An Ebenezer in the Sky

Photo by Stainless Images on Unsplash

Ebenezer the squirrel, the blog’s mascot, represents memorials of God’s intervention in the world and in our lives.  The times when He changes the course of events, and when the narrative is changed by the words “but God.”  In the ESV Bible, this phrase appears 43 times, including:

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” – Genesis 8:1

The phrase first was used in Genesis 3:3, when Eve says to the serpent, “but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  As we know, Adam and Eve fell to temptation, eating the fruit and therefore providing us a warning that we should live by God’s words, not just quote them.

However, the second time we see “but God” it is a reminder that God intervenes to save sinners.  Sin started with one rejection of God’s word, but by Noah’s time, “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.[1]  God had Noah built an ark for his family to escape the coming flood of judgement, and the last verse before Genesis 8:1 says, “the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.[2]  Even for Noah and his family, the ones God chose to save, 5 months alone in an ark may not have felt like salvation.  “But God…made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.

Today, if salvation seems far away, if the flood around us feels like it’s not going away, even if it’s been months since we’ve had a “good day”, God gave us an Ebenezer especially for this occasion: the rainbow.  Genesis 9:14-16 says:

When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.

When you see a rainbow, in the sky or anywhere, remember it as a sign of God’s love for His people, for sinners who rejected Him, but who He chose to save anyway.  He will deliver all of God’s children from the flood because His covenant is everlasting.

Also, keep an eye out for Ebenezer (still the blog’s mascot) as an ongoing series here, covering the 43 direct “but God” references, but also others.


[1] Genesis 6:11-12
[2] Genesis 7:24

His Master’s Voice (aka This Blog Doesn’t Need Another Mascot)

You may not know him by his name, but you’ve probably seen Nipper the dog.  He’s quite famous, although he died in 1895.  Nipper, of course, is the dog from the painting “His Master’s Voice” where he is listening intently to a gramophone.  The picture became a popular logo for many companies, including RCA to sell record players, because the dog looks like it thinks his master is in there talking to him.  The RCA recording technology is so clear!

“His Master’s Voice”, an 1898 painting by Francis Barraud. From Wikipedia Commons.

“His Master’s Voice” is also a good introduction to some posts I’m working on about hearing our Master’s voice.  We might like to be like Nipper, and every now and then we might get a glimpse of what that’s like, but we’re unlike the painting a lot of the time.

For one thing, most dogs are naturally loyal and want to please their masters.  That’s why Nipper loves the gramophone so much.  A funny thing about dogs is that they don’t care what their masters believe.  They won’t discuss philosophy with them.  Not that their master’s philosophy doesn’t matter to the dog, because if their philosophy includes cruelty to animals, that’s very bad.  Dogs just don’t think at that level.  On the other hand, dogs are very, very excited and eager to hear you tell them to do something.  Cats of course are very different – I have two of them – and they’re too often a better picture of how I really relate to my Master in heaven than Nipper is.

The other point is that dogs have great hearing.  The painting has no sound, but you get the idea that, no matter how much noise was going on around him, Nipper would be right there, trying to find his master in the gramophone.  In contrast, people are bombarded with loud voices from all directions and usually aren’t as good at filtering the good from the bad.

Centered on the story of Gideon from the book of Judges, I’ll be sharing a few posts soon about how difficult and messy listening for God’s voice really is.  I’m trying to figure it out every day.

Ebenezer, looking concerned

Lastly, if you see Ebenezer (a squirrel and the blog’s mascot), tell him Nipper is only here for a short visit.  Also remind him that in heaven, even the dogs and squirrels will lie down together in peace.

Coda
One of my favorite song lyrics of all time is:
“I’m looking past the shadows of my mind into the truth; And I’m trying to identify the voices in my head; God, which one’s you?”

It’s from a 2000 song called “Breathing” by Lifehouse.  They probably didn’t have Nipper in mind when they wrote it, but it’s about us all wishing we could pay better attention to our Lord, to know His will, or sometimes just to be present with Him.

You can read the lyrics here, or if you have 4 ½ minutes, listen here.  Apologies for any ads on these sites.


The next post in the series is here

Don’t Ignore Ebenezer Today

Reminders of God’s word can guide our daily lives, but only if we follow those reminders.  A while ago, I introduced the blog’s mascot, “Ebenezer, the ‘But God…’ Squirrel.”  Ebenezer is a reminder that however difficult or frustrating our situation, if we actively and intentionally inject God into the situation, He can and will show us the best way forward.  However, what if we try to say “But God” but take the wrong path anyway?  If we do, we are not alone.

Ebenezer, trying to get your attention.

A search of the exact words “but God” in the ESV Bible gives 43 results, and the first one is found in Genesis 3:3, which says “but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  This verse occurs when the serpent in the garden questions God’s word that Adam and Eve were limited by God in what they should and shouldn’t do.  Eve, the speaker in the quote above, responds rightly that God had been specific about what not to do.  As most of my readers will know, even though Eve knew God’s word, the serpent was able to convince her to ignore it.

As they say in the financial industry, “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” but I will guarantee anyway that today and every day every one of us face temptation to do something God wants to protect us from.  I also am confident of the words “but God…” that “If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely,” as I quoted earlier from James Montgomery Boice.  But we must live by them to be transformed by God, not just quote them.

Today, pray that we all would be distracted by God’s word as easily as we as sometimes distracted by a passing squirrel when we are tempted to ignore His voice in our souls.  And if God delivers you from temptation today, make a note, a perpetual “stone of help” that God’s word is good!


Keep an eye out for Ebenezer as an ongoing series here, covering the 43 direct “but God” references, but also others.