Posted by: rcottrill | May 2, 2011

Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow

Words: Thomas Ken (b. July ___, 1637; d. Mar. 19, 1711)
Music: Old Hundredth, by Loys (Louis) Bourgeois (b. _____, 1510; d. Aug. 25, 1572)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Musician Louis Bourgeois was born in Paris, but, being a follower of John Calvin, he moved to Geneva in 1541–and actually lived with Calvin. The latter appointed him editor of the Geneva Psalter, for which he either composed or arranged tunes to fit the Psalms. He returned to Paris in 1557, after a disagreement with Calvin. (The latter refused to allow parts singing–singing in harmony–in the church.) It is possible that Louis Bourgeois was one of many thousands of French Protestants killed during the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, in 1572.

In 1673 or a bit earlier, Bishop Ken (bishop of Bath and Wells) wrote a trio of hymns for Morning, Evening, and Midnight. What we now know as the Doxology (from the Greek word doxa, often translated glory in, or praise) was the closing stanza of each:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Many stories are associated with the singing of these four lines. The Cyber Hymnal cites a touching example concerning Union prisoners during the American Civil War. Another, rather unusual incident, relates to the opening of the Bridgehouse Wesleyan Chapel, in Sheffield, England, in 1835. Services continued all day and late into the night, and the Doxology was sung no less that thirty-five times, giving thanks to God for His blessings!

The binding on Thomas Ken’s Greek New Testament was so worn that it opened of its own accord to a text clearly dear to him, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (I Cor. 15:10). For many years, it was his practice to write “All glory be to God” at the top of all his letters. These words are also said to be the last he uttered, with his dying breath. Because of his strong moral convictions, his life was not an easy one, but the Doxology seems a fitting legacy from this man. He purposefully lived his life and conducted his ministry to the praise of God.

The Bible speaks many times of praising God, from Genesis to Revelation. The first mention concerns Jacob’s wife Leah praising God for a son (Gen. 29:35). She named him “Judah,” from a Hebrew word meaning to praise or give thanks. The final reference to praise comes in John’s vision of the heavenly kingdom: “Then a voice came from the throne [of God], saying, ‘Praise our God all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!’” (Rev. 19:5).

It is understandable that Psalms, the hymn book of Israel and the early church, should contain the most references to praising the Lord (over 200 of them). Several Hebrew words are used that show different aspects of the theme. Yadah (Ps. 33:2) includes the element of giving thanks; halal (Ps. 34:2; 69:30) means to boast about, or glory in; zamar means to sing praises (Ps. 68:4, 32); and a hillah (Ps. 22:3, 25) is a praise song or hymn.

The eternal and triune God, is infinitely “worthy to be praised” (Ps. 18:3). Any time and all the time, by both old and young. When the Jewish chief priests and scribes were indignant that children should be greeting the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem with joyful celebration, the Lord said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise?” (Matt. 21:15-16–the Lord was quoting Psalm 8:2, from the Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint).

It is fitting, as noted above (in Rev. 19:5), that the ushering in of the eternal kingdom should be accompanied by a command to praise God. This will be the preeminent occupation of our lips and the central purpose of our lives forever. How appropriate, then, that we get in the habit now! “Let everything that has breath praise [halal, glory in] the Lord” (Ps. 150:8).

1) What are three things you praise the Lord for at this moment?

2) What reasons can you think of that Christians do not praise God as much as they should?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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