Posted by: rcottrill | May 23, 2019

Remember Me, O Mighty One

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: (author unknown)
Music: Joanna Kinkel (b. July 8, 1810; d. Nov. 15, 1858); adapted by George Frederick Root (b. Aug. 30, 1820; d. Aug. 6, 1895)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (none, as of this date)
Hymnary.org

Note: Joanna Kinkel was a German composer. We don’t know the author of the words, but they were published in an 1880 hymn book, so likely come from the nineteenth century. I can recall a men’s choir I was in, back in the 1960’s, singing this prayer quite effectively. On the Wordwise Hymns link you get a bonus: a link to a quartet singing this hymn.

The word remember is a common one. There are things we want to secure in our memories and give attention to at a later time. Perhaps it’s a phone call we want to make, or something to add to the weekly shopping list. And, as we get older, recalling some things, like dates and phone numbers, seems to get more difficult. Remembering names can get harder too. We may see a face in our mind’s eye, but the name eludes us for a time.

Another dimension may be added when it’s a person we remember. He or she may be absent from us for a time, or possibly has passed away. To remember them involves more than just calling a name or face to mind. There’s an emotional and intentional element too. On Remembrance Day, November 11th, we show respect for those who died in service for our country, expressing our approval of their sacrifice with speeches, songs and ceremonies.

“Remember me” is a phrase used quite a few times in the Bible. The intentional aspect of it can be seen in the words of Joseph, who’d been falsely accused and locked in an Egyptian prison. When Pharaoh’s butler, a fellow-prisoner, was released, Joseph said to him, “Remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house” (Gen. 40:14). Attention with intention.

When the Lord Jesus says the Lord’s Supper (or Communion) is to be celebrated “in remembrance of Me” (I Cor. 11:23-26), it’s not simply a matter of going through a familiar ritual. We are being directed to meditate sincerely on His sacrifice on the cross, and to live, day by day, in such a way that we show our personal application of it.

Frequently in Scripture the phrase is used in prayer. Nehemiah prayed, “Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people [i.e. the Jews who’d returned to Judea after captivity in Babylon]” (Neh. 5:19). And later he prays, “Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of Your mercy!” (Neh. 13:22).

The psalmist prays, “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour You have toward Your people; oh, visit me with Your salvation” (Ps. 106:4). And the prophet Jeremiah prays, “O Lord, You know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In Your enduring patience, do not take me away. Know that for Your sake I have suffered rebuke” (Jer. 15:15).

It can be seen from these few examples that the call for God to “remember” is often a cry for help in time of need. We see the same thing with the words of the dying thief, hanging on a cross next to Christ. “He said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom’” (Lk. 23:42). A plea which the Lord promised to fulfil. “Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise’” (vs. 43).

In Psalm 25, David voices an urgent plea for protection, guidance, and God’s forgiveness:

“Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old….According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord” (Ps. 27:6, 7).

We don’t know what events brought David to pray that way, but it may have been this distressed petition which inspired a passionate prayer hymn. The author of the words may remain unknown to us, but they are poignant.

Note: Stanza 2 seems to be referring to the incident when Peter asked if he could come to Jesus, walking on the sea. But he became afraid and began to sink (Matt. 14:22-33). The author uses it as a picture of a fear of sinking in a time of great distress.

1) When storms around are sweeping,
When lone my watch I’m keeping,
‘Mid fires of evil falling,
‘Mid tempters’ voices calling,

Remember me, O Mighty One!
Remember me, O Mighty One!

2) When walking on life’s ocean,
Control its raging motion;
When from its dangers shrinking,
When in it’s dread deep sinking,

3) When weight of sin oppresses,
When dark despair distresses,
All through the life that’s mortal,
And when I pass death’s portal,

Questions:
1) Have you face days of extreme difficulty and maybe “dark despair” as the hymn describes?

2) Did the Lord provide in some special way, when you prayed?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (none, as of this date)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 20, 2019

In Heavenly Love Abiding

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Anna Laetitia Waring (b. Apr. 19, 1823; d. May 10, 1910)
Music: Seasons, by Felix Mendelssohn (b. Feb. 3, 1809; d. Nov. 4, 1847)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: You’ll notice in the Cyber Hymnal that at least nine different tunes have been used with this hymn. I’m most familiar with Mendelssohn’s tune Seasons. (In using this tune, the last line of each stanza is repeated.)

In 1957, the International Staff Band of the Salvation Army came over from England on a North American tour. I had the privilege of hearing them live, when they came to Ontario. They’re consistently ranked as one of the world’s great concert bands. You can hear them play Mendelssohn’s tune here, on a historic vinyl LP, made in connection with the tour.

