One of my favorite hymns is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. It’s a beautiful homage to the gracious longsuffering of the One True and Living God. The hymn reaches back in time, drawing strength from His Old Testament covenant faithfulness, and rejoices in the present new covenant sealed in His blood, even as it looks forward to the day when all the redeemed will sing their glorious King’s praises in heavenly courts above.
Biblically speaking God frequently encourages His people by reminding them of His past faithfulness when they are discouraged, dismayed, disillusioned, or anxious about their present and future circumstances. Like the ignorant and foolish sheep we are we tend to wander, and therefore we constantly need our Faithful and True Shepherd to tend to our many and varied needs, moment by moment.
Recently it has come to my attention that one of the original verses of this classic song of praise has frequently been the helpless victim of modernization within a number of our hymnals. Here’s the stanza in question:
“Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood”
The reference to Ebenezer comes from 1 Samuel 7:12; Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.”
The back story to this endearing bit of scripture ought to encourage us to follow in the old paths, not only in our scripture reading, faith, and piety, but also in our worship. As was all too often the case, Israel had experienced a long and sorrowful period of trouble resulting from their disobedience to God’s commands, yet happily national repentance came under the judgeship of godly Samuel.
To commemorate this restoration Samuel set up a stone and dedicated it as a memorial to God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel. This stone served as a visible reminder of God’s great love, compassion, longsuffering, and kindness toward those who turn to Him in repentance.
‘The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ – Numbers 14:18
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9
Something worth noting, however, is that just as repentance is the mark of a true God-fearer, so unbroken patterns of sin and rebelliousness mark unbelievers as can be seen from Numbers 14:18b above, as well as 1 John 3:6-9:
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
God’s holy justice must punish sin, and God punishes sin in one of two ways. God either punishes sin in Christ on the cross where He suffered and died as the substitute for all those who believe on Him as their Lord and Savior (Acts 2:38), or else God will punish the sin of those who reject Christ in hell forever.
Sinners are called unto salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel and become believers by regeneration. It is through regeneration that believers are given new hearts, and as noted in Acts 2:38, they are also given the Holy Spirit to dwell within them. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit empowers believers to live out a life of humble, loving, thankful obedience to the Lord for all He has done, and because of who He is. (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Peter 1:14; Philippians 2:13-14).
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. – Ezekiel 36:26-27
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance. – 1 Peter 2:14
13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning – Philippians 2:13-14
Let us today raise our Ebenezer upon the grounds of Christ’s perfect righteousness which has been imputed to those who believe on Him.
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. – Galatians 2:16
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. – Romans 3:26