The Ebeneezer…

Today, in church, we sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” an old Christian hymn, now in the public domain but originally written by Robert Robertson. He was 22 at the time he wrote the hymn back in 1757. A former Baptist pastor, Robertson penned the lyrics when he converted to Methodism.

The hymn is one of those that most of us have grown up with – but there is usually a little problem. Frankly, most of us don’t understand what the hymn is about – and there are a number of words that we sing but don’t know the meaning of.

So let’s start with the title – what in the world is a “fount?” Well, it is short for fountain, or a source. Sometimes, it means the origin, so what Robertson is saying is that God is the source of every blessing. How true that is! In fact, the hymn is about the topic of divine grace! It implores the Lord to come and extend His grace to us and that we will sing about it and appreciate it. In fact, the songwriter wants the Lord to teach us a sonnet to sing.

That brings us to another word that can be problematic – the word “fetter.” That occurs farther down in the song, but I used to always wonder what a fetter is… Well, it’s an old world name for a chain. So, here Robertson is  wanting to make sure that he stays bound to God and can’t wander very far away. What a great thought that we could be chained to God to make sure that we stay close to Him and don’t inadvertently wander off or get lost.

Finally, the big word that most of us think about is the word “Ebeneezer.” In the second verse, the songwriter talks about raising an Ebeneezer. Once again, most of us don’t realize what that means. Well, it is the source of the entire idea of the song. That’s because the inspiration for the hymn came from a Bible verse.

In the seventh chapter of 1 Samuel, we are told that the ark was moved and stayed in a new location for twenty years. Samuel wanted the entire nation of Israel to come back to the Lord after having wandered from His care. Samuel asked them to get rid of their idols and repent. In fact, he said that if they returned to the Lord, they would be delivered from the hands of the Philistines, who were their enemies.

The people returned to worship God and Samuel agreed to represent the people to the Lord. After fasting and offering sacrifices, the Israelites were ready for the impending  Philistine attack. God delivered Israel that day and the Philistines were routed.

In appreciation for the victory, Samuel erected a monument to the Lord. He set a large stone in place between Mizpah and Shen as a reminder – an “ebeneezer.” So we learn that an ebeneezer is a monument or a large stone – a stone of help. Samuel erected the stone as God had been faithful to them so far.

Tonight’s verse is the specific verse in 1 Samuel that inspired the hymn that we have been speaking about this evening. We are told, in 1 Samuel 7:12-13, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the LORD helped us.” So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again.”

My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to depend on Him to deliver us. Just like the Israelites, God wants us to turn from our other ways and focus on Him alone. My prayer is that we will always be successful depending on God and that in our own way, each of us will erect a monument, an ebeneezer, to the God of the universe in appreciation for having been delivered. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…


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