Most people are not familiar with the word Ebenezer in the Bible. This time of year our thoughts might go to Ebenezer Scrooge and the story of A Christmas Carol. Beyond that, we have no idea what it means.
I think of this word every time we sing the song “Come Thou Fount.” The second verse starts with a line that says “Here I raise my Ebenezer.” I have sung it many times, and it is possible that you have too, but what in the world does it mean?
The primary story still comes from 1 Samuel chapter 7. The people of Israel had spent twenty years trying to live without God. They had given themselves over to idols and neglecting the God of their fathers. In turn, God had allowed the Philistines to conquer and rule over the people of God. By chapter 7 the people come to Samuel and seek the Lord’s guidance for the first time in years. Samuel instructs them to get rid of their idols and rally together to fight the Philistines. Apparently, the people do as instructed, and God is pleased with them. The result is that God confuses the Philistines and the Israelite army pushes the Philistines out of their land.
Then in the middle of this story, there is a pause, and it says in 1 Samuel 7:12 (NIV) “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.’”
Samuel sets up a rock and calls it Ebenezer. First, I think that is weird. It’s like, “This is Samuel and his pet rock Ebenezer.” Second, it is not that weird when you understand what is going on in the story. The name Ebenezer means “The stone of help.” Samuel sets up this stone as a memorial to the work of the Lord. He calls attention to the fact that it was God who led them out of captivity and to victory over their enemies. Samuel wanted a visual reminder that God was their ultimate helper. He wanted people to walk by that stone and be reminded of the work of the Lord.
I can only assume that the writer of the hymn “Come Thou Fount” recognized the work of the Lord in their life. Then he added this one obscure Biblical reference driving the point home. He wrote that he was going to raise his own Ebenezer stone to remind him of God’s work of blessing in his life.
I have often wondered if I should do the same thing in my life. Whenever I receive an enormous blessing that I know is clearly from God, I stop and set up a little monument to his achievement. That way when I walk across my property, I am reminded of the goodness of God in my life. Oh yeah, he blessed me that day and that day and that day and that day and on and on.
Maybe it is a gift from God that every holiday season I am reminded of the word Ebenezer because of the story of A Christmas Carol. It is a simple nudging that in a time of asking for more and more that I have been blessed abundantly by God already.
Today I raise my Ebenezer. Would you join me?