a brief word study

Inspired by Psalm 121.

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 121:3-8

[God said to Jacob, after Jacob’s vision at Bethel:] “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15

[The Levitical priestly blessing:] The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

[Jesus prayed:] Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. John 17:11-12

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ… keep yourselves in the love of God… Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling… Jude 1, 21, 24

one year of blogging

I started this blog one year ago today, on February 16, 2011. At that time I picked two specific verses of scripture to guide and restrict my writing:
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 2 Corinthians 4:5
Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth. Hosea 6:3
I am boring; Jesus is fascinating. I am disappointing; Jesus never fails. Therefore I did not want this to be a confessional blog. I was convinced that a blog about Jesus, a blog that proclaims Jesus as Lord, would be, in every way, more interesting, stimulating, and helpful than a blog about myself, that proclaims myself as myself.
The name “pressing on” comes from a verse in Hosea’s book which speaks of pressing on to know God, knowing that he will not withdraw from us if we seek him. He will surely come. His coming is like morning’s light and morning’s dew: certain, life-giving, and awe-inspiring.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. James 4:8
I am convinced that scripture, every part of it, shows us the way to God. Therefore I have done my best to saturate this blog with the Bible, believing it to be the useful words of God to humanity. Undoubtedly I have written a number of posts that “flopped”; equally beyond doubt is that the inherent power of scripture, which is in every post, has saved me from total failure.
The 5 most popular posts this year have been:
Jesus once said, summing up the message of one of his parables,
One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. Luke 16:10
This blog is a very little thing. I trust that if I can be faithful in this, God will show me how to be faithful in other things, as he calls me to do them. You too, be encouraged – with real courage, that changes your attitude – to know that your monotonous faithfulness in the little things is precious to God, and that in the Lord your work is never in vain.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
Thank you for reading, and especially for commenting. No doubt many who read this blog are much wiser than me, and I really appreciate your input.
P.S. Soon, I hope to follow-up this blog’s first post with another outline of the gospel, from another vantage point. Be on the lookout for that.

here I raise my Ebenezer


“Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’m come.” It’s a familiar line to many, being the first line of the second verse of the well-loved hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Robert Robinson wrote the original text of the hymn in 1757 at age 22.

Robinson took the Hebrew word “Ebenezer,” a place-name, from 1 Samuel 7. The chapter describes how God miraculously saved the Israelite army from their Philistine adversaries, and how Samuel, Israel’s greatest prophet and leader at that time, set up a monument at the site of the battle to memorialize God’s miraculous intervention. For centuries, the memorial stone reminded the Israelite people of a specific moment in their history when God rescued them and proved his commitment to them.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the LORD helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12
Ebenezer means “stone of help.” Students of the Bible may recognize the connection between this big rock, set up by Samuel, and some other significant rocks in the biblical story. One is the rock Moses commanded to spring forth water in the middle of the Arabian Desert (Exodus 17:1-7). Another is the pile of twelve rocks taken from the Jordan River that God told Joshua and the Israelites to set up after he stopped the flowing of the river so the nation could cross it on dry ground (Joshua 20). It too was a memorial:
[Joshua said,] “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” Joshua 4:6-7
God knew the Israelites’ hearts, their fickleness and forgetfulness. Visible, imposing memorials – Ebenezers, “stones of help” – forced them to remember the faithfulness of God to them. He led them out of Egypt, through the desert, across the Jordan, into the promised land, against their enemies; and he would not allow them to forget it. The Torah and the Prophets ring with the constant, repeated exhortation: “Remember I am the LORD your God,” “Remember how I led how you out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, “Remember, remember, remember…” 
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Robinson was on to something when he wrote of himself as “raising an Ebenezer.” Throughout Israelite history, God instructed his people to raise Ebenezers, memorials of his merciful action at specific moments in their lives.

Christian, you may do the same today. You know of God’s mercy to you in the arrival of the Son on earth; you know the cross, the greatest memorial to God’s grace ever constructed. You know the perspective of one whose life has been redeemed “from the pit” (Psalm 103:4), of one who can look back on the entire diversity of life’s experiences, the good and the painful, and see the loving faithfulness of God throughout. At the end of your life, you will be like David, looking back at your life, still calling God your “Rock,” (2 Samuel 23:3), saying, like David, your last words with confidence,

Is not my house right with God? Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part? Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire? 2 Samuel 23:5

David looked back at his experiences and saw a life full of Ebenezers. He recognized the daily grace of God received by him over the course of a lifetime, the staggering power of God in making him, a nobody, a screw-up, great, and the unshakable loyalty of God to his promises. He saw these as the great themes of his life, the great and beautiful reasons for his loyalty to God.

I want to take a page out of Joshua’s, and Samuel’s, and David’s, and Robert Robinson’s book, and “raise an Ebenezer” today. A simple prayer or song commemorating God’s faithfulness to me, today. A quiet moment of gratitude for his mercy, today. A new memory to look back on tomorrow, when new problems, new pains, come. A big rock can weather any storm.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson