Vol. 5, No. 11
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There is little doubt that thousands have sung, "Here I raise my Ebenezer" without knowing what they were raising. It is probable that many who read this article will know that it refers to the stone that Samuel raised between Mizpeh and Shen, saying, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" (1 Samuel 1:12). The word literally means, "A stone of help."
If God has helped you from the slavery of sin and delivered you from the bondage of Satan, you can say in grateful remembrance, "Here I raise my Ebenezer." If he has helped you over some mountain of difficulty or out of some deep valley of sorrow, suffering or tribulation, you can sing with joy, "Here I raise my Ebenezer." If God has straightened out some crooked pathway for you, or delivered you from some furnace of fire, you should say, "Here I raise my Ebenezer." If there has been raised from your weary back some burden, or some thorn removed from your pathway, you can properly say, "Here I raise my Ebenezer." If you have been given light in darkness, so you could see more clearly the right pathway, then you may say, "Here I raise my Ebenezer." In any case, it suggests redemption or deliverance.
However, before we come to verse 12 of 1 Samuel 7 and decide to raise our Ebenezer, we need to consider carefully the things suggested in verses one through six. First, we note in verse two, "All the house of Israel lamented." There was contrition and sorrow for failures, shortcomings and sins. On many occasions I have noted in our public prayers the expression, "Lord, forgive us for our failures and shortcomings." The truth is that a gracious God can overlook mere failures and shortcomings, but cannot overlook sin. We need to be conscious of and lament because of sin. Second, we need to understand that sorrow and lamentation is not enough. Even the confession, "We have sinned against the Lord" (v. 6) is not enough. They had to repent. Samuel said, "If ye do return to the Lord with all your hearts" (v. 3). Third, we need to know that repentance involved three things after they had the godly sorrow which leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). It involved separation from that which was wrong. "Put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you." It is strange almost beyond comprehension that there are those called Gospel preachers who teach that repentance does not include separation from the wrong act or relationship, but merely expressing sorrow that one got that way. Can you imagine Samuel saying, "Return to the Lord with all your hearts, but you can still keep the strange gods?"
Repentance also involved consecration. "Prepare your hearts unto the Lord" (v. 3). Although there is a technical difference in turning away from sin and consecrating one's heart to the Lord, true repentance must include both. We should realize that it is possible to stop any particular sin without actually filling that empty spot with godliness. Jesus spoke in Luke 11:24 about an unclean spirit having gone out of a man, but going back and taking seven other spirits more wicked than himself. So, Samuel taught them not only to prepare your hearts unto the Lord, but also "to serve him only." Although the word repent does not mean "change of life," but "change of mind," it necessarily leads to a change of life, just as true godly sorrow leads to repentance.
So, if you have gone through the preliminary steps and can raise your Ebenezer, then you may better understand that "Ebenezer" suggests redemption or deliverance. It also suggests preservation. As the memorial of the Lord's Supper looks backward to the death of Christ, and looks forward to his coming, this memorial looked backward to past deliverance and forward to the continual deliverance or preservation and care. So, it suggests encouragement and victory in the future because of God's faithfulness and love as already demonstrated.
It also suggests an awareness of the value of the testimony of those who are grateful for the grace of God. It is remarkable that some seem to think the Old Testament was filled with the idea of law, and the New Testament with grace. Samuel understood that when he cried unto the Lord and was heard and saved from the Philistines (v. 8), it was not because of their law keeping, but by grace. It was "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." As one of our songs puts it, "To God be the glory, great things He hath done."
We should be eternally grateful that we can have an Ebenezer, "a stone of help" as we erect in our hearts the "Rock of Ages," "A stone which the builders rejected which became the head of the corner." It is my strong conviction that if we had a constant awareness of and gratitude for the fact that "hitherto hath the Lord helped us" and would bear adequate testimony to his gracious love, we would not only have personal victory over self, Satan and sin, but the Lord's church would grow numerically and spiritually.