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The hymn, “Come Thou Fount,” begins the second stanza with the following lyrics:
“Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.”
For those unfamiliar with the storyline behind the usage of Ebenezer, one could think that someone is raising their child named Ebenezer in Lion-King fashion. However, Ebenezer is a reference to a stone that the prophet Samuel had established between two cities as a memorial to the Lord, representing how the Lord was a “stone of help,” helping Israel win the victory over the Philistines (1 Sam. 7:3-17). Thus, the reference to raising one’s Ebenezer is raising a memorial—a remembrance—of how the Lord has been and is a stone of help.
Within the context of the raising of “the stone of help,” or the raising of Ebenezer, there are two particular points of interest.
First, the “stone of help” was raised after a much-needed return to the Lord.
If you read back a couple of chapters, you will see that Israel had experienced a period of turbulent times. They had seen the corruption and evil of the sons of Eli—the priest of Israel. They had experienced multiple poundings by the Philistines. After their last beating, the Philistines captured their national sacred mascot, the ark of the covenant. In addition, they witnessed the death of the priestly family. Furthermore, they were a nation chasing after other gods. After these events, Samuel, the established prophet of the Lord (1 Sam. 3:20), called Israel to return to the Lord with all their hearts.
Second, the stone of help was raised after Israel cried out to the Lord in great desperation.
As Israel gathered as a nation to repent and return to the Lord, the Philistines heard about the gathering and planned to crash the repentance party with an attack. When Israel heard about the attack, “they were afraid of the Philistines.”
However, they asked Samuel to constantly “cry out to the Lord our God for us, that he may save us from the hand of the Philistines.” The difference between their actions now, verses their previous actions, was the central power and focus behind the fighting. Previously, Israel was fighting in their own power and for themselves—even though they used God as a lucky rabbit’s foot.
Don’t miss this. Prior to the Ebenezer being raised, Israel approached God in desperation, knowing that they could not win unless he fought for them. In other words, they were completely dependent on God for help—for victory. This is where God wants us all to be—regardless of the kind of crises we may face.
In closing, whatever we face today, tomorrow, or down the road is something that God does not just want to face with us, but for us. Jesus did not come to be “part” of our life as if to become a spiritual tack-on, but rather has come to bring us life and to be our life! Thus, we should live lives completely dependent on him. When we live this way, we will find ourselves raising more “Ebenezers” (memorial stones signifying how God has been our stone of help).
What Ebenezer should you raise today in remembrance of how God was your stone of help?
How can you come alongside others to help them see their Ebenezers?