The word abide is associated with the word abode, referring to a dwelling or home–a place that should awaken warmly positive thoughts. However, many in our world have far from an ideal home life. When some think of home, strife, deceit, violence and fear come to mind. Home is not somewhere they love to go, but, sadly, a prison they long to escape.

Home should be a place where each family member is accepted and valued as an individual. A place of peace and harmony, where all receive support and comfort. A place of mutual affection, where the truth is spoken in love. A place of nurture and learning, of happiness and joy. A place where others beyond the immediate family are welcomed, but also a place of security and protection from those who would harm us.

In particular, a Christian home is one that recognizes the presence of God, and where hearts are tuned to trust in Him, and obey His Word. Charles Spurgeon said, “When home is ruled according to God’s Word, angels might be asked to stay with us, and they would not find themselves out of their element.” Using the words with which this article began, who would not delight to abide in such an abode?

When we turn to the Scriptures, we find the Lord Jesus using the word abide a little differently, to speak of a spiritual reality. In teaching He gave in the upper room, before He went to the cross, Christ uses the word nine times in six verses (Jn. 15:4-10). Years later, John would have more to say about this kind of abiding in his first epistle.

The Lord said believers are to “abide in My love [in fellowship with Me]” (Jn. 15:9). And since it is spoken of as something we’re to do, it lays a responsibility on us. To understand what’s involved, it’s helpful to consider what’s sometimes called the Christian’s position and condition.

Our position has to do with our legal standing before God. I am a citizen of Canada; that’s my legal position. For the Christian, God views us as being in Christ, having His perfect righteousness credited to our heavenly account (II Cor. 5:21). That’s our position, and as such we are unfailingly surrounded by the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).

Our condition (our daily conduct) should be in harmony with that, but it isn’t always. Just as I can break Canada’s laws and disgrace my position as a citizen, so our condition as Christians is sometimes not what it should be. That’s why God provides for our forgiveness and cleansing when we confess and forsake our sin (I Jn. 1:9). It’s in this sense that we need to consciously abide in the love of Christ.

In daily experience we’re to settle down and be at home in His love, maintaining fellowship with Him. We do this by living consistently, day by day, in obedience to the Word of God. The Lord says plainly, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (Jn. 15:10). “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (I Jn. 2:6).

In 1850 Welsh-born hymn writer Anna Waring produced a hymn inspired by the 23rd Psalm. In it she expresses the joy of abiding in the love of the Lord, nurtured, protected, and at home in His loving care.

CH-1) In heavenly love abiding, no change my heart shall fear.
And safe in such confiding, for nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me, my heart may low be laid,
But God is round about me, and can I be dismayed?

CH-2) Wherever He may guide me, no want shall turn me back.
My shepherd is beside me, and nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waking, His sight is never dim.
He knows the way He’s taking, and I will walk with Him.

CH-3) Green pastures are before me, which yet I have not seen.
Bright skies will soon be o’er me, where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure, my path to life is free.
My Saviour has my treasure, and He will walk with me.

Questions:
1) What are some of the blessings of abiding in the love of Christ?

2) What causes us to forsake that place of fellowship? (And what is the remedy?)
Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 16, 2019

Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Ada Ruth Habershon (b. Jan. 8, 1861; d, Feb. 1, 1918)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 1856; d. Sept. 15, 1932)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Ada Habershon was an English author, Bible teacher and hymn writer, Miss Habershon was brought up in a Christian home by believing, praying parents, and her whole life was devoted to God’s service. In 1884 she was invited by evangelist Dwight Moody to deliver lectures on the Old Testament in America, which she did. The lectures were later published in book form.

There’s a very early recording of a version of Havershon’s song by the Carter Family, famed pioneers of folk music in America. However, if you listen to the recording here, you’ll see a marked difference in the lyrics. The Carter version focuses on a funeral and the grieving family; Havershon’s original was about faith, and a hope to see the family circle complete in heaven. No such hope is found in the Carter’s song. Only a question, “Can the circle be unbroken?”

Since 1932, a monthly magazine called Family Circle has been published, focusing on the needs and interests of the home and family. So just what is a “family circle”? It’s a term, in use since at least the early nineteenth century, identifying the most closely related members of a family, the immediate family as a group,.

This would seem to include the father and mother, their parents, and their children, and possibly grandchildren, but exclude uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews. (The term extended family fits better there.) As to children, western couples seem to be having fewer today. The average is one or two. But this writer met an older woman recently who is one of seventeen children. That would make a big circle indeed!

