What is an Ebenezer? That is not a commonly used word in today's vernacular but it mentioned in the second verse of one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (United Methodist Hymnal #400). The second verse contains the words: "Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I'm come."
Those words have been sung by millions since it was written by Robert Richardson in 1757. They have stirred the hearts of saints and sinners but I suspect that most people have no idea what they are singing.
I clearly understand the words of the third verse.
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee!
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it!
Prone to leave the God I love--
Here's my heart--Oh take and seal it!
Seal it for thy courts above!
I have sung and prayed it many times.
But what about that Ebenezer in the previous verse? What is that all about?
The Old Testament tells the story of the ancient nation of Israel. After a long period of trouble, the Israelites were at war with the Philistines. They asked the prophet Samuel to pray for them in their impending battle. He offered a sacrifice, prayed for them, and the Philistines retreated in defeat. After the victory "Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and called it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the Lord has helped us'." (I Samuel 7:12)
The word Ebenezer comes from two Hebrew words that mean "stone of help." The hymn writer followed the word Ebenezer with the phrase, "Hither by Thy help I'm come." In this context Ebenezer is simply a monument to be a reminder of God's aid. The words of the hymn was a way of Robinson acknowledging God's blessings and help in his life. Subsequently everyone who would sing the song would also be reminded.
Charles Lehardy (www.anotherthink.com) said, "Samuel was a wise and godly man with a good idea. He recognized something that is true about human nature- we're forgetful. Israel could stand next to that big old rock (Ebenezer) and remind themselves, 'Yes, we serve a living and faithful God, whose mercies are everlasting'."
On this Memorial Day Americans encounter many kinds of memorials that remind us of the faithful service and ultimate sacrifice many gave in service to our country and for us. We remember and are grateful.
As a result of the victory over the Philistines, Israel's land was restored to them and for a long time the people of Israel lived in peace. As Christians there are also many reminders of God's love for us and the faithfulness of Jesus Christ who gave His life for us. His victory over sin and death offers us the great gift of forgiveness and peace- both now and forever.
Dr. Gregory Neal says, "An Ebenezer can be nearly anything that reminds us of God's help and presence." What are your Ebenezers?
Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," May 28, 2012. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.