpah and pursued the Philistines and struck them, as far as below Beth-car.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel.

And yes, there is an old hymn that managed to use the term Ebenezer. We should mark and acknowledge that which we have moved from, by the grace of God.

There are those who say that actions matter more than words: it is doing good more than a declaration of faith. Paul corrects them elsewhere. In the flesh, we cannot keep any standards, not even our own. We know that we have done wrong, and caused harm to our brother. If we do not understand that, our conscience is seared, and our soul in peril.

Romans 2:1-11

2 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practise the very same things. 2 We know that the judgement of God rightly falls on those who practise such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practise such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgement of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.

6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

I am not sure what is happening to the world right now. The narrative, the Pravda, is that we can extinguish this virus, move out of lockdown, and we should praise the leaders who did this for us. That the USA should be seen as warning. It may be that until we know that we have failed, that the damage has been done from the lockdown and the virus keeps on coming back, that we may put this idol of the technocratic elite (no longer selected by merit) away and turn to our creator. May revival come soon, and may we learn the lessons of history before we relive them.

And we will then choose a new elite, if this happens before the elite choose a new people.