Many have pointed out that families are the essential building blocks of society. Pope John XXIII said the family “must be considered the first and essential cell of human society.” Eighteenth century portrait painter William Aikman said, “Civilization varies with the family, and the family with civilization.” American author and educator William Thayer said simply, “As are families, so is society.”

God knew that, since He invented families. Our first parents were brought together by the Lord Himself (Gen. 2:24), and told to “be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Not on their own, of course, but through their descendants and newly created family units. However, simply adding to the population is not the end of parental responsibility. We’re to “train up a child in the way he [or she] should go” (Prov. 22:6). In a loving home there’s nurturing, protection, and much more.

Today, the Christian home is to be God’s workshop where faith in Him is nurtured, and godly character built. Fathers are told to “bring [children] up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). This, in turn, can have a profound influence on society as a whole, helping to turn many Godward. “Blessed is the nation,” [and] “happy are the people whose God is the Lord (Ps. 33:12; 144:15). “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).

But to return to the family circle, it should be the fervent prayer of parents that their children learn to love the Lord Jesus, and put their faith in Him. John writes, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (III Jn. 1:4)–likely referring to his spiritual children, in that case, those won to the Lord through his ministry. And Paul rejoiced that his friend and co-worker Timothy had the godly influence of his mother and grandmother (II Tim. 1:5), through whom “from childhood you have known the holy Scriptures” (II Tim. 3:15).

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if your family circle and mine were united in faith, and thus remained unbroken in heaven? In other words, that they’d all be a part of God’s forever family, some of whom are now in heaven, others on the earth (Eph. 3:15)–a family bound together by their common love for the Saviour (Jn. 1:12; Gal. 3:26).

Ada Habershon thought so. In 1907 she gave us a thoughtful gospel song about the family circle, encouraging each family member to consider their eternal destiny.

CH-1) There are loved ones in the Glory,
Whose dear forms you often miss;
When you close your earthly story,
Will you join them in their bliss?

Will the circle be unbroken
By and by, by and by?
In a better home awaiting
In the sky, in the sky?

CH-2) In the joyous days of childhood,
Oft they told of wondrous love,
Pointed to the dying Saviour,
Now they dwell with Him above.

CH-3) You remember songs of heaven
Which you sang with childish voice,
Do you love the hymns they taught you,
Or are songs of earth your choice?

CH-5) One by one their seats were emptied,
One by one they went away;
Here the circle has been broken–
Will it be complete one day?

Questions:
1) What are some of the blessings of belonging to a Christian family?

2) Are there family members of yours you’re still praying will come to Christ?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 13, 2019

I Love to Tell the Story

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Arabella Katherine (Catherine) Hankey (b. Jan. 12, 1834; d. May 9, 1911)
Music: William Gustavus Fischer (b. Oct. 14, 1835; d. Aug. 13, 1912)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In her early thirties, Katherine Hankey (1834-1911) developed a serious illness. In the weary days of her convalescence, to occupy her time, she wrote a long poem on the life of Christ. Our gospel song, I Love to Tell the Story, is taken from a section of it. The song Tell Me the Old, Old Story is taken from another section. If you’d like to see the entire poem, it can be found on the Cyber Hymnal link.

Story telling is an ancient tradition. It can involve either factual accounts or fictional tales. Long before television and radio, even before the invention of the printing press, stories were told. They could be shared for religious purposes, or to teach a moral lesson. Other times they were meant to inform about the news of the day, or simply to entertain those gathered to hear them.

Sometimes returning warriors, or seamen, told of wild adventures on the ocean, or in far off lands. And every culture seems to have its own myths and folklore, handed down from one generation to another. In Europe, in the Middle ages, traveling troubadours or minstrels visited the town marketplaces. There they sang songs and told stories, sharing news of what was happening in other places.

The story-teller can adapt his story to the audience before him, or create a new story to meet the need. The centuries-old Christmas carol, The First Noel, seems to be based on a troubadour song telling the story of Jesus’ birth. In the refrain, with its repeated, “Noel, Noel, Noel” we can hear his attention getting shout, “Birthday, birthday, birthday!” calling people to stop and listen to what he has to tell about a special birth.

In the Gospels, we see the Lord Jesus telling stories (parables) in various situations. About three dozen of them have been preserved for us by the four authors. The stories often had a twist, or some notable detail that made them memorable. The two best known are likely those of The Good Samaritan, and The Prodigal Son. Both, in a sense, could be called love stories, illustrating loving actions in the community and in a family.

