Altars of remembering
We each have our monuments – our times, places, and ways of remembering. As children of God, we also have altars: places where we have met God. In numerous accounts in Biblical history, many altars and memorials were erected. This was how God’s people confessed sin and offered praise. This was not only a way of life for God’s chosen people. It was a command. This was also how He kept tuning their hearts. He wants us to cry so he can answer that cry, “Tune my heart!”
Over and over, God gave instructions for worship. About a year after the Israelites left Egypt, God gave Moses instructions to build the Ark of the Covenant. The ark, made of shittim wood and overlaid with gold, was built according to God’s specifications. Not only did God have a blueprint for its design, He also had requirements for its care and its handling. Because they fail to follow His instructions, the Ark is captured by the Philistines, who continue to fight against the Children of Israel.
The Philistines and the Ark
For years, those Philistines were a source of irritation to God’s people. They were always around and seemed to win all the battles. Plus, they had in their possession the Ark, the cause of which was a source of irritation for God’s people.
In desperation, the children of Israel begged Samuel to ask God to help them. The Philistines were coming, again. They were tired of losing the battles. Samuel told them to get rid of their foreign gods and he would pray for them. So they fasted and confessed their sin before the Lord. Their prayer became the prayer found in this song, “Tune my heart.” They asked Him to tune their hearts back into harmony with His. It makes me wonder what took them so long, but I can’t say that my track record is that much different from theirs.
The prayers of a righteous man
They told Samuel, “Don’t stop praying to God for us, that He will save us from the Philistines.” (I Samuel 7:8).
Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it for a burnt-offering to God. He cried to the Lord for Israel, and the Lord heard him. Just like that.
Twenty years earlier, the Philistines had massacred the Israelites, killing over 4,000 men (I Samuel 4:1,2). They attacked them a second time, this time killing 40,000 (I Samuel 4:10). I’m sure the Philistines thought it was only a matter of time, and they’d defeat the Israelites again.
Thunder brings confusion
This time, God used thunder to confuse the Philistines, and this time the Israelites became the pursuers instead of the pursued. The Philistines were now subdued! Furthermore, they did not attempt to enter Israel while Samuel was alive. I guess we could say they learned not to tangle with God or His people.
And I suppose we could say that the Israelites learned a few things, too. In this story, God gives grace in giving them what they don’t deserve.
It was at this point that Samuel took a stone and built a memorial. He named it Ebenezer.
“Because,” he said, explaining his reasoning, “hitherto hath the Lord helped us.”
Ebenezer means “stone of help”. By Samuel’s definition, it can also mean “Hitherto has the Lord helped us.” This time, the focus was on the God of their fathers, the One who had helped them. It wasn’t about what they had done or what they deserved. Nor was it about their intelligence or their prowess. It was about a God Who could and did use thunder to win a battle.
As a sinful people, they were prone to wander, to leave the security of protected pastures. And, in their wanderings, they became weary and lost. God their Father and Shepherd kept seeking them, reaching out to them even when they least deserved His favor.
Tune my heart
That’s how it is with us. It’s not who we are or what we have done. It is merely the grace of God that comes to where we are. He is the Source from which every blessing comes. And, in order not to forget that, we must constantly keep tuning our hearts to Him.
A stringed instrument does not stay in tune by itself, nor can it be tuned on its own. It needs someone to tighten the strings so the music will be complete. When I am in tune, my focus moves forward: arriving at Home.
Life is a journey. Like the Children of Israel, we are prone to wander. He draws us to Himself. His bountiful streams bring mercy and grace. In the first verse of this song, we ask God to tune our hearts. In the last verse, we ask Him to take our hearts and seal them for Heaven.
I can think of no better way to pray.
The song, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is based on this story and specifically on Grace. The reference for this song is I Samuel 7:12.
Written by the 18th century pastor and hymnist Robert Robinson, it was penned in 1757 when Robinson was twenty–two years of age. He was planning a sermon and wrote the song to complete his message.
His father died when he was eight years old, and he was a bit much for his mother to handle. She sent him to work as an apprentice. In his teenage years, he was a member of a gang. One evening he and his friends went to a service in order to mock the minister. Robinson left that church service deeply convicted, and three years later gave his heart to the Lord.
Vocal stories say that he wandered away from God many years later. Another story recounts that he was welcomed into a carriage by a woman on her way to church on a Sunday morning. She asked him what he thought of the hymn she was humming. It is reported that he said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.” Other sources say that this event was what brought him back to God.
Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Steams 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 God’s redeeming love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by Thy 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.
Oh 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, oh take and seal it.
Seal it for Thy courts above.
You can listen to the song here.