Posted by: rcottrill | November 5, 2012

Children of the Heavenly Father

Words: Karolina Wilhelmina Sandell-Berg (b. October 3, 1832; d. July 27, 1903)
Music: Tryggare Kan Ingen Vara (composer unknown)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Lina Sandell)

Note: Mrs. Berg is sometimes listed in hymnals as Lina Sandell (a diminutive of Karolina plus her maiden name), or as Lina Sandell Berg. (You will also find her first name sometimes spelled Carolina.) As to the English translation of this hymn, Ernst William Olson (1870-1958) emigrated to America from Sweden, at the age of five, with the rest of his family. He wrote a number of hymns himself, and translated many more, as he did this one in 1925.

Olson gave the song the title “A Hymn Born of a Broken Heart,” perhaps under the impression that it was Lina Sandell’s response of faith after the tragic death of her father in a boating accident in 1858. However the hymn was written while she was still in her teens, and first published in 1855. There is an enduring tradition in the town where she lived that, as a teen-ager, Lina sat in a tree that still stands in the yard of her home, listening to the twitter of the birds in their nests on a warm summer evening. And that it was that experience that inspired the hymn.

One further note on the words. Some hymn books have taken the last stanza of the poem and made it the first, naming the hymn accordingly More Secure Is No One Ever. This is not a different hymn from Children of the Heavenly Father, simply a different arrangement of the stanzas. The tune name means literally “no one can be safer.” In some hymnals it’s referred to as a Swedish folk melody, but there is evidence that it may be of earlier German origin.

The title “Father” is used of God in every New Testament book with the exception of the tiny epistle of Third John. In nearly every one of his letters, Paul’s opening salutation refers to “God our Father” (e.g. I Cor. 1:3; Phil. 1:2; II Thess. 1:2). The name represents both His authority over His children (exercised in disciplining them, Heb. 12:5-11), and His loving care and guidance of them (II Cor. 1:3-4; I Thess. 2:11-12; cf. Ps. 103:13-14).

There is a limited sense in which God is the Father (i.e the Progenitor) of all, in that He is the Creator of all. But our particular and personal relationship to Him as our Father comes when we are born again into the family of God, through faith in Christ (Jn. 1:12-13; Gal. 3:26). It’s then, as His blood-bought children, that the indwelling Spirit of God awakens in us a sense of that new relationship and we cry, “Abba, Father” (an affectionate expression meaning something like “dearest Father,” Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

But not all have the right to address the Almighty as “Father,” in this intimate sense. The concept of the universal fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man is not biblical. The same Lord Jesus who instructed His followers, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9), also said of those who opposed Him, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (Jn. 8:44).

And the same Apostle Paul who wrote of “our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace” (II Thess, 2:16), also wrote of those outside of Christ as “the sons of disobedience,” and “by nature children of wrath [i.e. those destined for eternal wrath]” (Eph. 2:2, 3).

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (I Jn. 3:1-3).

1) Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

5) Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

1) What are some of the things that are true of us because God is our heavenly Father, through faith in Christ?

2) What does the Bible mean by the words “through,” “by” and “to,” in the text, “Through Him [Christ] we both [Jew and Gentile] have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18)?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Lina Sandell)


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