Sunday, January 1, 2017

Here I Raise My Ebenezer

As Professor Dumbledore, would say “another year gone”. Often in January we look forward to a new year by making new year’s resolutions. I am not one to do new year’s resolutions because normally by today (January 1st) they would already be broken. Today I want to stop and look back on the year that has just finished. Are you satisfied with your year? How many of your resolutions made it past January? I believe that before we make new resolutions for this coming year, we need to take an accounting of what we did the past year and then we can build on those accomplishments or repent and do better this year. Remembering the past is an important principle as we look to the future.

One of my favorite Christian hymns is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” written by the 18th century pastor Robert Robinson. Over the years there have been several versions since his original one but my favorite is the arrangement that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings:

1. Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

I had often wondered what the first line in the second verse meant – “Here I raise my Ebenezer”. What is an Ebenezer? The answer is found in the Old Testament 1 Samuel chapter 7. The Israelites are being attacked by the Philistines and they fear that they will be defeated. They pray to God for help and in response the Lord smites the Philistines. To help the Israelites remember the Lord’s help Samuel takes a stone and sets it up as a memorial, he calls it “Eben-ezer, saying Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. (1 Samuel 7:12).

Curt Holman speaking at a BYU devotional explained what Eben-ezer means and how we can apply the principle in our lives today:

In Hebrew the word ebenezer means “stone of help.” This raised stone was a reminder to the Israelites of what the Lord had done for them. This Eben-ezer quite literally was a monument set to remember the great help that God granted the one raising the stone. The Old Testament is replete with examples of the children of Israel forgetting the many miracles and spiritual experiences given to them by the Lord.

In an address given to religious educators, President Spencer W. Kimball said that remember could be the most important word in the dictionary (see “Circles of Exaltation,” BYU summer school devotional address, 28 June 1968, 8). This is a strong statement that gives us pause to reflect on why a modern-day prophet would make such a deliberate and specific reference to the importance of one word. Today my comments will be centered on this very principle—more specifically, on the importance and value of remembering our own spiritual experiences and recognizing that these experiences, given to us by the Lord, have brought us to where each of us is today. In other words, by remembering we are raising our own Ebenezer.

It seems the Lord recognized the tendency of the natural man to quickly forget his God. Perhaps this monument would help the Israelites remember the Lord and turn their hearts to Him. I also find it particularly significant that this scripture references that this monument, built by the Israelites, would also stand as a witness to their children, who might ask of its meaning.

This story has great application for us even today. Each experience that we have with the Spirit can be like placing a stone on our own personal monument, reminding us of God’s hand in our lives. These monuments can also serve to strengthen others as we share our experiences.

Some of us may have large, stable monuments that are continually built and fortified with great personal spiritual experiences that acknowledge God. Others may believe that their monuments are small or insignificant—maybe even eroding. If you have these feelings, I invite you to do two things.

First, look to your past and reflect upon your life. You will see the divine guidance of our Heavenly Father and how He has brought you to where you are today.

Second, earnestly seek opportunities and environments in which the Spirit can touch your heart. (“Raising Your Ebenezer: A Monument to Remember”)

An important principle that we learn from the Israelites is that they were easy to forget the hand of the Lord in their lives; thus, they had to have the monuments or Ebenezer’s to help them remember. The last part of the second verse of the song “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” goes:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.

We are the same, if we are not careful to write down our spiritual experiences we can be “prone to wander” when our testimonies are tested, it will be easy to forget how the Lord has blessed us. Even the smallest and simple things need to be written down, those experiences that individuals that are not in tune with the spirit would say was luck or a coincidence.

I had one of these ‘tender mercy” moments this year with one of the members of my student ward. I often ride my bike to work at USU and then shower before going to work. One Monday after going for a ride, I went into the locker room to shower and could not remember the combination to my locker. I was frustrated because I have never had a problem remembering it before. I had to go out to the service desk and ask them for my combination. When I went out to the front, one of the members of our ward was there. Over the weekend we had a ward activity and had borrowed some lawn games from the university. Some of the equipment was broken while they were playing the games and the young man from our ward was there returning the equipment. He was the one that check out the equipment and was responsible for it and he was trying to explain what had happened. I could tell he was frustrated and so I stepped in and told him I would take care of it, which I did.

After I had arranged to pay for the damage I headed back to the locker room to get dressed for work. The thought came to me: “The reason you forgot your locker combination was because you were needed out there to help that young man. I was there when a member of my ward needed me. Was that luck or a coincidence? I think not. The Lord knows our needs and he will often will prompt others to help us when needed.

We need to write down these experiences so that we can go back to them and help us remember when we are experiencing dark or difficult days. Remembering will keep us from wandering away from the God we love. My challenge to us is to look back and build our own ebenezer’s to help us remember what the Lord has done for us. Then we can look ahead and plan for the new year.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments will be reviewed prior to them being posted. I invite questions and comments, but will not post offensive or argumentative comments. Comments that are appropriate will be posted as soon as possible.