Posted by: rcottrill | November 26, 2012

Thy Word Is Like a Garden, Lord

Words: Edwin Hodder (b. Dec. 13, 1837; d. Mar. 1, 1904)
Music: Bethlehem, by Gottfried Wilhelm Fink (b. Mar. 8, 1783; d. Aug. 27, 1846)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Edwin Hodder was a successful Victorian author, with quite a number of books to his credit, including The Way and the Life (about the plan of salvation), Memories of New Zealand Life (where he lived, for several years), and The Story of Jesus in Verse.

Mr. Hodder also published the New Sunday School Hymn Book, containing twenty-three of his own songs, including the one discussed here. His original had seven stanzas, but only three are commonly used today. One of the omitted stanzas says:

Thy Word is like a glorious choir,
And loud its anthems ring;
Though many tongues and parts unite,
It is one song they sing.

A simile makes a comparison between two things, for the purpose of illustration, and to enrich our understanding. Often the words “like” or “as” are used (notice, “like a glorious choir,” above). The Bible, especially in the books of Hebrew poetry, makes use of similes.

“He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den” (Ps. 10:9).
“He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday” (Sp. 37:6).
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God” (Ps. 42:1).
“As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy man to those who send him (Prov. 10:26).

The Lord Himself uses similes to describe His Word. We have in Jeremiah, “‘Is not My word like a fire?’ says the LORD, ‘And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’” (Jer. 23:29). The imagery of a fire and a hammer refers to words of judgment against false prophets who do not speak for Him (vs. 30-32).

In his hymn, Mr. Hodder utilizes a series of similes to help us understand the value of the Word of God in our lives. In CH-1, it is like beautiful flowers, in its magnificence. And like flowers in the fields and gardens, it’s accessible to “everyone who seeks.” The Bible can also be compared to a deep mine, where precious gems may be sought.

But notice the distinction between those two similes. Flowers are all around us, and often easily reached. But mining requires skill and great effort, and a dedicated “searcher.” It is the same with the Word of God. There are simple truths on the surface that are easily grasped. But others require a level of spiritual maturity to understand, and a dedication to study and meditation on what God says.

CH-1) Thy Word is like a garden, Lord, with flowers bright and fair;
And every one who seeks may pluck a lovely cluster there.
Thy Word is like a deep, deep mine; and jewels rich and rare
Are hidden in its mighty depths for every searcher there.

CH-2 gives us another set of comparisons: the Bible is like the glittering light of the stars, giving the traveller help on his way (cf. Ps. 119:105, 130), and like an armoury where a soldier can be equipped to fight the battle for truth and righteousness. The latter picture fits the description of the Scriptures in Ephesians as “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17; cf. Heb. 4:12).

Finally, Edwin Hodder gives us a prayer of dedication in CH-3). If the Bible is all the things he mentions, like flowers, a mine, starlight, and an armoury, he desires to appropriate it and activate it in his life in appropriate ways.

CH-3) O may I love Thy precious Word, may I explore the mine,
May I its fragrant flowers glean, may light upon me shine!
O may I find my armour there! Thy Word my trusty sword,
I’ll learn to fight with every foe the battle of the Lord.

Questions:
1) What is the value of using similes to teach, as the Bible often does?

2) Can you think of other helpful comparisons that can be made to the Word of God (either ones found in Scripture, or others)? (For example, how is the Bible like honey, Ps. 19:10-11?)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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