Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” ~ 1 Samuel 7:12
I’m not great at asking for help. I prefer to pick a project, have a plan in mind, and blaze a path forward. I don’t like to stop and explain my plan. If someone knows me well enough to jump in without asking a lot of questions, great. If not, I honestly would prefer to be left alone. It’s not that I don’t value input, it that, a lot of the time, I figured out why the path forward another person might suggest won’t work as well as the path I have set out on before I begin.
But every once in a while, I’m forced to ask for help. In fact, just a couple of days ago I had to swallow my pride and ask for help doing a very basic task: opening a bottle of Tylenol. A lasting “gift” from my days of managing a bakery and all the repetitive moment that comes with packaging bread and cookies as well as decorating cakes and cupcakes, has been a touch of carpel tunnel syndrome in my wrists. I rarely notice it except when I overwork them, especially in regards to lifting stuff. A couple of days ago I spent the afternoon helping a friend unpack boxes as they had just moved into a new place. By the time we sat down for a late dinner, I couldn’t grasp onto anything at all with one hand because of the pain in my wrists. All I wanted was to take some pain killers so they would kick in before it was time to sleep. And the one thing which was beyond my ability to do was open the child-proof lid on the bottle of Tylenol.
The song “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is largely inspired by 1 Samuel 7:12. Samuel served the nation of Israel as a prophet and a judge. He would speak the word of the Lord to the people and teach them how to live as people of God. In chapter 7, the nation of Israel had suffered a huge blow when the Philistines had won a battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant. The ark was of particular importance to the Israelites because it meant God was physically present in their midst. At the end of 1 Samuel 4, when Eli has been told of the death of his sons, the capture of the ark, and died, the woman attending the birth of Eli’s grandson named him Ichabod saying, “The Glory as departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” This day, this battle, was indescribably significant for Israel.
However, the Philistines did not escape the battle without consequences. Take a few minutes and read 1 Samuel 4. This short chapter tells of statues to false god’s falling before the ark, it tells of the people in the city being infested with tumors, it tells a story of the power of God and reveals the powerlessness of idols. It tells this story to such a great extent that, after just seven months, the Philistines demand their leaders return the ark to the Israelites.
Upon its return, the nation of Israel rejoices greatly and Samuel leads the call for repentance so they may be worthy of God’s favor. As the Philistines looked to once again attack and destroy the Israelites, God steps in, throws the Philistine army into a great panic, and the Israelites are able to defeat them. In response, Samuel sets up a stone in that spot naming it Ebenezer meaning “stone of help.”
We all have Ebenezer moments in our lives. Moments which we should mark as significant because of the help God provided to us either as individuals, families, or communities of faith. Robert Robinson penned the words to Come Thou Fount with these moments in mind.
After losing his father at a young age, Robert was forced to work to support him and his mom eventually securing a job as a barber’s apprentice. In his teen years, he was known to be associated with “a notorious gang of hoodlums” and living a life of debauchery. The story is told that he happened to catch a small snippet of George Whitefield’s preaching and dared his friends, under the guise of intending to heckle the preacher, to go to a service with him.
Robinson penned the words to Come Thou Fount relatively early in his ministry (1758) and it is said they were both autobiographical and prophetic.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal if for Thy courts above.
During his ministry, Robinson wandered a bit between denominations. Despite his lack of formal theological education, he was a popular preacher with one church regularly gathering over 1000 people. Despite his success in ministry, it is believed he largely walked away from his faith in his later years. There is a story of him riding on a stagecoach where a young lady was singing the words to his hymn and apologized if she was disturbing him. He responded by telling her that he was the unhappy soul who had written those very words she found so comforting and inspiring.
The words to Come Thou Fount continue to bless, comfort, and inspire people today. They are a prayer and a plea that we may ever stay focused on the source from which our help comes from. They are a reminder that we have all made choices which required us to call out to God for help. And they give us hope we look forward to “that day when freed from sinning I shall see Thy lovely face.”
RightNow Media has a cool video that is a modern telling of Robinson’s life with the words of his song. Click to check it out.
Take some time to remember key moments where God helped you, rescued you from some danger. How does remembering those times help you face your current struggles?
We all face temptations to wander away from God. How do you resist those temptations? Who has God placed in your life to help you follow His path?