WHAT'S AN EBENEZER AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Hannah Chao | DEC 12, 2017 | 8 MIN READ
When singing along with worship songs on Sundays, it is easy to get carried away by the music. Our tongues glide over the lyrics instead of meditating on their meanings. And sometimes, we don’t even know what the words mean.
When we sing to God, we want to sing him the praises that he is due, so we must understand what we are saying so our words are not empty, but rather filled with gratitude and joy.
Here are 5 words that you should know that will help you praise God better during Sunday sets and your worship playlists.
Hallelujah (or alleluia)
The definition is probably close to what you’re thinking. It means “God be praised” or “Praise the Lord.” It is a joyful and powerful declaration that invites others to praise God together.
In addition, John Piper points out that the “Jah” in hallelujah refers to the personal name of the God of Israel (Jah = Yahweh). So when we praise with “Halellujah” we are praising the one true God!
Example: O Come to the Alter by Elevation Worship
“Oh, what a savior. Isn't He wonderful? Sing hallelujah, Christ is risen.”
In Psalm 118:25, the psalmist cries out for a savior, saying “Hosanna.” In the next verse, salvation comes, and he exclaims, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Because of the juxtaposition of these two phrases, Hosanna has a two-part definition. Its original meaning is “a cry to God for help.” But because the plea was answered, it has also come to mean “Salvation has come!”
We can see this in the New Testament, as people shouted both phrases to Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:9, Mark 11:9, John 12:13). And through Jesus’ death on the cross, a true savior did come. Not through military might, but through the salvation of our souls.
It’s a beautiful both/and moment. When we sing “Hosanna,” we acknowledge our need for a savior while also rejoicing in the fact that he has already saved us.
Example: Hosanna (Praise is Rising) by Paul Baloche
“Hosanna, Hosanna! You are the God who saves us, worthy of all our praises.”
Emmanuel (or Immanuel)
This one comes straight out of the Bible. Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah to show that Jesus was the Son of God and was the promised Savior for the world.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:22-23)
Example: God with Us by All Sons and Daughters
“You've come to breathe life, to be light, to shine brighter in us. O, Emmanuel, God with us.”
Messiah literally means “the anointed one,” and in Biblical context, it also refers to the promised savior of the Jewish people.
Anointing is an important symbol in the Bible as it signifies that something is set apart or holy. The altar and other holy objects in the temple were anointed. Kings were also anointed, like Saul and David. But being called the Messiah meant you were more than just a human king. You were the holy one who is the king of kings, the lord of lords, and the savior of the world.
Example: Jesus Messiah
“Jesus Messiah, name above all names, blessed redeemer, Emmanuel”
You have totally sung this word without knowing what it means.
The story of the original Ebenezer comes from a victorious battle in the Old Testament. The Philistines had come to attack the Israelites at a place called Mizpah. But Samuel cried out to God for help, and as he sacrificed a burnt offering, “the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated against Israel (1 Samuel 7:10).”
God alone gave them this victory, and to memorialize that fact, Samuel marked the ground with a stone he called “Ebenezer,” for he said “Till now the Lord has helped us (1 Samuel 7:12).”
So when we sing that line with Ebenezer, we are commemorating the fact that God alone has given us the victory. We acknowledge that it is not by our might that we are saved from sin and death, but only through His work, and his alone.
Example: Come Thou Fount
“Here I raise my Ebenezer, here there by Thy great help I've come”
This Sunday (and during your morning run), let us remember that we are singing to a great God. May we mean every word we sing, even if it means we need to look up some definitions afterwards.
Hannah Chao is a wife and a mom of two beautiful little girls. She is also addicted to Twitter. Hannah attends All Nations Community Church.