One of my favorite hymns is Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. Robert Robinson wrote that hymn in 1752 and we sing it at Grace often. I also reflect upon it frequently, particularly verse two.
That verse begins in a way not immediately accessible to most of us in the twenty-first century: “Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’m come; and I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.”
What Is Ebenezer?
What is an “Ebenezer”? In 1 Samuel 7, we read that the Philistines are about to attack the children of Israel at Mizpah. “And when the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel [the judge and leader of Israel], ‘Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us, that he may rescues us from the hand of the Philistines.’ Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord on Israel’s behalf, and the Lord answered him” (1 Samuel 7:7-9).
Israel defeated the Philistines that day, and we read in verse 12 that Samuel set up a stone and named it Ebenezer, which means “stone of help,” to commemorate how the Lord aided his people that day.
Robinson’s hymn is treasured so many believers because Christians over the centuries have recognized that one of the most powerful ways to fight the good fight of Christianity is by remembering past episodes of God’s faithfulness in your life – i.e., Ebenezers.
For those Christians who keep journals, it must be wonderful to open old ones up from years ago. You can read from your own hand what you once were so worried about, then read how the Lord in his perfect timing resolved it all for you. The things you were so concerned about, so sure you wouldn’t survive, now, twenty years later, you would not have even remembered but for your journals.
I’m not organized enough to keep a journal but I do love going back through prayer cards, correspondence, emails, and other memories and seeing how, time after time, God provided.
As a rule, our culture despises age, growing old, and gray hair – youth and beauty have all the advantages in America today. No one wants to hire anyone once he or she turns 50, football players are washed up at 35, actresses in Hollywood must start playing grandmothers at 30, and professional tennis players (at least on the women’s side) are old at 20 now. Youth is in charge in America, but not in Christianity.
In Christianity, age has the upper hand and gray hair is a crown, not something you must color over, because those Christians who have been walking faithfully with the Lord twenty, thirty, forty years or more have lots of Ebenezers.
There aren’t many older Christians at Grace Bible, and they are outnumbered by us young guns. But it must be wonderful for them to be able to look back over a lifetime of Ebenezers and say again and again, “Look, right there, that’s a place where the Lord took care of me. And over there, another place. And during this dark period, that was all the Lord.”
But can only older Christians benefit from Ebenezers? No, because even if you’re brand new to the faith and have no Ebenezers of your own you can still lean on someone else’s. You may not have personally experienced God’s help, but others have. This is why the church (which means a group of believers of all ages) is so important.
Years ago when Mimi and I were first parents, we didn’t have a clue what we were doing, and still probably don’t. Back then, though, we were both absolutely sure we were ruining our kids.
Yet Mimi in particular had an older friend in our church who had already raised her children. This woman came alongside Mimi and encouraged her that everything was going to be fine. “It’s hard now and you’re exhausted, but you’re doing the right things. You’re investing in your kids now and trust me – God is faithful. He will see you through.” We didn’t have any Ebenezers of our own, but we were able to lean on hers.
No one can ever glory too often in God’s goodness and mercy. Lord, give us more Ebenezers, and help us to call them to mind in times of trial, discouragement, and temptation.