Ever since Jesus burst out of the tomb, Christians have been singing hymns and songs. Even before that, we had the Psalms. There are centuries and centuries of great songs to sing. (Which is good news since we’ll be singing a lot in the new creation…)
The words of old hymns are often so rich. With vivid poetry we’re given deep cries of love, trust and prayer to offer up to God. Sometimes the words sound funny. Sometimes they need updating. Sometimes they need a new tune. But revisiting them with a bit of creativity brings real rewards.
This week we sang the classic hymn Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing for the first time at Emmanuel. It’s one I remember growing up and yet the words only really struck me a few years ago. They acknowledge how we can’t praise God as we should. We need Him to change us and help us. We’re so prone to drift off and do our own thing (see Sunday’s sermon here) and we need Him to tie us to Him so we stay close.
In the second verse, there’s that strange line about an “Ebenezer”. But we’re not in a Dickens novel, so what does it mean? In 1 Samuel 7, Israel finally defeated the Philistines in the very place that they’d lost to them 20 years earlier. To mark the moment when God did this for them, Samuel set up a big stone called an Ebenezer (which means ‘stone of help’) and said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” So when we’re singing about raising an Ebenezer ourselves, it’s encouraging us to draw a line in the sand and say, “God has brought me this far and I trust Him to stay with me and keep helping me.” When you understand that, suddenly it turns quite a random lyric into a powerful call to remember God’s faithfulness.
That’s what the old songs do so well; call us to think deeply about what God has done and respond in a heartfelt way.
Here’s a great version of the hymn by the band Page CXVI. I thoroughly recommend this band to you. Their versions of classic and rare hymns are beautiful. Have a listen and read the words below. We’ve added an extra verse (which I made by mashing together bits from other forgotten verses from the hymn!). It rounds off the hymn’s theme of singing by reminding us that we’re waiting until we’re with God and finally we get to praise Him like we should. Take a listen…
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.
Here I raise my Ebenezer. Here by thy great help I’ve come,
and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
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.
How His kindness yet pursues me, mortal tongue can never tell.
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me, I cannot proclaim it well.
O that day when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face;
when I’m clothed in blood-washed linen how I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace!
Which old hymns should we sing next?