Friday, April 26, 2013

What is an Ebenezer?

Today is the final day of our sixteenth week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  1 Sam 6-8; Acts 7.

This morning, I wanted to share with you a video of Mumford and Sons singing "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."  Mumford and Sons is an up and coming indie group that's been around for a long time, but is just now  being discovered in the mainstream.  They're not specifically a Christian music group, but I've been amazed to find how many Christian songs they sing.  I was especially glad to find this video of them singing God's praise in a pub setting!  Way to go, Mumford and Sons!

There's one line that says:
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wand'ring from the fold of God;
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood.

A lot of folks have wondered what this "Ebenezer" means in this song.  This morning in our readings, we come across the story of Ebenezer.  Before we get to that, though, I want to talk about Ebenezer Scrooge.

In Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge was a man who had wandered from God, and who had been brought back to God not because he was good, but because of a gracious gift he received at Christmas.  Every year when his story is told, Ebenezer Scrooge becomes a marker for people who have wandered.  His story reminds us that there is always room for repentance and change in our lives.

1 Samuel 7:12 says: 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.”  

The word "Ebenezer" means "Stone of Help."  Samuel set it up as a memorial to all the Israelites, so that future generations could remember that God helps those who turn to Him.  

Israel had wandered from the fold of God.  Disobedience and idolatry had crowded out the true worship of God.  Verses 3-4 say:  And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only.  When the people were willing to return to God, then He was willing to show His pleasure toward them again.  Samuel set up the Ebenezer, or "Stone of Help" to remind them that God will always be there to help, as long as we turn to Him.

Today, I wonder--how have you been wandering from the fold of God?  Maybe you haven't been serving idols made of metal and stone.  But it could be that you have allowed other things to crowd God out of your life.  God's grace longs to bring you back to Him.  God raises Ebenezers in your life all the time, reminding you that you can always turn back to Him.  Pay attention to those reminders, and respond to God's invitation to return.

O to grace, how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be.
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter
bind my wand'ring heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it.
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Text: Robert Robinson, 1735-1790 

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