Catching Up: 1 Samuel 7 and ‘Come Thou Fount’

I’m going to look back in our schedule at a selection that fell in the previous week of Year in the Bible. In 1 Samuel the Israelites are having some difficulties with their neighbors the Philistines. At the urging of Samuel, they cry out to their Lord for forgiveness and deliverance, and Samuel intercedes with prayer and sacrifice. God saves his people giving them victory over their enemies.

In response to God’s help and in recognition that God is the one who secured the victory, Samuel sets up a memorial to be a witness for the people. Earlier Israel had matched up against the Philistines and failed, but with God’s help they succeed. Samuel wants the people to remember this so he erected a stone to serve as the memorial and named it Ebenezer, meaning ‘stone of help.’

There’s a song that recounts this story from 1 Samuel and mentions this Ebenezer, but this detail has been lost in more recent rewritings. The song is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Our hymnal at church uses the 1973 rewrite in which the second stanza goes like this:

Hither to thy love has blessed me
Thou has brought me to this place
And I know thy hand will bring me
Safely home by thy good grace

These lyrics replace in other modern hymnals the lyrics:

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

I can see why someone would rewrite lyrics that might carry no significance if no one knows what Ebenezer is. But that can be a challenge to teach others or inform ourselves of these Bible stories that inspired the hymn writers and shaped their words. When we sing this popular hymn let the words remind us of this story from 1 Samuel, a story of our complete dependence on God’s help and of the way we should memorialize the wonderful help he gives to us.

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