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Words: John King (b. _____, 1789; d. Sept. 12, 1858)
Music: Tours, by Berthold Tours (b. Dec. 17, 1838; d. Mar. 11, 1897)
Note: The authorship of this hymn was disputed early on. One source ascribed it to “a certain Mr., Mrs. or Miss Rooker” (English Hymns: Their Authors and History, p. 594). Another came closer to the truth with Joshua King. Evidence now seems to favour English clergyman John King. The date of 1830 for its original publication is generally accepted, but it may have appeared as early as 1817.
T his is a lovely Palm Sunday hymn, addressed particularly to children. It concerns the participation of the children in the aftermath of Christ’s Triumphal Entry into the city of Jerusalem (Matt. 21:7-9). Matthew tells us:
“When the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were indignant and said to Him, ‘Do You hear what these are saying?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes. Have you never read, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise”?’” (Matt. 21:15-16).
The reference to the stones crying out (CH-3) comes from the words of Jesus in Luke’s account of the Triumphal Entry. This was the official presentation of Israel’s Messiah-King, prophesied long before (Zech. 9:9-10). The event was so significant in God’s sight that it simply had to be recognized.
“Some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out’” (Lk. 19:39-40; cf. vs. 41-42).
Regarding the use of the term “Zion.” Mount Zion was a rocky escarpment which became part of the ancient city of Jerusalem. Eventually, the entire city came to be referred to as Zion. “The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God!” (Ps. 87:2-3). The name is also applied in one New Testament text to the heavenly city where the throne of God is, the “heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22-24).
CH-1) When, His salvation bringing,
To Zion Jesus came,
The children all stood singing
Hosanna to His name;
Nor did their zeal offend Him,
But, as He rode along,
He let them still attend Him,
And smiled to hear their song.
After alluding the the Lord’s acceptance of praise from the children on this particular occasion, John King broadens his application to children in the present. The hymn thus becomes useful at all occasions, not just on Palm Sunday.
One minor point concerning the sixth line of CH-2. Christ is not presently seated upon “His throne,” according to Revelation 3:21, but is seated next to God the Father on the Father’s throne. Christ will not be seated on His own throne, the Davidic throne, until He returns to reign over the earth (cf. Lk. 1:31-33).
CH-2) And since the Lord retaineth
His love for children still,
Though now as King He reigneth
On Zion’s heavenly hill,
We’ll flock around His banner
Who sits upon His throne,
And cry aloud, “Hosanna
To David’s royal Son!”
The idea of the stones crying out in praise to the Lord (Lk. 19:40) is the ultimate insult to the self-righteous Pharisees. It suggests that inanimate nature understood more about who the Lord was and what He was doing than His critics did. (In modern slang we might express it as, “You guys are dumber than a rock!”) No wonder they seethed with hatred, and wanted to kill Him (vs. 47).
There is also a sad ironic application of Christ’s words in vs. 40. He warned the nation of judgment to come, that an enemy would destroy the city and their beautiful temple, “And they will not leave in you one stone upon another” (vs. 44). This prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70, by the armies of Titus. And today, those fallen stones continue to testify to the truth of Jesus’ words.
CH-3) For should we fail proclaiming
Our great Redeemer’s praise,
The stones, our silence shaming,
Would their hosannas raise.
But shall we only render
The tribute of our words?
No; while our hearts are tender,
They too shall be the Lord’s.
1) What did the Lord Jesus mean when He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Lk. 18:17)?
2) Praising the Lord can so easily become a matter of mere form or ritual. What can we do to prevent this?