I think one of the most beautiful hymns I’ve ever heard is “Come Thou Fount.” I can remember times in my life when I was filled with such a swell of emotions, my mind went back to the words in that song. “Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.” I understand that feeling, and those words speak to me.
The second line though, was always sort of jarring to me as a child. “Here I raise mine Ebenezer.” Here I raise my what? The guy from “A Christmas Carol?” What on earth is an Ebenezer???
However, once I learned what it was, I think it brought the song even more profound meaning. The story the song is referencing takes place in 1 Samuel 7. Samuel called the Israelites to come together at Mizpah. He called for them to repent from worshiping foreign gods and return to the Lord. The Israelites gathered, but the Philistines found out and planned to attack the Israelites. The Israelites begged Samuel to cry out to the Lord for them, which he does. In the ensuing battle, the Lord confuses the Philistines, and because of that, the Israelites are victorious, after just turning back to God. To serve as a reminder for what God had done, Samuel raises a stone called “Ebenezer” which translates to “Stone of Help.”
I was listening to a sermon recently that talked about things God gave us as a reminder. The preacher talked about how the Lord’s Supper was a great example. When we take the Lord’s Supper, we’re doing something physical to remember the sacrifice Jesus made. He also talked about baptism. We are baptized when we become Christians. When we remember our own baptism, we can remember when we became part of the body of Christ, that we are part of that body, and that our sins are forgiven. The lesson ended with the preacher talking about the story in Samuel imploring others to look for Ebenezers in their lives, to look back and see how far God has brought them.
On Friday, we had a Thanksgiving dinner here in Kojima. At dinner, Sandy pointed out that at this time last year none of us knew each other, yet here we are now, working together.
It made me think back to what I was doing this time last year. I had been emailing Brent and Sandy about a teaching position that had just opened up at Logos. I had no idea I would be sitting in Japan a year from then.
There’s another song, called “Remind Me, Dear Lord,” with another very powerful verse. It says, “Pull back the curtain of memory now and then, show me where you brought me from and where I could have been. Remember I’m human, and humans forget. So remind me dear Lord.” I like to sing that song, because I feel the meaning in those words as I sing them. I do want to be reminded, and so often I forget.
When I look back at my life, I see how far God has brought me. I see how doors have been opened, or sometimes closed. I see how struggles have helped me to grow, and how prayers have been answered. To me, that’s powerful.
So, in a strange way, I feel like I am raising my Ebenezer here. Right here in Kojima. Every day I wake up and see kanji on the cake shop across from my apartment, it ought to be a reminder of how far God has brought me. That is powerful to me. Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come. Around the world. Across the Pacific Ocean. To Japan.
So, today I want to encourage you. Look back at your life. What has God done for you? Where can you see God working. Treasure those memories, because they are your Ebenezer.