Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hey, Want to Raise the Ebenezer?

In today's Journey Through the Bible chapters, 1 Samuel 7-9, we see the word ebenezer. It reminded me of how, almost every time we sing the hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, a get the question, "What is an ebenzer?"

To tell you the truth, it's one of those facts that I seem to lose all the time: I look it up, then forget it; then look it up again and forget it again. Knowing the meaning of the word ebenezer, of course, isn't critical for a believer's salvation. But it does seem imbecilic for we Christians, including this pastor, to sing the line in Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing about raising the ebenezer and not knowing or remembering what it is we're raising.

Kyle Butt, a guy I've never heard of, writing on a web site I'd never seen before, has an interesting and, it seems, credible explanation of the meaning of ebenezer, going back to a passage from 1 Samuel that figures in today's reading:
One of the phrases that is of particular interest comes from the song...Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing...[The words] were written by Robert Robinson in 1758. The second verse of the song begins with these words: “Here I raise my Ebenezer.”...  
In 1 Samuel 7, the prophet Samuel and the Israelites found themselves under attack by the Philistines. Fearing for their lives, the Israelites begged Samuel to pray for them in their impending battle against the Philistines. Samuel offered a sacrifice to God and prayed for His protection. God listened to Samuel, causing the Philistines to lose the battle and retreat back to their own territory. After the Israelite victory, the Bible records: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’ ” (1 Samuel 7:12).  
The word Ebenezer comes from the Hebrew words ’Eben hà-ezer (eh’-ben haw-e’-zer)which simply mean “stone of help” . When Robinson wrote his lyrics, he followed the word Ebenezer with the phrase, “Here by Thy great help I’ve come.” An Ebenezer, then, is simply a monumental stone set up to signify the great help that God granted the one raising the stone. In Robinson’s poem, it figuratively meant that the writer—and all who subsequently sing the song—acknowledge God’s bountiful blessings and help in their lives.
I think it's safe to say that Robinson intended for those who might recite his poem or, later, sing its words as part of a hymn, was saying, "We raise this song of praise as a monument to God's saving grace, to the 'Fount of every blessing,' the God ultimately disclosed to us in Jesus Christ."

I hope I don't forget.

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