Posted by: rcottrill | September 9, 2011

Who Is on the Lord’s Side?

Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: Armageddon, by C. Luise Reichardt (b. Apr. 11, 1779; d. Nov. 17, 1826)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln told a topical joke about a man who couldn’t decide which side he was on. So he decided to wear the blue coat of the Union Army, and the gray pants of the Confederates. But Lincoln said that, when he left his house, the Confederates shot at the top half of him, and the boys in blue shot at the bottom half!”

In any conflict, it’s important to know which side you’re on! That’s particularly true in the spiritual realm, as eternal consequences are at stake. Joshua, at the end of his life, seeing the dangers of spiritual defection up ahead, said: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). Later, when the nation of Israel wavered in their loyalty to Jehovah God, and Baal worship infested the land, the prophet Elijah issued this challenge:

“How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (I Kgs. 18:21).

And, since the Lord is God, let us be committed to living for Him, and warring a good warfare, as servants of Jesus Christ (II Tim. 2:3-4). After reminding Christians that we are in a conflict against Satan and his hosts (Eph. 6:12), the Apostle Paul says:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (vs. 13).

Miss Havergal, in her hymn (CH-1) calls us to identify ourselves, if we are “on the Lord’s side.” It will involve being “His helpers, other lives to bring,” and a clear separation from the godless philosophies and carnal behaviour of “the world’s side.” That kind of consistent Christian living is only possible “by Thy grace divine.”

In CH-2, the author deals with our motivation. It’s “not for weight of glory, nor for crown and palm.” Rather it is the love of Christ, who died for us, that constrains us to declare ourselves as part of the army of the Lord. Reflecting on First Peter 1:18-19, CH-3 says:

Jesus, Thou hast bought us, not with gold or gem,
But with Thine own life blood, for Thy diadem;
With Thy blessing filling each who comes to Thee,
Thou hast made us willing, Thou hast made us free.
By Thy grand redemption, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord’s side—Saviour, we are Thine!

How will the conflict end (CH-4)? The ultimate triumph of the Crucified is guaranteed. God has pledged that victory will be complete, and “His truth unchanging makes the triumph sure.” Frances Havergal’s final stanza (CH-5) is often omitted, but it issues one final stirring challenge, with the reminder that God can keep us safe and true to Him, by His grace (cf. I Pet. 1:3-5; Jude 1:24).

Chosen to be soldiers, in an alien land,
Chosen, called, and faithful, for our Captain’s band,
In the service royal, let us not grow cold;
Let us be right loyal, noble, true and bold.
Master, Thou wilt keep us, by Thy grace divine,
Always on the Lord’s side—Saviour, always Thine!

Questions:
1) What are some similarities between soldiers in our nation’s armed forces, and Christian soldiers? (And what are some differences?)

2) What does Paul mean by “enduring hardship” as a soldier of Christ? And how do we avoid being entangled with “the affairs of this life” (II Tim. 2:3-4)?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


Responses

  1. What do you know of the circumstances of Miss Havergale’s coming to pen these lyrics? Her biographers have told how she came to write other of her hymns such as “Take My Life and Let It Be/Consecration Hymn”, “I Gave My Life For Thee”, “Like a River Glorious”, and Jesus, I Will Trust Thee”; but the history of this one is sketchy. Since “Who Is On the Lord’s Side?” is my church’s theme for the year, I would love to know more about what prompted her to write these powerful words. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the question Rebecca. It actually had a side benefit. It showed me an error in the way I’d tried to link to another page in Wordwise Hymns. (Now corrected. :-)) Here’s a bit about the hymn. Hope it’s a help.

      Who Is on the Lord’s Side was written by Frances Ridley Havergal, on October 13, 1877. The original title of the hymn was Home Missions. Miss Havergal took her inspiration from the declaration of loyalty by a member of David’s army. “Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the captains, and he said: ‘We are yours, O David; We are on your side, O son of Jesse! Peace, peace to you, And peace to your helpers! For your God helps you.’” (I Chron. 12:18). She made an application of those words to Christians, working and warring under their Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ. The fifth stanza is rarely found in hymn books, but it’s good (I got inspired to use it, next time our congregation sings the hymns!):

      Chosen to be soldiers, in an alien land,
      Chosen, called, and faithful, for our Captain’s band,
      In the service royal, let us not grow cold;
      Let us be right loyal, noble, true and bold.
      Master, Thou wilt keep us, by Thy grace divine,
      Always on the Lord’s side—Saviour, always Thine!


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