Christ told the Good Samaritan parable (Lk. 10:30-37) in answer to a lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbour?” (vs. 29). The Jews were ready to admit they should be kind to their Jewish neighbours, but many balked at showing concern for Gentiles or the hated Samaritans. But the Lord demonstrates that neighbourly care should cross cultural lines. It was a Samaritan, not a Jewish priest or Levite, who helped a man who’d been attacked by robbers.

In the lengthy parable of The Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:11-32), a young son demands the inheritance he would have received when his father died. After his father gave it to him, he went to a far country and wasted it all in “prodigal” living (the word means wild and reckless extravagance).

When he was starving, he decided to return home. His father’s servants were well fed. Maybe dad would hire him on as a servant. The wonderful reception he receives speaks not only of the need of forgiving love for others who’ve stumbled, but illustrates the love of God the Father for repentant sinners. “While he was still some distance off, his father saw him and his heart went out to him, and he ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (vs. 20).

As Christians, we have a great story to tell, the greatest of all–a completely true one. It’s the story of the Saviour’s love, a love that sent Him from heaven’s glory to suffer and die, taking upon Himself the punishment for our sins. That’s a story we should love to share.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3). “The Son of God… loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).

CH-1) I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

CH-2) I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.

CH-3) I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.

Questions:
1) Why is it that Christians “seem hungering and thirsting to hear” the gospel story again and again?

2) No doubt we’ll be singing and hearing great music in heaven. Apparently, this will include some earthly songs (e.g. “the song of Moses” Rev. 15:3; cf. Exod. 15:1-2). What hymns and gospel songs you know do you think might be sung in heaven?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 9, 2019

My Redeemer

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)
Music: James McGranahan (b. July 4, 1840; d. July 9, 1907)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Evangelical hymn books contain many songs by this gifted, yet humble, servant of God: Hallelujah, What a Saviour! Whosoever Will; Once for All; The Light of the World Is Jesus; Wonderful Words of Life; Almost Persuaded; More Holiness Give Me; Dare to Be a Daniel; Let the Lower Lights Be Burning, Hold the Fort; Jesus Loves Even Me, and others.

The present song also works well with the tune Hyfrydol, to which we sing Our Great Saviour, and Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.

Various studies of the subject of singing suggest multiple benefits to it, even setting aside, for the moment, the subject of the songs. The following findings are among those reported.

People who sing are more likely to be happy, as singing elevates the levels of neurotransmitters associated with pleasure and well being. Many singers report that singing helps them relax, and control stress. Singing can also give you physical benefits like better breath control and word enunciation. Further, with group singing, there’s the uplifting pleasure of uniting in a common experience and fellowshiping with others.

Singing in a group for just one hour has been found to boost levels of immune proteins in cancer patients, and has a positive overall effect on their health. Singing also has numerous benefits for stroke victims, having to do with relearning the ability to speak and communicate their thoughts. Some who have a severe stuttering condition can communicate smoothly if they sing their words. And Alzheimer patients, at a stage no longer able to converse with others, often can join in singing songs learned long ago.

So far, we’ve talked about some physical and mental benefits of singing. But it can have a practical purpose too. Children can learn their A-B-C’s with a song. And there are love songs that convey affection for another person, and patriotic songs expressing love and loyalty to one’s country.

Then there are wartime songs to inspire the troops, like the Battle Hymn of the Republic, in the America Civil War, and George M. Cohan’s Over There, popular during the First World War. In America, songs of protest abounded during the 1960’s, with its civil rights concerns, and opposition to the Vietnam War. Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind, and The Times They Are a Changin’, and Pete Seeger’s If I Had a Hammer, and We Shall Overcome are examples.

When we turn to the Bible, we find words such as singing and songs over 250 times. More than a hundred of these are in Psalms, understandable since it was the hymn book of Israel, and of the early church.

Frequently, the purpose of these songs is the praise and worship of God. The first reference to singing did that. It occurred when the Lord delivered Israel from slavery, giving them a miraculous pathway through the Red Sea.

“Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying: ‘I will sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” (Exod. 15:1-2).

The final reference to singing is found in Revelation, book-ending the frist, when the saints…

“Sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb [Christ], saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!’” (Rev. 15:3).

In the New Testament, Christians are urged to use singing for praise and prayer to God, and teaching and testimony to one another.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace [thanksgiving] in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

In times of suffering, they sang (Acts 15:25), and in happy times too (Jas. 5:13). Such singing engages both the spirit and the mind (I Cor. 14:15).

In 1876, the song My Redeemer, was published. It may have been the last one written by Philip Bliss, before he and his wife were killed in a tragic train wreck. It provides a lasting testimony to the man’s love for the Lord Jesus, and his service for Him.

