I love hymns. Probably that is not a surprise to anyone. I also love contemporary Christian music. I love classical music and southern Gospel. In fact, I love any music that brings praise and glory to our Lord. One thing I love about many of the hymns is the deep theology that is found within them. At times there are references in the hymn texts that are not familiar to us in 21st century America. For example, in “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” there is the phrase “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.” I would guess that few people you know have used bulwark in a sentence recently. A bulwark is “any protection against external danger, injury, or annoyance.” (Dictionary.com) The hymn is proclaiming that God is our protection and He never fails.
Another hymn that we have sung all our lives is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” We have sung the second stanza “Here I raise mine Ebenezer; Hither by thy help I’m come.” As many times as you’ve sung it, do you know what it means to raise your Ebenezer? What is an Ebenezer?
In I Samuel, the Philistines had defeated the Israelites and had captured the Ark of the Lord. God dealt harshly with the Philistines and after some time, they returned it. (You ought to read I Samuel 5-7. It’s a very interesting story!) As this story unfolds, Israel returned to the Lord and Samuel offered sacrifices and cried out in their behalf to the Lord. And the Lord answered his prayer. I Samuel 7:12 tells us 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.”
I have a small river stone sitting on my desk. It is my “Ebenezer.” It is a constant reminder that when difficulties come…when a problem arises…when I have to go around that mountain yet one more time…thus far the Lord has helped me. The Bible tells us Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) If He helped me before, why should I think He won’t help me through the next difficulty?
As we step out into our individual…or our collective…iMAGiNEXT, there probably will be bumps along the way. We should not expect to do the work of the Lord without opposition. If Jesus couldn’t escape opposition, why should we think we will? Let me make this suggestion. Find a physical object that is visible regularly…mine is my small smooth river stone. Ask God to remind you every time you look at it to remember “thus far the Lord has helped me.” When things get really tough, you might say it out loud (in private, maybe): God has helped me this far…! And you have the confidence…with the backing of scripture…that He will continue to help you.
Let these scriptures wash over you…
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2.
Johns Creek Baptist Church