I’ll never forget the first time I heard it. It was my sophomore year of college and I was standing in chapel singing along to all of the usual worship songs. They were typical of the songs being sung by students in Christian universities all around the country and whether we heard them in chapel or sitting around a campfire while some wannabe Michael W. Smith strummed them on a guitar, there was nothing about them that made me stop in my tracks.
But this one did.
“Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it.
Mount of Thy redeeming love.”
As I listened to the words I felt like I was standing at the edge of the ocean watching a wave forming far off in the distance. Slowly at first, barely a ripple. These words, these beautiful words, were meant for me. It was a time in my life when I was searching. Longing for something more, something deeper. Then I heard something strange. A part that didn’t quite make sense to me.
“Here I raise my Ebenezer; Hither by Thy help I come.
And I hope by Thy good pleasure; Safely to arrive at home.”
Why on earth are they singing about Ebenezer? What could this song possibly have to do with Scrooge? Oh well, I thought. The rest of it is amazing so who cares if they talk about that classic Charles Dickens character. Maybe it’s just encouraging us to be generous!
Fast forward several years and I found myself standing next to my new husband at our new church in a new state and suddenly I hear the familiar words again. And yet it felt like I was hearing them for the very first time.
“Jesus, sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.”
Robert Robinson wrote this hymn in 1757 at the age of 22. The words are based on 1 Samuel and particularly the battle that was being waged between the Philistines and the Israelites. It reads like a scene out of a movie. The ark of the covenant being stolen by each side, plagues, idols, sacrifices, great thunder. Ultimately, God delivers His people and Samuel leads them to victory. In order to commemorate this moment, Samuel raises a great stone and gives it the name ‘Ebenezer’ meaning ‘stone of help’. From that moment on, whenever the Israelites saw it they would be reminded of God’s faithfulness in delivering them from their enemies and stop to praise Him for His faithfulness and grace.
“Ode to grace, how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.
And let Thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. “
When we think of wandering the Israelites definitely come to mind. Oh man did they wander! I did a Bible study a few years ago on the book of Exodus and I found myself feeling very judgmental. What was wrong with them? How many times did God have to prove Himself to them before they would trust Him? How could they so easily forget How much He had done for them?
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”
And then it hit me. I’m the Israelites. I’m ‘prone to wander’. Big time.
I have experienced His faithfulness and grace and generosity towards me time and time again and yet I still wander. I find myself in the desert not knowing which way to turn, whining, complaining, questioning.
I’m prone to that.
Here are the Israelites, years and years later, still struggling as they battle the Philistines. Still calling out to be saved. And what does Samuel do? He grabs a rock off the ground, raises it above his head and gives it a meaningful name.
They needed this ‘Ebenezer’. They needed a tangible reminder of how God had delivered them.
Maybe I need one too. I don’t like that I’m prone to wander. I wish I was always content to stay right by His side. But it is my human-ness, my sin, that pulls me away from Him.
And it’s that same human-ness, that same sin, that receives His abundant grace.
I’m indebted to Him for His grace. It’s given to me, to you, freely without ever expecting to be repaid. Imagine that!
A debt, which at the very moment it’s incurred, the only thing required of you is to receive it.
Which, of course, then makes it a gift.
So, I make my own ‘Ebenzer’ stones. My tangible reminders of His
And I say…
“Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it.
Seal it for Thy courts above.”