In recent years, I’ve often heard the use of phrases like “preach the Gospel to yourself” or “rehearse your Gospel story to yourself.” These encouragements have been helpful to me, because I regularly need reminders of who I really am. Paul, in the opening chapters of several epistles, seems to make a point of reminding believers of what God done for them before moving to the really specific, practical commands. Consider familiar passages like 1 Corinthians 6 (“…such were some of you. But you were washed…”) or Ephesians 2:

…Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ… [ESV]

Or this:

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…
(Colossians 1:21-22 ESV)

Likewise in the Old Testament. Take Psalms 105 and 106, which put in poetic, singable form large chunks of Israel’s history and how God had dealt with them and fulfilled His promises. I read them and think of how many times God commanded the people of Israel to drill their history into their children’s heads, or said “Raise a monument here, so that your children will wonder what it’s for and you can tell them what I did!” (my generous paraphrase).

I guess this has been in my mind as of late because one such instance is alluded to in one of my all-time favorite hymns. Recall when Samuel the judge had witnessed a period of renewed obedience to God in Israel, accompanied by renewed freedom from oppressive neighboring countries. To make a clear statement  about Who should get the glory for all of this,

Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer [“stone of help”]; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12 ESV)

So God encourages His people to rehearse their history. Now read these words by Robert Robinson (1758):

Here I raise my Ebenezer:
“Hither by Thy help I’m come.”
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home…

I’ve seen several hymnal editors reword this stanza, and I understand why. IMO, though, doing so drops some of the strength and beauty of the allusion to 1 Samuel. I remember one of my profs in school saying “The problem isn’t that the language needs updating, it’s that people just don’t know their Bible!” And I agree, if for nothing else but to say that our hymns contain too few biblical allusions and quotes as it is. Anyway, in Robinson’s poem, the monument or “Ebenezer” being constructed is actually the second half of the stanza itself. And it goes like this:

Jesus sought me when a stranger
wand’ring from the fold of God.
He–to rescue me from danger–
interposed His precious blood.

How great it is for believers in a local church to say together (whether they came to Christ young  or old), “Look at where I came from! The only reason I am justified today is because of God’s grace!”

Here’s another favorite of mine in the “I was there–now I’m here” category:

I was blinded by my sin
Had no ears to hear Your voice
Did not know Your love within
Had no taste for heaven’s joys
Then Your Spirit gave me life
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace.

There are a hundred other great songs like these–all good reminders to people like me, who tend to forget even the most important things.

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