The hymn, "Come Thou Fount," speaks in the second stanza of raising an Ebenezer. Strange language—language that modern hymnbooks change.
The prophet Samuel set up a stone after the LORD routed the Philistines and Israel won a great victory. This was not without repentance and seeking the LORD on Israel's part. They had to put away their false gods and pray. The stone, named Ebenezer, commemorated that victory, for "Thus far the LORD has helped us" (1 Samuel 7:12). Whenever the Israelites would pass by the stone, they would remember what they were capable of, and how the LORD acted on their behalf.
So when people today refer to setting up an Ebenezer, they are using something physical to remind them of spiritual truth, especially God's faithfulness and goodness. For example, in the future I will be setting a bottle of real maple syrup on our table at each meal. It will serve as a reminder and as my Ebenezer. Why a bottle of maple syrup? It's a reminder to me of my sin; to be specific, my stinginess. The other person in my household wanted real maple syrup on his pancakes this morning. But that stuff is expensive! It's too precious. I need it for cooking certain recipes. Needless to say, I didn't choose my battle very wisely, and I had a meltdown.
As I thought about why I set the fake syrup on the table before my husband, it became clear to me why I'd taken such a stand. It doesn't excuse my behavior, but it helped me see what was going on inside of me.
There are very few things in our daily lives we can control. Life sometimes loses its boundaries here on earth. Traffic is crazy, people are late, electricity fails, plans change, and so on. Saying no to using real maple syrup gave me some semblance (albeit false) of being in control, even if it was over something ridiculous.
Setting a bottle of the golden liquid on the table will remind me of the battle I fought today, of the false god of stinginess—and that God is my Helper and my Ebenezer. I may have lost the battle for my heart today, but I repented, which gave me hope in the one who not only forgives but molds me to his likeness. And that glass bottle will remind me of it.