In approximately 1758 a young 23 year old pastor penned the words to a hymn that is a favorite of many. He grew up from age eight without a dad because he passed away. His mother couldn’t control his rebellion and so sent him off to live in England. During this time he came to attend an evangelistic meeting being led by the famous evangelist George Whitfield. He went, by his own testimony, to disrupt the service and mock the preacher. But, the Lord had other plans. It would be another two yeas later, but he came to trust Christ as his Saviour and was called into the ministry.
As he prepared for his weekly message he composed the lyrics to the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” One word in that hymn always perplexed me. We would all sing, “Here I raise mine ebenezer…” Each time I sang it I wondered, “What am I raising?” So, I looked it up and found it is a word that means a “sign of victory.” And, as I studied I found that it comes directly from 1 Samuel 7:12. After a great victory over their arch rivals, the Philistines, Samuel led the people in a celebration. During this celebration Samuel set up a stone as that sign of victory and called it Ebenezer.
Now, for generations to come, each and every time someone passed that stone it was to be a mute reminder of the victory God had given. It was to be a place parents and grandparents could repeat a wonderful account of God’s protection. This stone was one of many “piles of rocks” scattered throughout the land of Israel for the same purpose. If used properly no generation could live that wouldn’t be reminded of the the Lord’s great power.
But, like so many of us, not 20 years later, the people had apparently forgotten that it was God who granted victories. They had failed to remember that it was their confidence in El Shaddai that brought defeat to their enemies. For, in due time, the people rejected Samuel’s leadership, and God’s kingship, by asking for a human king. In their words, they just wanted to be like everyone else. Though they likely passed by this pile of rocks often, the significance had faded away.
What about you? What about me? What about us? Where are our ebenezers? Are they forgotten? Have they been relegated to a back seat, never to be remembered? Or, do we look upon them as we should, as a reminder to us of God’s great power and our dependence upon him.
The next time you sing, “Here I raise my ebenezer,” remember what it means. And, look to your own signs of victories and rejoice in what God has done.