Thursday, April 13

My Ebenezer

The third hymn wording question in the previous post asking for your hymn questions was raised by Hal: What does Ebenezer mean in Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing?

That's a word that I don't use every day, and if I do use it, I'm most likely referring to Ebenezer Scrooge! The hymnal that my church uses, if I remember right, removes the word Ebenezer and replaces it with something else--a phrase that I can't remember. The hymnal editors, I suppose, are hoping to clarify a word they assume many will not understand. So what in the world does Ebenezer mean?

Let me refresh your memory by posting the relevent text from the hymn:
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come...
The word Ebenezer is an allusion to a story in the Old Testament, and if we were more Old Testament literate, understanding that bit of the hymn would be easier for us. You can find the whole story in 1 Samuel 4-7, but the conclusion is that God delivers the Israelites from the Philistines, and in response to this intervention from God on behalf of his people, Samuel places a large stone between Mizpah and Shen.

What was the purpose of the stone? Let me quote Charlie, who pointed us to a post he'd written on this story.
[Samuel] publicly dedicated it as a monument to God's help, God's faithfulness, God's eternal covenant.
The stone was a public memorial to God's help, so Samuel named the stone Ebenezer, which means stone of help.

When we sing Come Thou Fount we are raising our own Ebenezer. We are reminding ourselves that it is only by God's gracious help that we've been restored to fellowship with him. It is hither by Thy help I'm come, and therefore, I can rest in the security of my future as well. I can hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home.

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