“Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace.” I love this hymn. It’s timeless. The melody is memorable and beautiful. The lyrics are profound and worthy of diving deeper into. Come Thou Fount has been in my top favorite songs of all time for many years now. We sang it at my wedding. I’ve played it at funerals. It’s perfect for starting a time of worship in song or ending it. It can be played fast or slow. It’s just a truly versatile song that I am tempted to play way too frequently on Sunday. Which I’m not really sorry about. Let’s take a closer look at the song and how it can help us to have our hearts “tuned” to worship on Sunday.
History of the author
First, a little history on the author. Robert Robinson grew up in Great Britain. His father died when he was young and his mother sent him off to school in London to learn to be a barber. He learned instead how to drink and hang in gangs. One night Robert and his buddies who were all a bit inebriated went and saw a fortune teller for fun. Something about the experience didn’t sit well with him and he asked his friends to go to church. There he heard George Whitefield preach and shortly after he repented and made a confession of faith. Having been so moved by God’s grace he went into ministry. When he was 23, he wrote Come Thou Fount to go with a sermon he was preaching at Calvinist Methodist Chapel in Norfolk, England.
What does Scrooge have to do with this?
I’m not sure what Robert’s sermon was about but I remember looking up the strange word “Ebenezer” years ago in the Bible and spending a number of weeks diving into the text around it. I am convinced this song/prayer is heavily based in 1 Samuel 7 with a good understanding of chapters 4-6.
In chapters 4-6 you see Israel treating the ark of the covenant like some sort of magical weapon. At this time in the biblical storyline the ark of the covenant is the only place that sacrifices for atonement for sin and worship could take place. There were special laws for how it was to be handled (you may remember Uzzah touching it and dropping dead.) The elders of Israel decide since they are getting beaten in battle by the Philistines to bring the ark in, essentially treating the ark as an idol and worshiping it and its power. They tragically lose the ark in battle and all the Judges of Israel die. The Philistines drag it off and store it with their idols. Which means that there is no one to lead Israel and there is no place to sacrifice for sin or to worship God. They have essentially lost relationship with Yahweh.
You need to feel that. The God of Israel is no longer accessible to them because they didn’t seek the Lord but attempted to use His stuff and lost it. (Chapter 4)
But God, though the ark was out of the hands of Israel, works and the Philistines send the Ark back. (Chapters 5 and 6) The Israelites did everything to lose the ark and nothing to return it. That is a picture of God’s grace in all of our lives. Let’s continue though.
God raises Samuel up to be the judge over Israel. Now mind you it’s been around 20 years now that the ark has been returned, but no one could stand before the Lord. The Lord struck 70 men dead because they looked at the ark. They ask, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God?” So Samuel enters the scene and gathers Israel at Mount Mizpah and begins to Judge the people. He confesses sin and prays to the Lord for them. The Philistines hear them gathered on Mizpah, so they come to attack Israel. This time Israel seems to get it. The Philistines are on their way to kill them and they ask Samuel to not cease to cry out to the Lord for them. This time they know only the Lord can save them from the wrath of the Philistines. Samuel sacrifices a nursing lamb and as the Philistines draw close God thunders with a mighty sound confusing the Philistine army and Israel chases them down and defeats them.
Then Samuel does a peculiar thing. He takes a stone and places it between Mizpah, where Israel was, and Shen, where the Philistines were. He calls the stone Ebenezer, which means “stone of help”, and says “Till now the Lord has helped us.”
Oh, this rock is such a beautiful thing. Follow me here. Jesus is our Ebenezer. He is the one who is interposed between us and the wrath to come. He is the one who has helped us all this time. We didn’t deserve it. Yet he is our help when we didn’t have a chance.
Come Thou Fount
So look over verse two of Come Thou Fount. It is a truly wonderful break down of this passage that applies to us today in light of the gospel of Jesus.
“Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wand’ring from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.”
Beginning the song in verse one is a beautiful prayer asking the Lord to tune our hearts. Take some time and just read verse 1 as a prayer. May you find yourself, like Israel, repenting of sin on the mount of God’s redeeming love.
And finally verse three is a plea to the Lord to bind us in His grace to Himself and seal us for the day of redemption. A request I believe He is pleased to grant. May we always raise our Ebenezer and remain in the fold behind the stone placed between us and the wrath of God.
If you have any questions about the topic of worship or would like to learn how to get involved with the worship ministry of North Avenue Church you can email Ian at email@example.com.