Dear Church Family,
Last Sunday in corporate worship we sang one of my favorite hymns, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Each phrase of every line drips with Biblical imagery. Its writer, Robert Robinson (unfortunately his middle name was not Ricky), did a masterful job of weaving so many different Scriptural themes into one song.
One such example is the use of the title, “Ebenezer” at the opening of verse two. I am sure most of you recognize the source of this reference, but there may be a few of you who are thinking about Charles Dickens, George C. Scott, or maybe the Muppets. Rest assured, this hymn precedes the novel and has nothing to do with Mr. Scrooge.
Rather, Robinson was looking all the way back to the book of 1 Samuel—specifically chapter 7. You will remember that Joshua led the people of Israel into the Promised Land after the death of Moses. Each tribe was given an allotment of land and charged with driving out the previous inhabitants. However, with the death of Joshua and the seventy elders who served with him, the people took the short-view and stopped fighting. This was disobedience to God’s command and they continued down this path into sin which incurred the Lord’s judgment as He had promised.
In the midst of their affliction, the people would cry out for deliverance and God raised up a series of judges for His people. When Samuel comes on the scene, Eli the priest was serving as judge, but his oversight abruptly comes to an end as Israel is defeated in battle, his two sons are killed—and most importantly—the ark of the covenant of the Lord is captured. However, as the Philistines found out, the God of Israel was not dependent on His people for His protection and so with great fear they sent the ark back to Israel.
Eventually, the people humbled themselves before the Lord and repented of their sins under Samuel’s leadership. The nation gathered together as one to return to the Lord and seek His face. Upon hearing about their unification, the surrounding nations determined they needed to seize the opportunity to divide them. The people were afraid, but they pleaded with Samuel to cry out to the Lord on their behalf in order that they might be saved. Samuel offered a young lamb as atonement for their sins and then prayed to the Lord, just as they had asked him.
The Lord responded by thundering from heaven in such a way that all of the opposing armies were thrown into confusion and routed before the people. In light of the great and merciful way in which the Lord intervened on their behalf, “Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12). Ebenezer means stone of help.
As God’s people, we are where we are because of the Lord’s kind work in our lives. Surely if we were to set up stones for every act of help our Lord has performed on our behalf, we would need to break apart every mountain. But all of those mountains can not compare with how He helped us on Mount Calvary through the death of His Son. It is because of this great intervention on our behalf that we will “Praise the mount of Thy redeeming love” for all of eternity. So then, let us plead to the Lord with Robinson:
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter, Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.