The first time I sang the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson I was struck by the words in the second verse that say “Here I Raise My Ebenezer”. I whispered to my wife, Helen, “What is an Ebenezer and why are we raising it in church?” Maybe you also have wondered what an Ebenezer is.
In 1 Samuel 7 the Philistines decided to attack the Israelites right after they had repented and were returning to the Lord. The Israelites gathered together at Mizpah and Samuel was offering a sacrifice at the time the Philistines came to attack. God threw the Philistines into confusion with a mighty thunder and they were defeated. Samuel commemorated the victory with a stone and said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” He gave it the name Ebenezer. So there is the origin of the name Ebenezer. It came to mean “stone of help.”
While that’s the first time that the word Ebenezer was used, it isn’t the first time that stones were used in marking God’s faithfulness. When Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan and into the promised land he had them lay 12 stones, one for each tribe, as a remembrance that they would tell their “children and their children’s children” about the faithfulness of God. They needed to remember to tell their children of God bringing them out of slavery, of parting the Red Sea, of providing food (manna), water and meat. They needed to tell them that God was with them by day as a cloud and by night as a flame of fire. They were to tell them of a faithful God who kept all of His promises and delivered them into the promised land.
These two stories have been instrumental in my walk with the Lord. They have reminded me to put “Ebenezers” or markers of where God has shown His goodness and faithfulness to me. Being able to look back on specific times and remember God’s faithfulness has helped me to trust Him in current trials. It’s helped me to tell others of His goodness and faithfulness and it has bolstered my own faith.
One of the great things about growing older is that I have a very large number of Ebenezers to look back on. I’m now in my 60’s and I can see God’s faithfulness and goodness in providing me with a godly wife. His blessing me with 7 children. His provision for our family in raising the kids and providing for all of our needs abundantly. His faithfulness in making my children His children.
Ebenezers are a great way of looking back. For me, I can look back at some key Ebenezers that embolden me for any trial I am facing. Where was God when my father died when I was 16? He used my father’s death to bring my whole family to faith in Christ. Where was God when I had cancer? He walked through that time with me and I shared my deepest concerns with Him. Where was God when my marriage was struggling? He gave my wife Helen and myself the power to forgive and love each other again with no shadows.
When you walk with God a long time, you don’t just know His character from scripture (although that’s a great place to learn about it), you also learn about His character from experiences. In the lowest points in my life, He was always there. He didn’t just promise to never leave me nor forsake me, He actually never did leave me or forsake me. Knowing that gives me the faith that He will always meet me and walk with me. I know there is future grace because I have experienced so many instances of past and present grace.
What are the Ebenezeers in your life? Are you marking the times of seeing God’s faithfulness so you can tell your children and your children’s children? Are you marking the times of God’s faithfulness so that you will remember His goodness when you experience a new trial?
Our God is a great God, raise your Ebenezer and remember His goodness and His faithfulness.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”