Words: Adolphe-Basile Routhier (b. May 8, 1839; d. June 27, 1920); Robert Stanley Weir (b. Nov. 15, 1856; d. Aug. 20, 1926)
Music: Calixa Lavallée (b. Dec. 28, 1842; d. Jan. 21, 1891)
Note: The original French version of Canada’s National Anthem was written by French Canadian judge Adolphe-Basile Routhier in 1880. After several attempts at an English version, ones that did not gain favour, another judge, Robert Stanley Weir, produced the currently accepted version in 1908. The anthem was revised slightly (but significantly) in 1968, to include the words “God keep our land.” And the work was officially recognized as Canada’s national anthem in 1980.
You can see all four stirring stanzas on the Cyber Hymnal. The politically correct police may quibble about Canada having “stalwart sons and gentle maidens” (CH-3). (After all, why not gentle sons, and stalwart maidens?) But it’s a valid hope and aspiration as it stands.
This blog is mainly about our traditional hymns and gospel songs, and I realize that O Canada is narrower in its use and application. However, it does have hymnic qualities since it addresses God in the refrain, and even more explicitly in the last stanza. Also, it gives me an opportunity to deal with what the Bible has to say about the nations of the world.
The human family began with our first parents, Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:27-28). However, a worldwide cataclysm Noah’s day reduced the population to the eight individuals God preserved in the ark: Noah and his wife, and his three sons and their wives (Gen. 7:21-23; II Pet. 2:5).
It is from the three sons of Noah–Shem, Ham, and Japheth–that the nations of the world have developed (Gen. 10:32). The list of ancient peoples in Genesis 10 has proven to be amazingly accurate as the foundation for national entities we know today. However, though the peoples of the earth are divided into various nations and ethnic groups, they are of “one blood” (Acts 17:26).
God chose one man, Abraham, to be the father of the nation of Israel (Gen. 12:1-2), a people that would be singled out for special favour (Deut. 26:19; 32:8-9). The nation was promised a God-given land of their own (Gen. 17:7-8), and a God-appointed king, David. It also was prophesied that a descendant of David (Christ) would reign over Israel, and all the earth, forever (Isa. 9:6-7; Matt. 1:1; Lk. 1:31-33; Rev. 11:25). This is, whether the Robert Weir fully understood it or not, the “better day” of CH-4, and the fulfilment of Matt. 6:10 at the second coming of Christ.
All the way from Genesis chapter 12, through the Old Testament, and on into the early chapters of Acts, Israel is central to the Bible’s story, and dominates the biblical record. In a sense, the Church Age (beginning in Acts 2) is parenthetical to God’s program for the Jews, and the latter will be taken up again in the latter days, when Christ comes to rule in the Kingdom Age (e.g. Isa. 2:2-4; 35:1-10; Amos 9:113-15).
The church is not Israel, and Israel is not the church. The distinction between the two is critical to a proper understanding of the Scriptures. Israel is God’s earthly people, with an earthly land, an earthly throne. The church is God’s heavenly people (Phil. 3:20), made up of all nations, bound together by the baptizing work of the Spirit of God (I Cor. 12:13). The church has no specific God-given land on earth, and no earthly king. Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, is Head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23).
This distinction means that great care must be used in applying Old Testament promises made to the nation of Israel, either to some other earthly nation, to Christians, or to the church. Some of these are are general statements and promises that have a wide application, or a secondary application to us in some way. But there are also many specific promises made to Israel alone, in her land. We do violence to the Scriptures to spiritualize these and rob them of their intended sense.
It’s clear, for example, that Proverbs 14:34 has a broad application. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” But when the psalmist says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance” (Ps. 33:12), we cannot apply that to just any nation, or to the church. It has to do with Israel (cf. Deut. 7:6; Ps. 135:4). So does Second Chronicles 7:14.
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (II Chron. 7:14).
Yes, we need to seek God’s reviving work today, when we are backslidden–whether as individuals, or as a church, or as a nation. That’s an application of the general principle involved. But this remains most particularly an appeal to Israel. God speaks of “their land” as “My land” in vs. 20, where reference to Jerusalem and the temple is unmistakable. The promise is rooted in God’s frequent assurances of material blessing in the Promised Land, if Israel would obey Him–and material chastening if they would not (cf. Lev. 26:3-45; Deut. 28–30).
Bottom line: Look for general principles, particularly ones that are clearly universal, or are supported by the New Testament. But do not rob the nation of Israel of the covenants and promised blessings that are hers alone. Many are yet to be fulfilled in the end times.
CH-1) O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
1) Is it valid for a nation to have an anthem that appeals to God for His help and blessing, when some of its citizens are atheists, or do not recognize the God revealed in the Bible?
2) If you are an American, what do you think of The Star-Spangled Banner? Written by a Christian, its fourth and final stanza also appeals for divine aid (see below). But like the end of O Canada, the words seem to be seldom used.
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!