I first encountered Ebenezer Stone when I was a young school teacher in a small town in Newfoundland, Canada. A church of a different denomination than that which I attended was planning revival meetings, and the pastor asked if I would play the piano for the services. He was an occasional substitute teacher in the school where I was teaching fourth grade, and I liked him. Of course, I accepted the invitation.
The guest preacher’s name (if I remember correctly) was Paul Mullins. He hailed from somewhere in Maine and was a talented singer as well as a preacher. The first time we met to rehearse his songs, he gave me a stack of sheet music so I could familiarize myself with the songs he might choose from for the services.
One of the titles was “Ebenezer Stone”. Later, when I read the lyrics, I was so glad I hadn’t asked the question that had popped into my biblically uneducated mind, “Who was Ebenezer Stone?” I thought he might be some ancient honoured leader of his denomination. (After all, we had a few venerated names in ours, although I hadn’t heard any songs extolling their virtues. ;-))
The lyrics that provided my education went like this:
“When the children of the Lord passed through Jordon,
by the mighty power of God, and Him alone,
Every now and then, as He had commanded,
there they placed an Ebenezer stone, saying,
“Hitherto the Lord has lead us, and hither by His grace we have come.”
Every now and then, as He had commanded, there they placed an ebenezer stone.
I imagine that you, dear reader, already knew that old Ebenezer was not a person, but a stone. Or, more accurately, a standing stone or group of stones. An Ebenezer Stone was a stone of remembrance, erected for the benefit of future generations who would see it and know that the God of the Israelites was a God who acts.
As I remembered that song this past weekend and remembered the impact it had on my life, I wondered about our own Ebenezer Stones. What do we erect in our families that is worth passing on throughout generations?
I do hope we pass on to our children and grandchildren, and to our neighbours, stories of a God who acts today, not just stories of a God who acted back then, as important as those precious stories are. The “Old, Old Story” that we love to tell has to have tangible witness in today’s world as much as it did in the days after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven.
The other day I heard one of today’s well known preachers say, “If we don’t have [evidence of] the resurrection, we have nothing.”
That might have been an exaggeration for effect. Obviously, if we have been born again by grace through faith, we have a precious inheritance that is so comprehensive it is sometimes difficult to comprehend. What he was actually saying, I believe, is that, in the context of sharing the gospel as the first Christians did, we need a show with the tell. And we must pray the disciples’ prayer to receive what they received :
“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings; and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child, Jesus,” (Acts 4:29).