The word probably brings to mind the Elizabethan age of Shakespeare and the King James Bible translation. Old and archaic, the word is seldom used. Hitherto-until now-up to this point-this far-the words are “January” words. They look at the past and into the future. Hitherto is a wayside, a marker at which to rest. The stack of daily work papers are corrected, now for the tests. Three rows of beans are picked, freezing them is next. The vista compels contemplation of both the trail accomplished and what is yet to be conquered.
Hitherto may also be a word of command. This far only you may go. It is the red line of authority. When it is drawn by human authority it is often resented, challenged and broken. Consider the authority in the words from Job. “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed…” (Job 38:11) The verses which follow reveal God not only determines the boundaries for the seas, but commands dawn and set bars and doors for darkness. Though Satan rebels at this “hitherto” authority, he must obey. “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.” (Job 2:6) Though the evil in the gutter rises, God’s hitherto applies.
Ebeneezer is also a “hitherto” word. It recalls the struggles of the Israelite nation. The Philistine tribe, a constant plague, threatened once again. Hearts pounding, throats dry with fear the children of Israel turn to Samuel who cries to the LORD for aid. “And as Samuel was offering the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel.” (I Samuel 7:10) Samuel marks a wayside, Ebeneezer, “hitherto has the LORD helped us.” There the nation should rest to reflect on the past. The vista from the mount showed a trail of sin covered by God’s grace. It also revealed His promises and how His faithfulness fulfilled each one. A past of blessings which traced farther back than Abraham.
The vista directs attention to the view of the trail ahead. More than slightly daunting, it disappears into forest depths. A glimpse of a river’s rage to cross, a cliff to be scaled, the trail goes ever on. Hearts pounding, throats dry with fear Ebeneezer is a message of grace for the future. The LORD kept His promises in the past, He will keep them in the trials yet to come. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Rom. 8:32 Behind, ahead the trail of trials is strewn with blessings and comfort. Ebeneezer, hitherto, until now, up to this point, this far. The evil in the gutter rises, our fleshly fears throb, “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Hitherto, old word, archaic, still it is rather a good one.
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