In 1 Samuel 7, the ark has been returned to the Israelites, the people have repented of their sins, and returned to God. Upon their return, God defeats their enemy and Samuel places a stone called an Ebenezer as a reminder to the Israelites that "thus far the LORD has helped us." (1 Sam. 7:12) I love that it says "thus far" - not that the character of God would change, but it serves as a marker for the people of Israel. Like the mile marker on the side of the highways, this marker indicates Israel's current position as well as how far they have come. I think we all need these markers, moments or mementos that remind us where we are and where we have come from, as a place of reference to return to when we falter or when things do not seem to be going as we think they should.
The other thing that is so encouraging to me is that Ebenezer does not mean "thus far I have been perfect" or "thus far I have made it on my own." No, it is "thus far the LORD has helped us." The people of Israel failed, they stopped serving the God of their fathers, and they worshiped idols - images that they had created. Stop before you say that they were crazy for bowing down to some statue - an idol can be anything you put where God should be in your life. I don't know, maybe that doesn't leave the same punched in the gut feeling with you that it gives me. Maybe you are perfect and have it all together - this is probably the wrong blog for you as I am nowhere near perfection.
I am so easily distracted which leads to just the slightest drift off course; the only problem with a slight drift is that the longer it goes unchecked, the further you are from where you are supposed to be. The difference for Israel is that they returned and repented. We all will have times when we miss the mark - it's what you do afterwards that counts. Return to God with ALL of your heart and remove distractions, idols, anything that you have replaced God with - those are the instructions to Israel, and those are the instructions to all of us. These are God's instructions to me. Return. Repent. Have your Ebenezer moment.
"Thus far the Lord has helped us." Ebenezer is not the completion of the journey. "Thus far" denotes that we have not yet reached our destination. From the beginning until now, God has been with us and helped us and provided for us - Ebenezer is simply the marker, reminder of the character of God so that we can deny the distractions and give every piece of our hearts to God on a day-to-day and moment-to-moment basis.
Some days, you just need to return and repent and look at the Ebenezer moments in your life.