He was born in 1735 in Swaffham, England. As a young boy, only 8-years-old, he lost his father. At age fourteen, his desperate mother sent him to London to become a barber’s apprentice. There he began to experiment with drinking and gambling. At age seventeen, he went to hear the renowned evangelist, George Whitefield, preach in London, only with the intention to sneer and mock the man alongside his rebel-rousing friends. What occurred that day changed his life forever…The words of Whitefield haunted the young lad for the next couple of years… Feeling drawn to repent as he heard the message from the Gospel of Matthew in chapter 3, he was torn between his flesh and spirit. Finally at age 20, he yielded his life to Christ.
Robert Robinson was his name. He is best known today and through the centuries for the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”- the words he penned at age 22 (1757). Over half a century later, Asahel Nettelton composed the tune we recognize today (1813).
“After tasting the pain of renewal for two years and seven months, I found full absolution and grace through the precious blood of Jesus Christ,” Robinson described after his time hearing Whitefield preach and his later conversion to faith.
We still sing the song he wrote today, with fervor and reverence in worship. Verse two reads, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I come…” An “Ebenezer” was the monument or rock which Samuel set up in the Old Testament to remember the victory God’s people gained through repentance. Are we looking for victory in our lives, yet struggling over and over without strength to overcome? Repentance is a true path toward victory. To repent is to literally turn away. To turn from the sin, the struggle, the storm…and walk toward Christ, who holds the absolute victory. We are “more than conquerers in Christ” (Romans 8:37)! Verse three of this age-old, yet so relevant hymn, declares, “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!” Indeed we are indebted to nothing but grace, for it is by grace we are saved and our sins are washed away (Ephesians 2:8). Our hearts are truly “prone to wander,” yet we are daily drawn back by the gift of grace.
I often look at stringed musical instruments on stage when I sing this song, and think of how daily they must be tuned. If not, they end up sounding like one colossal cacophony so displeasing to the ears! Back in verse one, Robinson began his hymn with “tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” Are our hearts daily tuned to sing the grace of God, to live and walk in the grace of God?
An interesting story unfolded in Robinson’s own life. He walked with the Lord, preaching for some time, but began drifting away from his Maker. On a journey he came across a woman who asked him, “What do you think of this hymn I have been reading?” It was his very own hymn! He confessed that he had wandered from the Lord. She spoke to him and encouraged him with the promise that he himself had penned, “But these ‘streams of mercy’ are still flowing.” His hope was restored as he gave himself back to the Savior and allowed Him to “re-tune” His heart, yet once again. No matter how many times we must be “re-tuned,” Christ welcomes us back to His heart full of love. What matters is that we come back to the Ebenezer stone time and time again, seeking for the Lord to tune our hearts to His.
I challenge you today to set up an Ebenezer of your own. Find a rock and write the date on it and a word or verse that is meaningful to you. Make some sort of memorial to God and put the stakes in the ground (figuratively or actually) and go back again and again, asking God to renew His life, His truth, His way in you. The Christian journey is not a one-day decision. Your salvation has been bought through the blood as a one-time act of atonement by Christ, but sanctification is daily dying to self and living for Christ (Christ living in you). Raise your Ebenezer. Offer your heart to be tuned. Seek His grace as many times, in as many moments, as you need. He is sufficient. See the blessings flow from His fountain. Be washed in the streams of mercy, the streams of living water that shall pour over your soul and quench the longings within, cleaning the stains of sin away for eternity. Even when we are “prone to wander,” His precious blood has bought us and has sealed our hearts for eternity. Let us praise the Name of the One whose redeeming love is ever near.