Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Rock of Remembrance

Lyrics from my favorite hymn (possibly song) of all time:

"Come Thou Fount" by Robert Robinson

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;

Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

I know that there are quite a few of you all out there who really like this song. But many of you have probably wondered, "What in the world is an Ebenezer?" I had often wondered that myself. When I think of Ebenezer, I usually think of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. I envision Tiny Tim and company saying "Merry Christmas to one and all!" and perhaps a few distant "Bah Humbugs!" thrown in for good measure. Scrooge is in the Bible?! Well, not really...

In the beginning of 1 Samuel 7, the Israelites were in a state of fear. The Lord had miraculously brought back the ark of the covenant to the Israelite camp, but a few of them were careless and saw the contents therein. The Lord immediately struck them down. To say fear gripped the camp would be an understatement. "It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the Lord" (v.2). Then Samuel the prophet said, "If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines" (v.3). The Israelites were obedient to the command, and they expelled all of their foreign gods.

Meanwhile, the Philistines learned that the Israelites had gathered together to repent and make a sacrfice, so they began to plan an attack on the vulnerable Israelites. When the Israelites became privy to this plot, they were overcome with fear. It was then that they realized that their only hope for withstanding the mighty Philistines was in Almighty God. For this reason, they beseeched Samuel to ask for protection from God on their behalf. Because of their faith in Him, God answered their prayers.

When the Philistines began to attack, God caused them to be thrown into a massive panic.

"The Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car" (v.10-11).

To remember their deliverance by the Lord's hand, Samuel consecrated a rock. He named it Ebenezer, for he said "Thus far the Lord has helped us" (v. 12).

So, what is the significance of Ebenezer today? Well, I think it is of critical importance that we remember what the Lord has done in our lives, and the rock of Ebenezer symbolizes this principle. Our lives can become very busy, and it is incredibly easy to forget what God has already done. When "we raise our Ebenezer," we make a mental note of the awesome things that God has done for us. Then, when we are discouraged (and it will happen), we can recall what God has already done. It is like a spiritual "connect-the-dots"--we were there, now we're here--let's draw a line to see where we're going. And it is indeed a linear function, for "God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor. 1:9).

"Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Israel his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones" (1 Chron. 16:8-13).