Posted by: rcottrill | August 1, 2011

O Zion, Haste

Words: Mary Ann Faulker Thomson (b. Dec. 5, 1834; d. Mar. 11, 1923)
Music: Tidings, by James Walch (b. June 21, 1837; d. Aug. 30, 1901)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This a great missionary hymn was originally published with six stanzas. Today, hymn books normally include four (CH-1, 2, 3, and 5).

The apparent reference to the church of Jesus Christ as “Zion” is rooted in an amillennial theology which I do not share. This view takes temporal and material blessings and challenges addressed to the nation of Israel, and applies them spiritually (or allegorically) to the church. But the church is not Israel, nor is Israel the church. God has His plan and program for each.

Zion is not a symbol of the church. In the Word of God it is never anything but a real, literal city. Zion was the name of the Jebusite stronghold that David captured, renaming it the City of David, and making it the centre of his kingdom (I Chron. 11:5). Originally referring to a hill in the southeast of what became Jerusalem, the name Zion later came to be applied to the city as a whole.

When Christ returns to reign, Zion (Jerusalem) will be the earthly capital of His millennial kingdom (Isa. 2:1-4; 4:1-6; Zech. 1:16-17). In Hebrews 12:22, the word is applied to the heavenly city–called “New Jerusalem” in Revelation 21:1-3. After God creates a new heaven and a new earth, this city will descend to the earth, and God will abide in the midst of the saints of all the ages, forever.

Since Zion is not the church, some hymn book editors have amended the title and the first line to read: “O Christian, haste.” The last line of the final stanza used (CH-5) could be changed to “O Christian, haste to bring the brighter day.” When that is done, the application to the people of God on this side of the cross becomes clear.

Each of the four stanzas says something meaningful and important.

The hymn begins (CH-1) with a call to fulfil the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) with “haste.” I don’t think Mrs. Thomson has an impetuous and thoughtless rush in mind. Rather, she appeals to believers to keep working with a sense of urgency. The time is short before Christ returns, and “The Lord is…not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Pet. 3:9).

Sadly, so many are still bound in “the prison house of sin,” with nobody to tell them that Christ died to save them (CH-2). The Bible says that the unsaved are under the power of Satan (Acts 26:18), and are “subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15:57). We have a message, as the hymn’s refrain reminds us, of “redemption and release.”

Publish glad tidings, tidings of peace;
Tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.

In CH-3, Mary Ann Thomson references Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill, in which he speaks of God as the One in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Yet, though He is the supreme Lord over all, in grace, He “stooped to save.” We have that condescension graphically described in Philippians 2:8, where we’re told that Christ “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Finally, in CH-5, we are given three main ways in which we can be part of the enterprise to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mk. 16:15). We can “give of our sons” and daughters to the work. We can support the work financially. And we can pray for God’s blessing on the ministry of His servants. In our day, with the Internet, it is often much easier to keep in contact with missionaries around the world. Because of this, we might add sending notes of encouragement as another means by which we can help our missionaries.

CH-1) O Christian, haste, thy mission high fulfilling,
To tell to all the world that God is light,
That He who made all nations is not willing
One soul should perish, lost in shades of night.

1) Think of one or two Christian missionaries you know. How might you encourage and help them in the coming week?

2) I heard of a pastor who ends each Sunday morning with these words to his congregation: “The worship is over; now the service begins.” What did he mean? How will that affect your life?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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