How often have you sung, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come”—and had no idea what you were singing? Those words are from the second verse of the hymn “Come Thou Fount” written by Robert Robinson in 1758. They were meant to remind the singers that God was a God of help in their time of need.
The original meaning of the songwriter is rooted in a biblical incident during the early history of Israel. The nation of Israel battled long with the Philistine inhabitants of the land during the times of Samuel, King Saul and King David. The Israelite army had sought to use the Ark of the Covenant as a lucky charm, and lost it to the Philistines as recorded in 1 Samuel 4.
Later God brought a great victory over the Philistines. To commemorate the victory and honor God, the prophet Samuel took a great stone and raised it as a memorial. He “named it Ebenezer, saying ‘Thus far the LORDhas helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12). Generations later, when the Israelites saw this “Stone of Help,” it would remind them that their God, who had been present to help them, would also help them in the future. So, through his lyrics, Robinson wanted singers to remember, and not forget, what God had done in their lives.
Memorials are good things. When we see them, they trigger memories of love, value, gratefulness and appreciation. This is the reason for headstones in cemeteries, statues in parks, memorial plaques and monuments across our land. Every memorial shouts out: “Remember Me! Don’t Forget Me! Consider Our Cause!”
This week, in the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day—A day when we pause to remember the men and women who have given their lives in defense of our nation and way of life. It should provoke thoughts of thankfulness and gratefulness. It is a time to remember the great sacrifice of our fallen soldiers. It reminds us how precious freedom is, and that it needs to be guarded closely.
However, we are prone to forget the significance of Memorial Day. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men have died to win them.” Let’s not forget that freedom is never free.
Robert A. Heinlein reminds us that: “Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”
Memorial Day reminds me of two things. On one hand, it’s about remembering the price of our freedom. It is recalling the cost paid to secure our way of life in liberty. The very most a person can do for his friend is to die for him – a clear demonstration of supreme love. But Memorial Day also reminds me of the greatest cost ever given by any man to bring freedom to others. It is a day to recall the immense price Jesus paid to free us from the death penalty of our sins and to grant soul liberty, salvation and eternal life.
Jesus spoke of this great love in John 15:13 when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” The “greater love” is shown, not discussed—but displayed—becoming visible when one willingly gives his life for another. This is the kind of love Jesus has for each one of us. Jesus demonstrated His love by giving His life a sacrifice “for his friends” – literally in behalf of his friends, or in the place of his friends.
The Lord’s love for us was immeasurable. His compassion for our condemned condition was so strong, that, “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
As Peter wrote, this sacrifice Jesus made, this death He died for us, was so He could, “bring us to God.” His atoning death was able to please the holy and righteous demands of God because “Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).
My son, Timothy (1997 graduate of Monticello High School), is a Staff Sergeant currently deployed with the 1stBattalion, 3rdMarine Corps Regiment. He posted this on Facebook today: “This Memorial holiday we pause to remember those loved ones we have lost, who served. Being the greatest country on the planet requires the greatest sacrifice, many times to the detriment of our family and friends. But as Americans, we have always stepped up and taken it on the cheek. That’s why we celebrate Memorial Day—to remember those who served who are no longer with us. So if you have lost someone who served – from my family to yours – we THANK YOU for their service, and we HONOR their sacrifice. The remembrance of their sacrifice is special because it reflects the greatest kind of love there is…the love of God #nogreaterlove, #john1513, #gonebutneverforgotten.”
On this Memorial Day, remember those who paid the ultimate cost, giving their lives for your national freedom. And rejoice and trust in the One who gave His life for your spiritual freedom. Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). And freedom in Christ is the greatest freedom the world has ever seen.