Written on February 20, 2017. By Shari Norvell
I love hymns. Let me restate that. I loooooove hymns. I grew up in a church where we grabbed our hymnal each Sunday, turned to the appropriate page and joined the throng. Our pianist, Ms. Lackey was 90 years old, though I don’t know that we ever truly knew her age. She was just always 90. Her beautiful hands, worn and weathered, occasionally missed a note, but no one minded. She played with such passion, pounding those keys in pursuit of praise.
Brother Earl led us from the front each week. He wasn’t a director as much as a conductor, animated by motions you would find in a great symphonic hall. We were his orchestra and we gave it all we had.
Occasionally, as praise releases from our worship in a little tent upon a big land, Nightingale slips a hymn right in. Like balm for a broken place you didn’t know was there it comes. Soothing and satisfying.
A few years ago, someone gifted me with a hymnal. I’m drawn to it at times, inexplicably when there is something in me I can’t quite explain. The binding firm and fastening and the pages inside full of squirms and squiggles I don’t know how to decipher, but I am moved by how they look upon the page, beckoning and beautiful, reminding me that there are always mysteries yet to be revealed.
A few days ago, I read this quote: Celebration is so often a confrontation. We challenge our doubts, fears and disappointments with joyful truth.
Can’t even describe the many ways I love that or how it got me to the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” I do know I love the words woven within it. Hearts tuned, tongues flaming, wanderers rescued, melodious sonnets sung over and unchanging love. They just push and pierce my poet!
There is a line that is a bit curious, which I just always felt was fancy so gave it all the gusto it warranted.
Here I raise my Ebenezer, here by thy great help I’ve come.
As I grew, I moved from the gusto to the glean, inviting ebenezer to be one of the words I discovered the design and desire of.
Though the word was placed within the praise of Robert Robinson in 1758, it was scribed by Samuel long before.
In 1 Samuel 7, Samuel and the Israelites were under siege by the Phillistines. Gripped by fear, the Israelites asked Samuel to pray for them in hopes they would be prepared for the impending battle. Samuel gave an offering to the Lord and asked for His protection. The prayer availed much and the Phillistines not only lost the battle but retreated back to their own territory.
I Samuel 7:12 records an amazing thing that happened after the victory.
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called the name Ebenezer, saying “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
In Hebrew the word is ‘eben ha ezer’ which means “stone of help”. It is a stone set to signify the help God brought to the one who raised it. Samuel placed the stone like a jewel within its setting so the Israelites would remember the great help God had granted them. The Israelites story is littered with forgetfulness afterall. Perhaps this monument would help them remember every miracle and encounter, bounteous banks along their road, mountains of goodness overcoming the ditches of despair they dug for themselves.
Perhaps it will help us to walk our own road with delight in the One from whence our help comes instead of the debris of doubt and doom. Possibly we can raise our own stone in celebration of victory and confront every lie, allowing them to be jolted out of place by the joy of truth. For the Lord has helped us. He helps us still. Every. Single. Time.
Journal an ebenzer encounter. A place where the truth of who He is utterly devastated the lie of who He isn’t!
Share your greatest victory the one placed upon the altar of your heart. Testify to a radical rescue and relentless redemption. Build a remembrance together with those at your table.