here I raise my Ebenezer

 

“Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’m come.” It’s a familiar line to many, being the first line of the second verse of the well-loved hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Robert Robinson wrote the original text of the hymn in 1757 at age 22.

Robinson took the Hebrew word “Ebenezer,” a place-name, from 1 Samuel 7. The chapter describes how God miraculously saved the Israelite army from their Philistine adversaries, and how Samuel, Israel’s greatest prophet and leader at that time, set up a monument at the site of the battle to memorialize God’s miraculous intervention. For centuries, the memorial stone reminded the Israelite people of a specific moment in their history when God rescued them and proved his commitment to them.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the LORD helped us.” 1 Samuel 7:12
Ebenezer means “stone of help.” Students of the Bible may recognize the connection between this big rock, set up by Samuel, and some other significant rocks in the biblical story. One is the rock Moses commanded to spring forth water in the middle of the Arabian Desert (Exodus 17:1-7). Another is the pile of twelve rocks taken from the Jordan River that God told Joshua and the Israelites to set up after he stopped the flowing of the river so the nation could cross it on dry ground (Joshua 20). It too was a memorial:
[Joshua said,] “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” Joshua 4:6-7
God knew the Israelites’ hearts, their fickleness and forgetfulness. Visible, imposing memorials – Ebenezers, “stones of help” – forced them to remember the faithfulness of God to them. He led them out of Egypt, through the desert, across the Jordan, into the promised land, against their enemies; and he would not allow them to forget it. The Torah and the Prophets ring with the constant, repeated exhortation: “Remember I am the LORD your God,” “Remember how I led how you out of Egypt with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, “Remember, remember, remember…” 
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Robinson was on to something when he wrote of himself as “raising an Ebenezer.” Throughout Israelite history, God instructed his people to raise Ebenezers, memorials of his merciful action at specific moments in their lives.

Christian, you may do the same today. You know of God’s mercy to you in the arrival of the Son on earth; you know the cross, the greatest memorial to God’s grace ever constructed. You know the perspective of one whose life has been redeemed “from the pit” (Psalm 103:4), of one who can look back on the entire diversity of life’s experiences, the good and the painful, and see the loving faithfulness of God throughout. At the end of your life, you will be like David, looking back at your life, still calling God your “Rock,” (2 Samuel 23:3), saying, like David, your last words with confidence,

Is not my house right with God? Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part? Will he not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire? 2 Samuel 23:5

David looked back at his experiences and saw a life full of Ebenezers. He recognized the daily grace of God received by him over the course of a lifetime, the staggering power of God in making him, a nobody, a screw-up, great, and the unshakable loyalty of God to his promises. He saw these as the great themes of his life, the great and beautiful reasons for his loyalty to God.

I want to take a page out of Joshua’s, and Samuel’s, and David’s, and Robert Robinson’s book, and “raise an Ebenezer” today. A simple prayer or song commemorating God’s faithfulness to me, today. A quiet moment of gratitude for his mercy, today. A new memory to look back on tomorrow, when new problems, new pains, come. A big rock can weather any storm.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m 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.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Robert Robinson

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