One of my favorite hymns-turned-contemporary worship songs is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” In the second verse of this song comes this line, “Here I raise my “Ebenezer.” When most of us think of Ebenezer, we think of the Ebenezer Scrooge. Of course, this is not the same Ebenezer that we are referring to in the hymn. So what or who is this mysterious “Ebenezer?” I remember the first time that I remember meeting Ebenezer. Our new Oklahoma Bishop Robert Hayes was preaching at a chapel service at Oklahoma City University (OCU). In my effort to get on the good side of the Bishop (and because, well I worked with the chapel office), I was there ready to hear the good word from the bishop and he preached out of 1 Samuel 7.
10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car. 12Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the LORD helped us.” 13 So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines. 14The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to her, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the power of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.
There it was Ebenezer!! I had for many years (ok 3) sang heartily, “Here I raise my Ebenezer.” And now I had found out what an Ebenezer was: a rock. You know I was hoping for more. Really, with a cool name like that and it is a single rock between two cities. What do you do with a rock? Skip it, kick it, bust out a window (not me, but I have heard about others doing such things), paperweight. A single rock can be somewhat worthless.
But Samuel had another idea for this rock, he named it: Ebenezer. Ebenezer means Rock of help. I like that. (I still hope it was at least a big rock.) Samuel set it between Mizpah and Shen and saying “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” Bishop Hayes in his sermon extended our understanding as he fluidly translated different versions of the Bible’s translation of that statement as a chorus, “thus far, hither to, up until now, the Lord has helped us.” And throughout that sermon, we would hear the chorus again and again.
You see, this was not just any rock, but this a reminder rock. A reminder rock of what God has done for his people that “thus far, hither to, up until now, the Lord has helped us.” We are to be Ebenezer people. Not scrooges, but people who remember that we only got to “here” because, “thus far, hither to, up until now, the Lord has helped us.” It reminds me of the choral song, “He’s never failed me, yet.” I haven’t always liked the concept of that song as it lends to the idea that God might fail us, but when we have an Ebenezer perspective we sing that song differently. We sing it being reminded that the Lord has helped us. God has been faithful to us.
I think we all need our own Ebenzers. Something simple that reminds us that “thus far, hither to, up until now, the Lord has helped us.” Something that we will walk by in our daily lives and see it and think, the Lord has helped us there, and the Lord will help us here. So friends let us sing together as we remember that “thus far, hither to, up until now, the Lord has helped us.”
“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.”