CH-1) I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His wondrous love to me;
On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.

Sing, oh sing, of my Redeemer,
With His blood, He purchased me.
On the cross, He sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt, and made me free.

CH-4) I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His heav’nly love to me;
He from death to life hath brought me,
Son of God with Him to be.

Questions:
1) What other activities of earth, besides singing, do you believe we’ll take part in when we reach heaven?

2) What hymns about the Lord Jesus Christ do you especially love?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 6, 2019

How Firm a Foundation

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Author Unknown (see note below)
Music: Protection, from A Compilation of Genuine Church Music, by Joseph Funk (b. Apr. 16, 1778; d. Dec. 24, 1862)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: In 1787, English pastor John Rippon (1751-1836) produced a book called A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors. In it was the hymn How Firm a Foundation, attributed in early editions only to “K” or “Kn.” We know Robert Keene was the song leader (or precentor) in Pastor Rippon’s church. He may, or may not, have been the source.

As for the tune, in addition to the one given above, John Francis Wade’s Adeste Fideles (to which we also sing the carol O Come, All Ye Faithful) works well.

There are many shocking stories about big buildings that collapsed because of problems with the foundation. What is seen above the ground may be well built, even magnificent, but there proved to be an unseen peril beneath the surface that later would bring disaster.

The most famous example is the leaning tower, in Pisa, Italy, a freestanding bell tower for the nearby cathedral. Long before it was completed it had begun to tilt dangerously, due to a thin foundation set on unstable subsoil. Corrective measures were taken, work that’s gone on into the twenty-first century at a cost of many millions of dollars. Though not completely straight, the tilt has currently been stabilized sufficiently to allow tourists safely into the tower.

Problems with the huge Transcona Grain Elevator, in Manitoba, started in 1913, the day it was finished. As grain was moved in, the building began to settle, sinking a foot in the first hour of loading. Soon it had tilted twenty-seven degrees to the west. The problem was the unstable clay and silt below. But the building itself was strong, and engineers were able to create a firm foundation on solid rock thirty-four feet further down, and straighten the structure–again at great expense.

The ruin that can come from having an inadequate foundation was presented in the Sermon on the Mount, in Lord’s parable of the two builders.

“Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matt. 7:24-27).

Notice it’s not simply the one who hears God’s Word (or reads it) who is wise. The foolish man did that too. But it’s the one who wisely acts upon it, and applies what is there to his life, who finds it a solid foundation to build upon. The Apostle James puts it bluntly: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas. 1:22).

Why would anyone do what the fool did? There may be various reasons. Perhaps he was lazy and careless. Or he was one who cared more about appearances than the deeper things. Or possibly he greatly underestimated the destructive power of the storms that would come. Or possibly pride and a desire to do his own thing led him to ignore the wisdom and experience of others. Whatever the case, the end result was the same.

I had another thought as well, illustrated by the leaning tower of Pisa. That tilted structure became a great tourist attraction. So, when the engineers got to work to solve the problem, the town fathers apparently balked. Yes, they wanted it made safe, so it wouldn’t fall over on anyone. But they didn’t want it completely straightened. Then, people would be less inclined to visit their town!

This is very much like some folks who want to be good, but not too good. Like the individual in Ecclesiastes who advises us not to be “overly righteous,” or “overly wicked” (Ecc. 7:16-17), to just stick with a nice average, and get some fun out of life. But that is not the standard God sets before us. He is a holy God, and He demands the same of us. “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (I Pet. 1:15-16).

The need to build our lives on the Word of God is presented in one of our finest hymns. Ironically, we know nothing certain about the origin of it. But, after the first stanza, every one of the seven is related to some text of Scripture, assuring us that there is no better foundation.

CH-1) How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

CH-3) Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

CH-5) When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

CH-7) The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Questions:
1) Take a look at the full hymn on the Cyber Hymnal link. What verse stands out to you as being especially encouraging to you?

2) How has the Word of God been a firm foundation to you over the past month?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | May 2, 2019

How Great Thou Art

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Carl Gustaf Boberg (b. Aug. 16, 1859; d. Jan. 7, 1940); English translation, Stuart Wesley Keen Hine (b. July 25, 1899; d. Mar. 14, 1989)
Music: a Swedish folk melody of unknown origin, adapted by Stuart Hine

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Carl Boberg, Stuart Hine) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Carl Boberg was converted to Christ at the age of nineteen. Later, he served in the Swedish parliament for many years, and was also one of the leaders in the evangelical church of his country. As well as being a lay preacher, Boberg edited two hymn books, and wrote a great deal of poetry, including a now famous hymn.

