“Here I raise my Ebenezer” – this is how the second verse to Come Thou Fount begins. To most this line is probably strange, old language that needs updating. But we’d be wrong to quickly dismiss this phrase.
Let’s put it in context. The scene is 1 Samuel 5-7, where the people of God has turned away to worship idols and still expect God to fight their wars for them. The Ark of the Covenant is lost in battle to the Philistines. As the Philistines celebrate their victory, God demonstrates His power over their false god by causing the idol to fall and then eventually break. God also causes tumors and death on the Philistines. They ship it around to different cities and kings to alleviate the burden, but in the end, they just want it gone. So they decide to let the universe decide if it was coincidence or the working of the LORD God. The kings have the Ark strapped to a new cart with newly yoked cows and a guilt offering with it. The test was whether the cows decided to go in a particular direction (towards Israel). What do the untrained cows do? Turn and go home to their calves? Nope. They somehow manage to pull the cart without any training uphill in the opposite direction of their calves and towards Israel. God revealed His handiwork to a bunch of God-haters. And the Ark makes it to a Levitical city. Remember the Levites where in charge of caring for the temple and the Ark.
Surely, there would be great rejoicing when the Ark returned. Instead, the people in the city irreverently stared at the Ark. There was no rush to treat this box that symbolized the LORD’s presence with awe, wonder, and proper reverence. They hadn’t learned their lesson.
The climax of this story is a people who turn to the one and only God. They consecrate a man to care for the Ark and lament after the Lord. They cry to the Lord, “We have sinned against the LORD.” Samuel, the prophet, then judges the people as they turn to God. He tells them to destroy all idols and worship only the LORD. All the while, the Philistines are on their way to destroy the Israelites once again. But this time, God fights for His repentant children.
As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. (ESV)1 Samuel 7:10
The stone called Ebenezer is here raised. It’s a stone of help memorializing God’s action of helping the helpless Israelites. It’s a help that transforms the hopeless situation into one of conquering. All is set right again. The Philistines are defeated, and Israel reclaims their cities. There’s even peace.
Raising our Ebenezer
The fullness of that phrase in Come Thou Fount is meant to remind us of our great abiding need of our LORD. We raise our stone of help right here, right now, crying to God as our only source of help and hope in a state of helplessness and hopelessness. “Hither by Thy help I’m come. And I hope by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.” When we sing songs of praise from a place of humility and awe, we are singing rightly. Our song of notes is transformed into a pleasing aroma before God.
We need to be in the same place that God brought the Israelites so long ago. We need Him and need to recognize and remember that. It was Jesus that “sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God. He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.” How blessed a people are we that we can gather in His presence to sing the praises of His name, telling the triumphs of His grace over and over again in our lives. This is where we find our peace. When we are firmly rooted in His help, His power, we stand in peace with God and repentance before Him.
Be reminded constantly of the hope we have in Jesus that no man can take from us. Let’s choose to remind ourselves by raising our Ebenezer here and now. Let’s keep raising our Ebenezer stones daily, and as we gather to sing His praises in worship.