In the last blog post (which was my first, haha), I used several phrases we sing as examples of how language can be tricky in worship songs.
“Here I raise my Ebenezer…” from Come Thou Fount
“Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise…” from O Worship The King
Or even “Open the eyes of my heart..” from (yep, you guessed it) Open The Eyes Of My Heart
So, let’s take a look at the three examples and try to understand what we are really singing about in these songs. We’ll look at the first two in this post.
First to bat, Ebenezer.
In the song Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, there is a verse that reads:
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I 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
The key to understanding the word “Ebenezer” here lies in the context of the follow-up line: “Hither by Thy help I come” or, simply translated, “I’ve gotten here by Your help, Lord.”
Check out 1 Samuel 7. Go ahead, turn or navigate on your device there right now. It’s an incredible story! The gist is that the Israelites were in trouble, up against insurmountable odds against the Philistines. They begged the prophet Samuel to pray for them. Samuel offered a sacrifice and asked the Lord for His protection. The Lord heard and answered by causing the Philistines to be defeated and retreat.
Now, look at this: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12) In Hebrew, the word Ebenezer simply means “stone of help.”
This was a monumental stone that Samuel placed there to help God’s people remember the Lord’s faithful help. This way, when someone passed it, they would recall and not forget.
So, in the song we sing, this is an opportunity to remember the Lord’s amazing help and provision in our lives. We raise up a monument (or even simply remember in that moment) and acknowledge that He is our helper. Here by His great help, we have come. Only by His help.
So, the next time we sing this song at Grace, sing that line with understanding. You won’t get hung up on Scrooge, because you’ll know singing this line is an incredible opportunity to remember His faithful help in your life.
“I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.” 1 Corinthians 14:15
Next at bat, “pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.”
Consider the imagery we see in Psalm 104:1-7…
“Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire. He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.”
Can you capture the sense of HUGENESS of God in this passage? Can you picture the massive, creative brushstrokes of the Lord of all in the creation of heaven and earth? The Bible is wonderful at providing us with mental pictures that stir our worship. And this hymn uses this passage of Scripture as its basis to help bring us under the incredible kingship of the Lord Almighty!
The words in question and their meanings…
Pavilion: to furnish or cover
Girded: to encircle or bind
Verse 1 of the song “O Worship The King”…
O worship the King, all glorious above
O gratefully sing His wonderful love
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise
The Lord, our great King, is furnished or covered in splendor. He covers over the heavens and the earth in His splendor. He shelters and protects His people in His splendor.
He is encircled with praise. Praise is fit for Him and upon Him like a belt around the waist. The praise of all heaven, the waves of the Earth’s oceans, the spreading branches of the trees, the uplifted hands and hearts of His people…our King is surrounded in praise.
Stay tuned for the next blog post where we’ll tackle “open the eyes of my heart” and, until then, sing with understanding!