We use various words to describe the bigness or grandness of a thing. In commercial advertising, the English language is deeply mined to find new and tantalizing ways to impress us with the superlative nature of a product or service. Whatever it is, it’s huge, stupendous, colossal, gigantic, or mammoth. It’s the jumbo size, or the giant economy size.

Sometimes people receive similar treatment by being labeled “great.” In history, there’s Cyrus the Great, the ruler of Persia, Alexander the Great, the Greek conqueror, and Catherine the Great, the empress of Russia. In sports, hockey’s Wayne Gretzky is the Great One, and boxing’s Muhammad Ali proclaimed himself the Greatest.

But let’s turn to the Bible. As the Scriptures begin, at creation, the sun and moon are “great lights” for the earth (Gen. 1:16). We also learn that great wickedness brought the judgment of the flood in Noah’s time (Gen. 6:5), and that God promised to make of Abraham’s descendants “a great nation” (Gen. 12:2). The Lord told the patriarch, “I [Myself] am…your exceedingly great reward” (Gen. 15:1). And here we approach infinite greatness. Certainly, “God is greater than man” (Job 33:12).

We can legitimately argue whether or not grandiose advertising claims are justified. But Almighty God is in a unique category. Since He is, by definition, the supreme Being, He is supremely great. And because the Bible deals so much with the person and works of the infinite and the eternal God, it’s not surprising that some form of the word “great” is used there over a thousand times.

“How great is Your goodness,” cries the psalmist (Ps. 31:19), and “How great are Your works” (Ps. 92:5). He is a God of great mercy (Ps. 145:8), of great power (Isa. 40:26; Eph. 1:19), and great love (Eph. 2:4). And “the Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad” (Ps. 126:3). But in the end, the inspired writers must admit that words fail them, because “[God’s] greatness is unsearchable [beyond comprehension]” (Ps. 145:3).

Through faith in Christ, we receive a “great salvation” (Heb. 2:3), and the Lord Jesus Himself is “our great God and Saviour” (Tit. 2:13), our “great High Priest” in heaven (Heb. 4:14), and our “great Shepherd” through life (Heb. 13:20). At the end of the Bible we read of “a great multitude” praising God in the heavenly kingdom (Rev. 19:1, 6), because “the Lord is great and greatly to be praised” (Ps. 96:4).

Carl Boberg thought so. One day, he experienced a sudden thunderstorm, and the later return of bright sunshine on the newly washed scene, with the singing of the birds. It caused him to fall to His knees and worship the God of creation, and led him to write the Swedish version of How Great Thou Art (O Store Gud). After being set to music, the hymn was translated into German, and then Russian.

Stuart Hine, a British missionary working in the Ukraine, translated the Russian song into English, and it was passed on to the Billy Graham team when they were holding meetings in London, in 1954. It was introduced to North America by gospel singer Bev Shea in a Toronto Crusade, a year later. Since then, it has often ranked in polls as either our favourite hymn, or places second only to Amazing Grace.

CH-1) O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

CH-2) When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

CH-3) And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Questions:
1) In your view, what is the greatest thing about our great God?

2) Why are there relatively few in the world who worship our great and wonderful God?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Carl Boberg, Stuart Hine) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 29, 2019

How Blest a Home

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Janetta (Janette) Mary Wilbraham Taylor Trench (b. Jan. 31, 1843; d. June 14, 1925)
Music: Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes, an old English air by John Wall Callcott (b. Nov. 20, 1766; d. May 15, 1821)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Just from the title, some may think this is a hymn about the Christian home, but this is not that. It’s an exalted look at another home. It’s unfortunate Mrs. Trench’s song isn’t better known. Service leader, if the pastor is going to preach about heaven, why not include this hymn. It would also be an encouragement if sung at a funeral or memorial service. For my defense of using the tune of a secular ballad for this hymn, see the Wordwise Hymns link.

Comment is made below of the version of Home on the Range sung by baritone John Charles Thomas. In my view, there just isn’t any better singing than this. You can check it out on YouTube, here. Mr. Thomas was the son of a clergyman, and grew up with a great love for our hymns. He had a radio program on which he sang them, and a number of recordings are available of hymns from there.

Some of us have developed a great affection for our home. Not only for those we live with, but perhaps the house we live in, and perhaps the whole area around. That happened to Brewster Martin Higley (1823-1911).

In 1871, Dr. Higley (an ear, nose, and throat specialist) moved to Kansas, under the Homestead Act and, with a growing appreciation for the beauty of his surroundings, he was inspired to write a poem. His poem, My Western Home, was later adapted and set to music, becoming the classic ballad, Home on the Range. The lyrics begin:

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

The musical tribute came to be thought of as the unofficial anthem of the American West, and it was adopted as the official state song of Kansas.

