Here I raise my Ebenezer
Here I raise my Ebenezer
I Samuel 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”
One of my favorite hymns is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. Some of the old hymns had so much biblical theology behind their words. The theology in the old hymns is lost on much of today’s church because we do not study scripture. As an example, how many people could tell you what Ebenezer means in this hymn? The words in the second verse are:
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by Thy help I come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
These words were penned by Robert Robinson who at the age of 8 years old was sent to London to become a barber’s apprentice. His father had died and his mother thought it best that he learn a trade to support himself. But he fell into a bad company with other young rebels. While taunting the Methodist minister George Whitfield at a revival, God spoke to his heart. A few years later he pursued the study of scriptures and became a minister of the gospel.
At twenty-two, he wrote the hymn, “Come Thou Fount.”
“Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I come.” To what then does Ebenezer refer?
In 1 Samuel beginning in chapter 4, we read the story of Israel in the time of the judges. Israel has battled the Philistine for years. The Ark of the Covenant had been captured. When the Ark of Covenant was brought into the city of Ashdod, there they placed it in the house of Dagon, their god. The next morning the priest found that Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark. One day every knee will bow! God will not share his glory with anything or anyone!
“Now the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories.” (1 Samuel 5:6 NASB)The people of Ashdod send the ark to Gath. In all, the ark was taken to five cities. The cities all fell under the same curse of the LORD. After seven months, the Philistines send it back to Israel with a guilt offering of five golden tumors and five golden mice. That’s a whole different story to tell. But even here in Israel at Beth-shemesh, God struck down 50,070 men because “they had looked into the ark of the LORD.” (1 Samuel 6:19) From Beth-shemesh the ark is sent to Kiriath-jearim, where it remained 20 years. The ark came to rest at the house of Abinadab and his son Eleazar was consecrated to keep the ark of the LORD.
It is in Kiriath-jearim, that “the house of Israel mourned because it seemed the LORD had abandoned them.” (1 Samuel 7:2 NLT) Samuel speaks to all of Israel, “If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone, and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:3 NASB) Israel obeyed and removed the foreign gods and served the LORD for a time. Samuel gathers them at Mizpah and prays to the LORD. The people gather and draw water and pour it out before the LORD and fast. The Philistines hear of their gathering and they “went up against Israel” (1 Samuel 7:7) The people ask Samuel to “cry to the LORD our God for us that He might save us.”(v. 8) Samuel offers a sacrifice, a suckling lamb and the LORD answered him. “Now Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, and the Philistine drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day against the Philistines and confused them, so that they were routed before Israel.” (1 Samuel 7:10)
On that day Israel defeated the Philistines. “Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen and named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12)
Ebenezer means stone of help. Samuel takes a stone as a remembrance to all generations. “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” Many times Israel would place a stone of remembrance in the place where God brought a victory for them.
What are the lessons for us today?
- Pour ourselves out to the LORD. Cry to God, repent of self-effort and serve Him alone.
- We need to have reminders of what God has done for us. We need stones of remembrance, visual reminders for those who will come behind us of God’s faithfulness.
In our self-help culture, we spend a lot of time looking back at our lives, sometimes in regret and sometimes in pride. It was the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard who proclaimed: “Life must be understood backwards. But… it must be lived forwards.” While it is true we need to understand where we have been, we must place markers in our lives where God helped us and live our lives poured out on the altar of service. “Therefore, I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Remembering the times God has been faithful to us brings a heart of gratitude. Gratitude naturally gives way to thanksgiving and thanksgiving causes praise to flow from our lips. These are the characteristics God desires in us. How do we please Him? Praise from our lips, thanksgiving in our hearts, gratitude in our lives that results in fruitfulness. Fruitfulness will be my word for the year. I am not sure what that will look like. Each year I pray for the Lord to give me a word to study. Fruitfulness- Colossians 1:10 is the verse God gave me to memorize and walk in for the month of January. Maybe God will stir the verse in your heart as an “Ebenezer”, a stone of remembrance. Colossians 1:10 is part of the prayer Paul prays for the Christians in Colossae. “So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
I pray that 2017 will be a year we all grow together pleasing Him in all respects.
“Come Thou fount of every blessing tune my heart to sing Thy grace. Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it mount of The redeeming love!”
David Crowder — Come Thou Fount