Friday, October 21, 2016

Ebenezer Who?

I don't know about you, but every time I hear the name Ebenezer, my mind goes to Ebenezer Scrooge. That being the case, you can imagine my confusion when we sing the old hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. The second verse of that song begins "Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I've come." Say what now? What does it mean to raise an Ebenezer, and does that have anything to do with Scrooge?

Obviously, I knew there was some scriptural significance to the phrase, but I'm sorry to say that I completely missed it. Somehow, in the many times that I've read my Bible, I seemed to have overlooked this dramatic moment, but fortunately, the Lord recently brought it to my attention. Let me begin by saying that this Ebenezer has nothing to do with Scrooge. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Let's look at the Scripture reference first, and then I'll explain more.

And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar. Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. - I Samuel 7:10-12

 Here we see the Lord delivering Israel from the hand of the Philistines. It was a great victory, and Samuel decided to recognize the event by setting up a memorial called Ebenezer, which means "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." Is that awesome or what? In all of their future battles, the Israelites could look back at this memorial and remember that God had brought them that far and He would continue to take them through anything they faced according to His promise. They had a hope to cling to. They had a reminder of God's goodness and faithfulness.

So, when we sing the song, Come, Thou Fount, and we say, "Here I raise my Ebenezer," we are saying that we choose to remember what God has done in our lives and that He has brought us thus far and will continue to see us safely through. Raising our Ebenezer is a point of focusing our eyes back on God instead of on our problems. It is acknowledging that God is all-powerful and that He is in control of our lives so that we have nothing to fear. It is remembering His faithfulness and provision throughout the years and trusting that His faithfulness and provision will never fail us.

Ebenezers can come in many forms. After successfully crossing the Red Sea, Moses led the children of Israel in a song of praise. After wrestling with the Lord, Jacob built an altar. After crossing the Jordan, Joshua instructed the children of Israel to lay stones in the riverbed as a memorial of the miraculous event. Your Ebenezer can be something similar or something completely different. Perhaps you have a  journal in which you record your many blessings. Or maybe you have some form of a display where you post answers to prayer requests. Or it could be that the Bible serves as your Ebenezer, and when you feel down and discouraged, you need only read through its pages to find hope and encouragement. (Just a note, this should be an Ebenezer for all of us.)

Whatever the case, it is important to have some form of Ebenezer, because we can't always rely on our memories which can be tainted by our current emotions. In the midst of our dark times, it's very difficult to remember the good times and to bring to mind how God brought us through. But if we will set up  an Ebenezer and make it a point to run to the Ebenezer whenever life gets us down, even in the midst of our darkest situations, we will be able to shout with praise, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."

So, you see, this Ebenezer is the exact opposite of Scrooge. Instead of "Bah humbug," our Ebenezer says, "Praise the Lord for His goodness!" Are you raising your Ebenezer today?
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