Over time, Home on the Range has been recorded by many artists, Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Burl Ives, and more. But the version by famed opera baritone John Charles Thomas stands out above the rest. His glorious voice, and the passionate, tender feeling with which he sings, give the song an almost hymn-like quality that seems to come close to what Dr. Higley must have felt.

Not all of us can write poetry like Brewster Higley did, or sing with the golden tones of John Charles Thomas. But we still may have a great depth of feeling about our home. That is also true of Christians who ponder their future home.

Heaven is where the throne of God is (Ps. 123:1; Rev. 4:1-2), and the holy angels. Sometimes the word Paradise is used of it, a Persian word referring to a lovely park or garden (Lk. 23:43). It’s also a city, and the destination of the children of God (Heb. 12:22-23). We’re told our heavenly home is being prepared for us by the Lord Jesus, and He looks forward to having us there (Jn. 14:2-3). Believers are pilgrims here on earth, but “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).

Absent will be many things that distress and give us pain now.

“God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

The heavenly city will be a place of worship, joy, rest, and of service and reward. Of it Scripture says, “There shall be no night there: they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they [the saints] shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).

In contemplating his eternal future, the Apostle Paul said, “to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), and he expressed “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). What a glorious home it will be! And in 1881 Janette Trench published a beautiful hymn about heaven fitting this exalted feeling.

CH-1) How blest a home! The Father’s house!
There love divine doth rest;
What else could satisfy the hearts
Of those in Jesus blest?
His home made ours–His Father’s love
Our heart’s full portion given,
The portion of the Firstborn Son,
The full delight of heav’n.

CH-3) Oh, what a home! There fullest love
Flows through its courts of light;
The Son’s divine affections flow
Throughout its depth and height.
And full response the Father gives,
To fill with joy the heart–
No cloud is there to dim the scene,
Or shadow to impart.

CH-4) Oh, what a home! But such His love
That He must bring us there,
To fill that home, to be with Him,
And all His glory share.
The Father’s house, the Father’s heart,
All that the Son is given
Made ours–the objects of His love
And He, our joy in heav’n.

Questions:
1) Mrs. Trench says, in the last stanza, “He must bring us there.” Why must He?

2) What is your favourite hymn about heaven?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 25, 2019

Holy, Holy, Holy

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Reginald Heber (b. Apr. 21, 1783; d. Apr. 3, 1826)
Music: Nicaea, by John Bacchus Dykes (b. Mar. 10, 1823; d. Jan. 22, 1876)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The tune Nicaea is appropriate for a Trinitarian hymn. It was at the first Council of Nicaea in AD 325 that the deity of Christ was affirmed, and the doctrine of the Trinity was ably defended by Athanasius (AD 296-373).

Repetition and review–teachers know the technique well. When I was in elementary school, we were drilled on our times tables, over and over, all the way from 1×1 to 12×12. (Do they still do that?) If something is to be learned so it can be used and applied in years to come, most of us need to have it repeated many times, before it becomes part of our mental furniture.

Orators use repetition as well. Listen to Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. In a couple of minutes he uses those words eight times, making clear to all his hope for the future. Similarly, he repeats, ten times, “Let freedom ring,” a phrase from the American national hymn, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.

God has used repetition in the Bible too. For example, in Psalm 135, the phrase, “His mercy endures forever” is found twenty-six times. Likely, the psalm was sung antiphonally, with one group echoing that refrain, and another group singing what was in between. The emphasis impresses those who read or sing it with the eternal goodness and loving kindness of the Lord.

Some form of the word “holy” is repeated in Scripture over 600 times, including other terms, such as sacred and hallowed, translating the same Hebrew and Greek words. Holy means set apart or separated. Most often this has to do with God being utterly separated from sin and corruption. And this is urged as a standard for His children as well. “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (I Pet. 1:15).

The prophet Isaiah refers to the holiness of God in describing an awe inspiring vision He had of God’s throne.

“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up….Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke” (Isa. 6:1-4).

We’re not told how many seraphs there were (seraphim is a Hebrew plural). But the angelic beings cried out, back and forth to one another, about the holiness of God. The three-fold repetition of the word is for emphasis. It calls attention to the absolute and eternal separateness of God from sin, or anything that corrupts or defiles. This truth not only strikes the prophet powerfully, it causes him to realize the sinful uncleanness of himself and his people (vs. 5).

