From the top of the Scotts Bluff National Monument, I can look out and see Chimney Rock faintly in the distance. On a clear day, I can make it out so sharply that it stands out on the horizon, almost as though it was placed there like a sticker in a book. When I see Chimney Rock, I know I’m almost home. Historically, many others viewed Chimney Rock in a similar way – that is, as a visual reminder that you were right on track, a hope that your destination was just ahead.
The National Park Service writes about Chimney Rock on their website in this way:
“During 1800’s, Chimney Rock served as the most noted landmark along the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. As the emigrants passed by this rock, most of them noted in their diaries or journals that they were glad to see that they are going the right direction and it spired to the heavens. So intrigued were the emigrants that thousands climbed up the cone to carve their names on the tower. Though no inscriptions are known to survive today, there is ample written testimony that thousands of names once adorned the rock.”1
Far in the distance, the spire of rock pointed the way, a towering peak of hope and promise. And, so moved by its sight were those who saw it that they scaled the rock and carved their names on its side. The people who came close enough to Chimney Rock to see it were at once filled with the stories they had heard from people who had survived the journey. Chimney Rock was real. They were traveling the right direction. If they kept on just a while longer, they would make it to where they were going.
Chimney Rock became a landmark, a testimony in rock form, that the trail was leading where many had promised it would go.
When the people of Israel were repenting at Mizpah (which happens to mean “watchtower), the Philistine army saw an opportunity to attack. The people of Israel cried out to Samuel, and Samuel cried out to God. The advancing army was thrown into a confusion, and the people of Israel were spared. Samuel set up a rock and called it Ebenezer because “thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12). This rock, this Ebenezer, became a visible reminder of God’s faithfulness and provision. Whenever the people would see it, they would remember. And, even if they never passed this way again, they would tell the story to their children, and their children would pass it on to their children. Someday, should their ancestors happen to pass by this stone, they would see and they would remember. God’s faithfulness was on display – both in the way God was moving and acting, and also in the way the people remembered and passed on what God had done.
As you think back on the journey of your life to this point, are there any moments where God’s faithfulness stands out to you like a sticker placed on a book? Where do you see God working in your life and in your midst today? Are there others who have helped point the way for you?
In our journeys of faith, we have the opportunity both to encourage others and to be encouraged by others as we think about God’s faithfulness and provision. Let us set up those stones, and be on the lookout for those landmarks, as we join our voices with the psalmist who wrote: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2). Let us be on the look-out. Let us bear witness to what God has done and is doing. Let’s keep our eyes open, for surely God is in our midst.