Posted by: rcottrill | February 11, 2011

Precious Lord, Take My Hand

Words: Thomas Andrew Dorsey (b. July 1, 1899; d. Jan. 23, 1993)
Music: Maitland, by George Nelson Allen (b. Sept 7, 1812; d. Dec. 9, 1877)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The tune Maitland, commonly used with the hymn Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone was adapted by Thomas Dorsey for use with his song.

If you check the Wordwise Hymns link, you will see the background of this song. It constitutes the urgent prayer of a man in great distress, and deep sorrow. Though the musical setting of this selection makes it sound gentle and soothing, there is a sense of desperation here. It is the urgent cry of someone who seems at the end of his rope. There are some psalms of David with expressions of near despair that are like that (e.g. Ps. 3:1-2; 6:2-3; 13:3; 28:1; 69:14-15).

We do a disservice to people if we immediately assume that this can only be a “spiritual” problem, that it indicates sinful disobedience somewhere, a backslidden condition, or a failure of faith. (Job’s three friends assumed that, but Job and the Lord knew it was not the case.) There are many sources of difficulties in our lives. Not all are a result of personal sin (cf. Jn. 9:1-3). Some are simply the result of living in a fallen world. Others come from the wicked behaviour of others. We must not leap to conclusions in our zeal to set things straight!

Even when we are reasonably sure the sufferer has brought his difficulties on himself, it is not usually helpful to begin preaching sin and repentance to him, in a time of crisis. You would hardly stand on the dock and berate a drowning man for being so foolish as to fall into the water! You would jump in and help him, or throw him a life preserver!) Time enough later to deal with correcting the underlying cause. Compassion and mercy are called for first of all.

Mr. Dorsey’s wife died in childbirth, along with his infant son. It was devastating to him. In the song, he realizes that he is in one of life’s storms, and admits he is “tired…weak… [and] worn” (CH-1). The way ahead seemed  “drear” and, like David the psalmist, he felt his life was slipping away–that he was about to fall (CH-2). But if death was to come for him, as it had for his wife and son, he wanted to be assured of a safe transport to the heavenly kingdom (CH-3).

As to the opening line of the song, it is quite amazing the number of times the hand of God is spoken of in His Word. Of course, we know that God is a spirit Being, and does not, at least in His essential nature, have literal hands–unless we’re speaking of the incarnate Son of God. But it is picture language. Hands are what we do things with. And references to God’s hand indicate some of the ways God has pledged Himself to act on behalf of His children. A few examples. In the Bible we see:

1) God’s mighty hand (Exod. 3:20; Ps. 89:13; 118:15; I Pet. 5:6)
2) His delivering hand (Deut. 5:15)
3) His dependable hand (Isa. 59:1)
4) His reassuring hand (Neh. 2:18)
5) His protective hand (Ps. 31:15; 98:1)
6) His secure hand (Jn. 10:28-29)
7) His providing hand (Ps. 104:28; Ps. 145:16)
8. His blessing hand (Josh. 4:24; Ezra 7:9; 8:18)
9) His guiding hand (Ps. 139:10)
10) His supporting hand (Ps. 37:24)
11) His healing hand, in the person of Christ (Matt. 9:25)
12) His reviving hand (II Chron. 30:12)

In times of uncertainty, times of weakness, times of danger, times of distress, who would not reach out in faith and ask for the strong grip of the hand of God in our own? That is what this little gospel song is about. Be encouraged. The one who turns to God in faith will find Him abundantly sufficient in any time of trouble.

For an outline study on the subject of human suffering, and how God can work in and through it, see my article Truth About Suffering.

1) What are some mistakes we make in dealing with those facing painful difficulties of one kind or another?

2) How would you comfort, encourage, and help someone going through a time of trial?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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