In the New Testament, when John was privileged to be caught up into heaven, he witnessed a similar scene around the throne of God (Rev. 4:6-11). There “four living creatures” (likely angels, again) around the throne, “do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (vs. 8).

It’s the latter scene that inspired one of our greatest hymns. Written by Church of England clergyman Reginald Heber, it was published after his death, and has since been included in over fourteen hundred hymnals. The majesty of the Triune Godhead is powerfully presented.

CH-1) Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning
Our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

CH-2) Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns
Around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who wert and art, and evermore shall be.

CH-3) Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man
Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Questions:
1) What does having holy conduct mean to you, practically, day be day?

2) What was wrong with the Pharisees’ claim to holy conduct?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | April 22, 2019

He Leadeth Me

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Joseph Henry Gilmore (b. Apr. 29, 1834; d. July 23, 1918)
Music: William Batchelder Bradbury (b. Oct. 6, 1816; d. Jan. 7, 1868)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Joseph H. Gilmore was an American pastor, and a university professor. The amazing story of how his poem came to be written, and was later turned into a hymn is found in the first Wordwise Hymns link above. The general affection for the song is suggested by its use in over a thousand hymnals.

William Bradbury wrote the music for many familiar hymns and gospel songs (e.g. Just As I Am; The Solid Rock (“My hope is built on nothing less…”); Sweet Hour of Prayer; Even Me (“Lord, I hear of showers of blessing…”); Jesus Loves Me; Saviour, Like a Shepherd Lead Us). An extensive biographical note about Bradbury is found on the Cyber Hymnal here.

What’s better than getting advice on how to repair a car? Perhaps it’s having a friend right next door who’s an expert mechanic, and is willing to work on the car. What’s better than being given directions to someplace we’ve never been? It’s having someone in the car who has, and knows the way.

I thought of these things as I revisited Psalm 23, the “Shepherd Psalm,” quite possibly the most beloved chapter in the Bible. The author of the psalm is David, a shepherd in his younger years, and later the king of Israel (II Sam. 7:8).

Shepherds are talked about in God’s Word nearly a hundred times–many more if we include other translations of the Hebrew and Greek words (herdsmen, pastors, and so on). Sometimes the words refer to those tending actual sheep; other times the words are used in a symbolic sense, with people portrayed as the sheep (e.g. Acts 20:28). In the psalm, David uses his experience with the flock of his father, Jesse, to draw a picture of the Lord as our Shepherd.

Before we look at other things in the psalm, we need to focus on the first five words:

“The Lord is my shepherd.”

Can that be said of you and me? It’s not automatic. It means there’s a personal commitment on our part of ongoing trust in the Lord, and obedience to Him. It means we have an intimate relationship with the Lord. In New Testament terms, this involves faith in Christ as our Saviour, and continuing recognition of Him as Lord of our lives.

If the Lord is indeed our Shepherd, we can have confidence that all our needs will be met (Ps. 23:1; cf. Phil. 4:19, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”). He will lead us and guide us, day by day, by His Spirit (vs. 2a; cf. Rom. 8:14). And the Lord will provide our necessary spiritual food, through His Word (vs. 2b; cf. II Tim. 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable.”).

Just as the shepherd must constantly be concerned for the health of his sheep and treat physical problems (vs. 3a, 5b), so our Shepherd is concerned for our spiritual health. “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3; 5:2).

The Lord is also ready to protect us from spiritual danger from our enemy the devil, providing a banquet of blessings, even in times of trial and difficulty (vs. 4a, 5a). We have the comfort and reassurance of the armour He provides (Eph. 6:10-17), and His loving discipline that often draws us back from a dangerous path (Heb. 12:5-11). Nor is His loving care limited to the span of our mortal lives; it will continue on through eternity (vs. 6; cf. Rev. 7:17).

Finally, in the psalm, overriding all the wonderful things the shepherd does for the sheep, is His reassuring presence. “You are with me” is almost at the precise centre of the psalm ( with 62 words before, and 56 words after, in the NKJV)–and it’s surely a central concept. A shepherd cannot care for the immediate needs of the sheep from some remote location. This is not work that can be mailed in. He has to be near at hand, and that’s just what the Lord is (Matt. 28:20).

In 1862, after preaching on Psalm 23, American pastor Joseph Henry Gilmore wrote a warmly devotional hymn about our ever-present Shepherd’s tender care. His meditation of the psalm focused on three words in verse 2 (KJV), “He leadeth me…”

CH-1) He leadeth me, O blessèd thought!
O words with heav’nly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

CH-3) Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

Questions:
1) What recent experiences do you have of the leading of the Lord?

2) Why is it sometimes difficult to discover God’s will in making a decision?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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