Posted by: rcottrill | September 21, 2012

Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven

Words: Henry Francis Lyte (b. June 1, 1793; d. Nov. 20, 1847)
Music: Lauda Anima, by John Goss (b. Dec. 27, 1800; d. May 10, 1880)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Cyber Hymnal lists several tunes for this hymn. The one by Sir John Goss (knighted in 1872) is, I believe the best. I appreciate its stately, reverent pace. It was written specifically for use with the hymn in 1869. Henry Smart’s tune Regent Square (also used with Angels from the Realms of Glory) works well too.

There have been a number of word changes over the years, and one of Henry Lyte’s original five stanzas (CH-4) is usually dropped in the belief that the poetry is inferior. It does, however, express the imagery of Psalm 103:15-16 (the psalm on which the hymn is based).

Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,
Blows the wind and it is gone;
But while mortals rise and perish
God endures unchanging on,
Praise Him, praise Him, hallelujah
Praise the high eternal One!

In CH-1, I prefer “Who, like me, His praise should sing” for line four, rather than the weaker or more general, “Evermore His praises sing.” The point made in Psalm 103 is that David sees many reasons why he, personally, should not forget to praise the Lord. He speaks to himself (“Bless the Lord, O my soul”), with the sense that if anyone has reason for gratitude to God, he surely does.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Ps. 103:2-5).

CH-1) Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who, like me, His praise should sing?
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King.

Verses 13 and 14 of the psalm have meant a great deal to me personally, over the years. When we’re going through a rough time, and particularly when we are kicking ourselves around the block for some folly, it’s comforting to know “He remembers that we are dust.” Dust is pretty helpless stuff, after all. Except that, on one occasion, the animating breath of God gave it life (Gen. 2:7). Similarly, the equipping and energizing of the indwelling Spirit of God enables each believer, weak as we are, to live for God and serve Him.

CH-3) Fatherlike He tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame He knows.
In His hands He gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Widely as His mercy flows.

The concluding stanza makes reference to the angels of God (cf. Ps. 103:20-21). This is one place, however, where I tend to agree with the version found in the classic 1867 work, Hymns Ancient and Modern. Most hymn books I’ve seen begin with the line, “Angels, help us to adore Him.” But that’s not what the biblical text says. Nor are we instructed pray to the angels for their help. Rather, we should pray to God, in Jesus’ name, and He will send for angelic ministers to aid us, as needed (Heb. 1:14). As found in the volume mentioned, stanza five reads:

Angels in the height adore Him,
Ye behold Him face to face;
Saints triumphant, bow before Him,
Gathered in from every race.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace!

1) How might being “dust” be used as an excuse for wrong behaviour? In contrast, what is the proper response to Psalm 103:14?

2) This great hymn contrasts sharply with the contemporary praise choruses of today–many of which say little or nothing. Check out the full version of the hymn on the Cyber Hymnal, and see if you can list a dozen or so things about God for which He is abundantly worthy of praise.

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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