Given: the Baby Boomer generation is quite large.
Given: As children, many of those Boomers accompanied their parents to church.
Given: Many readers of this blog belong to that fine group!
Therefore, the following lyrics may sound familiar to you.
Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace…
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
Hither by thy help I’m come.
While singing this energizing hymn in the church of my youth, I wondered more than once, What on earth is an Ebenezer? But by the time I arrived home, my mind was on the roast beef in the oven or the comics in the paper.
So, for any of you who live with a curious mind (albeit forgetful) as I do, here it is finally—an explanation of that puzzling term, raising an Ebenezer.
The answer is hiding in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. During this period of Israel’s history, their archenemy was the Philistines.
The prophet, Samuel, explained the way to victory. “Rid yourselves of the foreign gods, and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines,” Samuel said (7:3).
The people obeyed the word of the Lord, given through the prophet, Samuel. God did indeed come to the rescue. “The Lord thundered…against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites” (v. 10).
In celebration of the victory, Samuel took a stone and set it up as a memorial of what God had done that day. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us” (v. 12). The word, Ebenezer, means “stone of help.”
Every time an Israelite walked by that memorial, he would be reminded of God’s miraculous help against the Philistines that day. It would bring to mind the faithfulness and goodness of the Lord to his children.
Years ago I read about a family who kept a special rock collection in a glass jar, up on a bookshelf. On each flat stone, in permanent ink, was recorded a brief description of a special event that demonstrated God’s power and goodness to their family. They raised their own Ebenezers. The jar of stones represented the ways thus far the Lord had helped them (1 Samuel 7:12).
I don’t have such a jar of river stones. What a lovely tradition! But I do have a blessings journal, started in 1983. I’ve mentioned this collection before. Recorded within its pages are the wonderful, miraculous works God has accomplished for our family. The number of entries is now approaching nine hundred.
A few samples:
1985 – We were in need of some furniture; the choir director of our church “just happened” to have some in storage. Most of it was exactly what we needed.
1991 – My daughter and I were almost involved in a 4-car pile-up on an expressway entrance ramp. God protected us.
1994 – ‘Came out of the mall, after shopping for an hour, and discovered I’d left on the lights of the car. I prayed; God answered. The car started up just fine.
1998 – Our son, who never had much use for school, made the dean’s list.
2003 – That same son was working for a dying business, and his paycheck was ten days past due. A friend offered him a job in their family business at the same salary, and allowed him to start immediately.
2008 – We attended an out-of-state wedding at which a small acappella ensemble sang. I thought, Wouldn’t it be fun to sing in such a group. Less than two months later, that’s exactly what I was doing! Our church choir director invited me to join a quintet he had been inspired to form.
2011 – We needed a china cabinet and hutch. While visiting the home of a friend, I couldn’t help but notice theirs—the exact style I would have liked. But M. had found hers at a thrift store and refurbished it. What were the chances we’d find a similar one? A month later, at a warehouse of estate sale finds, our china cabinet was waiting for us—very similar to M.’s.
Come to think of it, perhaps it’s a good thing I haven’t used rocks for our nine hundred Ebenezers. They’d never fit in a jar! For us, numerous pages in a notebook prove that “thus far the Lord has helped us (1 Samuel 7:12).”
And, no doubt, the Ebenezer-collection will continue to grow. God isn’t finished with us yet.
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What Ebenezers can you raise, that prove thus far the Lord has helped you? Share an example in the Comments section, to encourage the rest of us.