The year 1947 lies before us like an unexplored region and we know that there are many possibilities for it. Things of which we never dreamed might occur in it. In this wide world everything is uncertain, nothing permanent. What shall God’s people say at the beginning of the year? Whither shall they look? They are well aware that in this world we lie in the midst of death and that the year upon which we have entered, will not be different from the years that have gone by. It, too, will bring its labor and sorrow, its suffering and agonies, its fear and death. And as they contemplate the state of the world at the beginning of 1947, with its confusion, hatred, lies, fear and dangers, they do not seek their happiness in the vain prospect of man’s better world or of a lasting peace and prosperity, created by the proud politicians.
No, they look upon “Eben-Ezer” upon the “stone of help” that is erected before their eyes. They remember the merciful help of God, yea, they know that “our help cometh from the Lord, Which made heaven and earth” and gratefully acknowledge “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”! I Sam. 7:12. These words were spoken by the prophet Samuel who as the faithful servant of the Lord judged the people of Israel for many years. God had delivered his people out of the house of bondage in Egypt, but Israel soon had basely forgotten this great benefit and served idols. Therefore, God gave them into the hands of their enemies which oppressed them hard. At this time Israel was groaning under the oppression of the Philistines. They had taken away from Israel the Ark of the Covenant, which was for Israel a testimony of forgiveness of sins, of grace, life and peace with God.
In their anxiety, the people come to Samuel and say to him: “Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us that He will save us out of the hand of the Philistines” (I Sam. 7:8). They cannot expect any merited help because with bitter weeping they have confessed: “We have sinned against the Lord” (I Samuel 7:6). There was nothing else left for them but to cry for God’s mercy. But—how can the holy God be merciful to these people which had so grievously sinned against Him and served the devil? Must God in His wrath not destroy them? Well, Samuel is a true advocate. He knows that “God is indeed merciful, but that He is likewise just” (Heid. Cat., Q. 11). He knows that the justice of God must be satisfied in order that we may escape the righteous judgment of God which we deserved and be again received into favor.
What is Samuel now doing? He took a sucking lamb and offered it for a burnt offering. Therewith, he confesses that Israel’s sin deserved death, yea, that all the people were worthy to be consumed in the flames of God’s wrath. But this lamb becomes the substitute for the people and dies instead of the people. And this lamb is a figure of the Lamb of God and the people are reconciled with God in the innocent and undefiled Lamb of God and the admission to the throne of grace stands open.
And so you, too, youth of the Protestant Reformed Churches are redeemed and purchased with the blood of the Lamb of God. And if you so in the Lamb that has fully satisfied for all your sins, come to the throne of grace, you will obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need in this new year. Israel keeps His Word: “Thou shalt turn unto the Lord thy God and shalt obey His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart and with all thy soul, that then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity and have compassion upon thee!” Here it becomes manifest that Israel, the church of God, lives only by God’s grace, that Israel has again tested the grace of God, yea, the grace through the blood of the Lamb! And here it was, where Samuel erected the stone and gave it the name “Eben-Ezer” and said: “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us!”
And, my young friends, in your midst there is also erected an “Eben-Ezer” and your Eben-Ezer is our Lord Jesus Christ. God has promised: “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation” (Is. 28:16). In Psalm 118:22 we read: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner”. Peter writes to the church: “To Whom coming as unto a living stone” (I Pet. 2:4). And Paul writes: “For they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them; and that rock was Christ” (I Cor. 10:4). In this stone “Eben-Ezer” Samuel holds out Christ before the people as the only help in life and in death. God in Christ, otherwise Israel and we have no God!
“Hitherto hath the Lord helped us”! Thus you also must confess. And that means: Hitherto the Lord has kept His Word. And such a Word that has proved to be truth certainly is worthy that we believe it. And of such a word we shall not doubt for the future. You have a God and Saviour upon Which you may rely in life and in death, a God and Saviour, whose mercy endureth forever and Who will not forsake the works of His hands.
“Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O People saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help and Who is the sword of thy excellency”! He is with you in 1947!