Posted by: rcottrill | October 14, 2011

O Worship the King

Words: Robert Grant (b. Jan. 15, 1780; d. July 9, 1838)
Music: Lyons, possibly from Johann Michael Haydn (b. Sept. 14, 1737; d. Aug. 10, 1806)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The original hymn had six stanzas, of which most hymnals today use CH-1, 2, 4 and 5. A Scotsman, the Right Hon. Sir Robert Grant, was a lawyer, a member of Parliament and a Privy Counselor. He was appointed Governor of Bombay, in 1834, and died in India four years later.

Johann Haydn was a younger brother of the more famous Franz Josef Haydn. The hymn tune Lyons is very similar to Hanover, another tune often used with this hymn. The latter is attributed to William Croft (b. Dec. 10, 1678; d. Aug. 14, 1727).

This great hymn draws its inspiration from Psalm 104:1-10, 24-33. In it we see the majesty of God revealed in His creation, and described with rich poetic imagery.

CH-1) O worship the King, all glorious above,
And gratefully sing His pow’r and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendour, and girded with praise.

“He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, who makes the clouds His chariot, who walks on the wings of the wind….You laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever. You covered it with the deep as with a garment….He sends the springs into the valleys, they flow among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field” (vs. 3, 5-6, 10-11).

Inspired by this rich poetic revelation of Almighty God, Robert Grant writes:

CH-2) O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

CH-3) The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, Thy power hath founded of old;
Established it fast by a changeless decree,
And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.

CH-4) Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

We are “frail children of dust (cf. Ps. 103:14), but God in His mercy is not only our “Maker,” but our “Defender, Redeemer and Friend.” We may not be able to match the angels in their exalted hymns of praise, but human beings, “though feeble their lays [songs],” can praise the Lord with “true adoration.” Because of what the Lord has done for us, the worship of the saints has a unique perspective, and voices some distinctive themes.

CH-5) Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

CH-6) O measureless Might! Ineffable Love!
While angels delight to worship Thee above,
The humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
With true adoration shall sing to Thy praise.

1) For what can we praise the Lord that the angels will never know by experience?

2) Grant describes God as “Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.” How is each of these important to us? What does it say about God that our Maker becomes our Friend?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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  2. “O Worship the King” has long been one of my favorite hymns for two primary reasons:
    1) It is based on Psalm 104; therefore, when we sing it, we are singing a Psalm and obeying the Apostle Paul’s twice-given admonition to sing Psalms (ditto with “The Spacious Firmament” — earlier post)
    2) The high quality of its poetry. Note that not only does every line rhyme; **every phrase rhymes** — an astonishing feat of literary craftsmanship. Such poetry is easily memorized – especially by young children.
    Thank you for printing all six verses here. “These other two” are difficult to find, and I think that most hymnals choose not to print them because Mr. Grant used words that are uncommon today. The few places that I have seen the 6th verse use the following version, which I believe is the original:
    O measureless Might! Ineffable Love!
    While angels delight to hymn Thee above,
    The humbler creation, though feeble their lays,
    With true adoration shall lisp to Thy praise.
    The word “hymn” is used as a verb and fits better than the 2-syllable “worship,” and “lisp” further delineates the contrast between the angels’ singing and our humble and feeble songs.
    And there’s a third reason I like this hymn so much. The music is well written and complements the words.
    I have known and loved this hymn from childhood. When compared to just this one great hymn, today’s “worship music” can only be described as **utterly impoverished.**


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