“Here I raise my Ebenezer,
Hither by Thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.”
“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” has always been a favorite of mine. When I learned that “Ebenezer” means “stone of help,” the song became even more important to me. When we sing it in worship, I remember the metaphorical stones of help where I have met with God. One of them is a kneeling bench from my ordination service, where a community who loves without bounds blessed me.
Surely this altar that Ezra describes, which God’s newly freed people built, is a stone of help they remember for years to come. No longer strangers in a foreign land, God’s people gather in Jerusalem to raise this altar to the Lord. They set this Ebenezer on a foundation and begin the faithful practice of praying and burning offerings to God. I find it striking that they build the altar before they lay the foundation for the temple. This progression of events, from being released to rebuilding the temple to raising the altar, creates a beautiful drama. As they rebuild the temple, they also rebuild their lives. Hands that once rubbed their weary eyes after exhausting labor now light candles, dip bread into oil, and participate in worship.
Each day their resolve grows stronger. Their rich heritage of faith is fed through familiar rituals of worship. They are free from captivity, and liberated to worship. They live out their prayer before God’s altar, offering themselves to the Lord who redeems them.
What stone of help has led you to worship God?
Holy God, help me to worship in spirit and truth each day. With gratitude for what has been and strength for what’s to come, let me become a living prayer of hope and praise for you. Amen.