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Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Here We Raise Our Ebenezer
1 Samuel 7:12
Introduction: I recently saw a production of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” The play reminded me how much of an impression the classic Christmas tale has had on all of us. The very name of the chief character has become a part of our vocabulary. Anyone who is a stingy, sour-puss at Christmas is known as a “scrooge.” On the other hand, how many boys do you know named Ebenezer?
Despite the Scrooge legacy, the name Ebenezer has a glorious legacy. In fact, one of my favorite hymns uses that term in a strange line that practically nobody understands. Perhaps, you have sung the song “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and wondered about the line. The first verse reads, “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 mine Ebenezer; Hither by thy help I’m come. And I hope by thy good pleasure Safely to arrive at home.”
That line from the hymn, the name Ebenezer, and the lesson we need today all come from a single Old Testament verse. I hope that after today, whenever you are overwhelmed by life or tempted to give up in discouragement, you will repeat this strange word to yourself—Ebenezer! People may think you are crazy, but I guarantee if you can say Ebenezer with meaning you will never be the same.
Let me read the Old Testament verse, explain a bit of the story behind it, and then show what it so important about it for us today. 1 Samuel 7:12, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the LORD helped us.”
It was over eleven hundred years before the time of Jesus. The people of Israel had conquered much of the Promised Land, but it hadn’t been easy. The infant nation was still surrounded by many powerful enemies. In fact, twenty years before the event in this text, one of the darkest days in ancient Israel happened. In a single day, Israel not only suffered a terrible military defeat but also lost the Ark of the Covenant into enemy hands. The Ark was the symbol of God’s presence among them. It was the worst disaster imaginable. Israel soon regained the ark. But nothing was the same again. The terrible memory of that day would continue to discourage the nation for a generation.
Twenty years later, Samuel, the great prophet of the nation, calls a meeting of the nation’s leaders. He tells them that if they want to experience the blessings of God, they need to return to their faith in him. Times had been hard. But they would never be any better until they turned to God. The entire nation responded positively. At Mizpah, the nation gathered in prayer to seek God’s blessing again. Just at that moment, the Philistine army, the dreaded enemy, saw an opportunity to attack while Israel’s warriors were in prayer. But Samuel learns of the treachery. The soldiers form battle lines. The Philistines are turned back in defeat. A great victory for Israel!
To mark the occasion of the great military victory and the day of their great return to faith, Samuel raises a memorial marker.
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