The word Ebenezer comes from the Hebrew words ’Eben hà-ezer (eh’-ben haw-e’-zer), which simply means “stone of help.” Samuel the prophet and the Israelites were attacked by the Philistines (1 Samuel 7). Samuel prayed for help and protection and offered a sacrifice to the Lord. God listened to Samuel, causing the Philistines to lose the battle and retreat.
After the Israelite received their 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).
As the help had been specific, so the memorial was to be of a definite and permanent form. The fact that God upon this occasion saved His people from the enemy was only a promise of future providences. Samuel wished Israel to understand that the Lord’s help was theirs only as from day to day as they obeyed Him, and not once for all, irrespective of their relationship with Him.
It is good for the believers today to go back continually to the Ebenezers of life, and remember God’s deliverances that they may be led to believe in the Lord. When a person is faced with trials, he renounces his past life, and confesses his failure to change himself by his own works. He then, yields to the Holy Spirit and finds formed within himself a self-control, an acceptance of such spiritual helps as God wisely grants to help him gain a better life than he has yet known. Past defeats thus become steppingstones for a better future (Hosea 2:15).
The word Ebenezer was used by Robert Robinson, in 1758, when he wrote his song “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” He penned the words at age 22 in the year 1757. The lyrics, which dwell on the theme of divine grace, are based on 1 Samuel 7:12, in which the prophet Samuel erects a stone as a monument, saying, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (KJV).
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wand’ring from the face of God;
He, to save my soul from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.
Teach me, Lord, some rapturous measure,
Meet for me Thy grace to prove,
While I sing the countless treasure
Of my God’s unchanging love.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love:
Take my heart, oh, take and seal it
With Thy Spirit from above.
Rescued thus from sin and danger,
Purchased by the Savior’s blood,
May I walk on earth a stranger,
As a son and heir of God.
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In His service,