Have you ever loved a wanderer? I have. To say that the toll it takes on your heart is painful is a grotesque understatement. But I beg another question…Have you ever been the wanderer? Admittedly, so have I on that one as well.
The lyrics from that old, familiar hymn-Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing come to mind:
“Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love...”
But did you ever contemplate the second part of that line? – “Prone to leave the God I love.” It implies that the wanderer loves God – yet still chooses to sin. Why? Weakness perhaps; Or maybe we are easily distracted by all the world has to offer in its candy-coated facade that masquerades as fulfillment. Selfishness? How about defiance, a.k.a. flat out rebellion? In reality, it’s all of the above, pretty much in that very order.
No matter the scenario you find yourself in, be it that you love the Wanderer, or the Wanderer right now is you, it hurts. It hurts because when someone steps outside of God’s plan for their life in rebellion, they forgo His protection by placing themselves and others often closest to them in harm’s way. If we really do love God, yet find ourselves running in a direction not His, understand that defiance will always collide with discipline. Why? Because like any good parent, for our own benefit, God disciplines those He loves.
Israel was and is a nation set apart by God. Motley as they were in ancient Bible times, it was through this people group that God would fulfill His promise to the world to send His Son to redeem us from the mess we make in our wanderings. Yet generation after generation, they were stiff-necked and rebellious, allowing themselves to be lured away by the tantalizing aroma of poisonous forbidden fruits. But in spite of the repeated warnings God would send through His prophets to turn around, they disregarded their Maker, resulting in much-needed discipline. It often came in the form of enemy invasions. God would allow oppression, even captivity at times, in order to harness their wandering loyalties. And like clockwork, they would respond to God’s discipline by turning their hearts back to Him in repentance.
It’s easy to read through their history, and wonder what their problem was, isn’t it? Studying their cycle of enjoying the benefits of walking with God, to running in the opposite direction, to plunging into the pit they dug with their own hands before falling before God’s mercy is enough make the reader dizzy. Sometimes we forget however that we are reading the history of a nation over centuries, not stopping to consider that we so often repeat this very cycle in our own personal lives.
History has a way of repeating itself, doesn’t it? In principle, there really is nothing new under the sun. We even tend to repeat our own individual history, quickly forgetting even the hardest-taught lessons after experiencing the relief of moving beyond them. Once when God miraculously intervened on Israel’s behalf, handing them a decisive victory over their arch-enemy, the Philistines, Samuel their leader erected a memorial stone in an attempt to prevent their selective amnesia. The writer of the aforementioned hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson, poetically referred to that stone in the verse that says: “Here I raise my Ebeneezer”. (Ever sung that line while simultaneously wondering what it was you were singing about?) He is talking about Samuel’s memorial stone. As the Prophet erected it, he named it Ebeneezer, which means “Stone of Help”. It was to be a lasting remembrance for that generation and those to come of God’s mercy – that He once again had delivered their people.
If Samuel, the great prophet of God, thought it a good idea to be intentional in remembering God’s mercy in order to stop the cycle of wandering in a nation’s history, perhaps it’s not a bad idea for us either in our own personal lives. Assuming you have experienced God’s redemption from your wanderings, what might your Ebeneezer look like? Perhaps it’s a cross hanging on your wall. Maybe your life’s verse hangs in a place of prominence in your home. Some people even tattoo their Ebeneezer on their body as a permanent reminder. I personally raise my Ebeneezers in the form of songs. When I sing them, I’m deeply reminded of the pain of my own wanderings, but also the joys of discovering God’s love for this wanderer through the victories He has so mercifully given; Thus beginning a new cycle: Discovery of God’s heart for us results in a desire to know Him more, which leads to falling in love with Him- changing our wandering heart into a loyal one that never wants to leave the shelter of His love.
…for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.
~2 Chronicles 30:9b (NIV)
Listen now if you will to this, one of my Ebeneezers, from the place you sit today. If you love a Wanderer, pray this prayer for them as I sing it. If you are the Wanderer, look around you. Make this your prayer. It’s time to come home.
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