Good songs that proclaim timeless truth can long outlast their authors. Many hymns are still sung today, hundreds of years after they were penned, and they still find a welcome place in our worship services. Sometimes, however, there are words here and there that seem to get lost in translation, mostly because our current culture doesn’t use them any longer. As I find myself leading some of these songs, I want to make sure that the congregation is aware of what we are singing, so I spend a moment or two explaining the meanings. I’ve found that, after a simple explanation, the songs are so much richer as we proclaim them together during our worship times.
Come Thou Fount is one of those songs. I’ve sung it for years, and have often told the story of the word “Ebenezer” – it comes from the passage in I Samuel 7 when God delivers the Israelites from the Philistines in a miraculous way, a way that could only be attributed to Him. Then Samuel sets up an alter of stones and names it “Ebenezer”, saying “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” It’s a great story of Israel setting up a marker of what God had done in their midst. I travel and lead worship at camps and conferences, and so I often see students experience moments where God does incredible things in their lives during the events. I encourage them to think of those moments as “Ebenezer” moments and to figuratively set up a marker. After the retreat is over, this can serve as a reminder of what God did in their lives.
This spring I recorded a hymns project and added “Come Thou Fount” as one of the tracks. During the summer I sang the song often and, in addition to the word “Ebenezer”, another word caught my attention. The word “fetter.” The last verse says, “Let thy grace Lord, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee.” What is a “fetter?” It is defined as a chain or shackle for the ankles or feet, or something that serves to restrict; a restraint. The image that I kept having is a little odd, but it was one of a dog on a chain in a yard. Something outside of the yard catches the dog’s attention and he starts to run for it, forgetting that the chain is connected to him. He is running freely until he hits the threshold, and at that moment, is yanked back. I sometimes feel like that dog, in my flesh running as fast as I can away from the God I love, and running for something outside of what He has for me. The song asks for His grace to be like a “fetter”, a chain that would bind our wandering hearts to Him. Praise God for His grace that could potentially “yank” us back to Him, saving us from so much pain and sorrow. We so need his grace. We were once slaves to sin, but because of His great love for us, we have become slaves to righteousness!
So as we incorporate ancient songs with current ones, let us be mindful to educate our people as to what we are singing. It will lead to a more meaningful and heartfelt worship experience and, ultimately, glorify God because of how He is at work in our congregations!
Free worship songs from http://www.worshipcorner.com
Proclaiming the hope of Christ through music