“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us”” (I Samuel 7:12).
The second verse of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing begins with these lines – Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’ve come; And I hope by Thy good pleasure Safely to arrive at home.
Probably many of us don’t know what an Ebenezer is. This is probably even more telling as we don’t sing this song as often as in times past. Here is where the Ebenezer comes from and why the song’s theology is quite appropriate for Christians of any age.
I Samuel 4-7 recounts a series of events during a war between Israel and Philistia which includes the taking of the Ark of the Covenant and the deaths of the High Priest Eli and his sons. After the Philistines return the Ark (not because of anything the Israelites did, but because God punished them and the pagans were more in tune the supernatural power of deity than were the chosen people of God), Samuel became a judge in Israel.
His first act was to call the people to repentance. The Israelites didn’t need better tactics or weapons, nor did they require more tactically prepared leadership.
Their failure was due wholly to sinful behavior that separated them from God. The Ebenezer – stone of help – that Samuel set up was not to remind the Israelites of a great victory they had won, but rather to remind them of the great victory God had given them.
That’s a good lesson for us both in society and in the church. While there have been powerful societies in history based on pagan religion, there has never been a great society whose foundations were not, at least in part, based on teachings that could well have come from the Bible.
As for God’s people, victorious living is impossible for a people who will not repent of sin and choose to live righteously before God. In short, victorious living is faithful living. Faithful living means to put trust in God and do what He says. Obedient faith is required.
The people put their trust in God at the preaching of Samuel and they received a great victory. If we will do the same, we can win great victories for the Lord as well.
~~~ Jay Kelley is the evangelist for the Austin Street Church of Christ in Levelland, Texas