Here I raise my Ebenezer

This Sunday’s entrance hymn is the much-loved “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Written by Robert Robinson, a Methodist and then a Baptist evangelical preacher around 1760, the hymn first appeared in print in Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Songs in 1813.

The second stanza of the hymn begins with these words: “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come.”  I can remember being curious about these words when I first played this hymn as a young boy.  “What’s an Ebenezer? Ebenezer Scrooge? No….that can’t be it…”  Then I thought, “Our church is on Ebenezer Road…. No, that can’t be it either.”

When you unpack the scripture behind this text, though, it makes a strong statement of faith and relates beautifully to this week’s Gospel lesson, the parable of the prodigal son.  I Samuel 7 begins with a warning by Samuel to the people of Israel to return to the Lord, to put away idols and foreign gods, and to serve the Lord only. The Israelites repented. As the fear of an attack from the Philistines approached, they then asked Samuel to pray to the Lord on their behalf. While Samuel was offering a sacrifice and praying, “the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up… and called it Ebenezer (which means “stone of help”), for he said “The Lord has helped us hitherto.”

Just as Samuel raised his Ebenezer as a testimony to the Lord’s help and presence among us, so we too raise our Ebenezer, our song of praise, de- claring “Hither by Thy help I’ve come; and I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.”

But, just as the prodigal son wandered far from his father’s love, so we too confess in stanza 3: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” When we then follow Samuel’s warning and return…. return to the Lord…. we can sing joyfully in stanza 4: “Oh, that day when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face; Clothed then in the blood-washed linen, How I’ll sing Thy wondrous grace!”

The Lord has helped us hitherto.  Let’s raise our Ebenezer, fellow saints at Pacific Hills.

Jeffrey Blersch
Director of Music

Dr. Jeffrey Blersch is Director of Music at Pacific Hills Lutheran Church
Dr. Jeffrey Blersch is Director of Music at Pacific Hills Lutheran Church in Omaha Nebraska
Jeffrey Blersch is Professor of Music at Concordia University, Nebraska, where he teaches organ, music theory, and is the conductor of the Cantamus Women’s Choir. Blersch is a graduate of the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music where he received degrees in organ performance and music education, and of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he earned the Doctor of Musical Arts in Organ Performance.