Posted by: rcottrill | May 15, 2013

Breathe on Me, Breath of God

Words: Edwin Hatch (b. Sept. 4, 1835; d. Nov. 10, 1889)
Music: Trentham, by Robert Jackson (b. May ___, 1842; d. July 12, 1914)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The Wordwise Hymns link will provide more information on Dr. Hatch, and his hymn, which was published in 1878.

In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word for “spirit” (ruwach) is also the word for wind or breath. It’s the same with the Greek of the New Testament, where pneuma can either mean spirit, or it can translate wind or breath. Latin is the same, leading Edwin Hatch to entitle his hymn, in Latin, Spiritus Dei (the Spirit, or breath, of God).

This conjunction of the physical and the spiritual is fitting. It is God who gave life to man, physically, breathing into a lump of clay and thus giving life to Adam (Gen. 2:7). And it is God who gives life spiritually to fallen man, by the new birth. Through faith in Christ we are “born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:3, 6).

The connection between the two is dramatic in John 20:22. The Lord Jesus met with the disciples after His resurrection, and we read of Him:

“When He had said this, He breathed on them [physically], and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

This was apparently a special empowerment. It does not replace the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, but anticipates it and prepares for that day when those present “were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4).

In the forty days between Christ’s resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3), He was going to teach these men important things, tying in what they already knew from the Old Testament (cf. Lk. 24:27, 44-45). They needed to grasp these truths, so they could explain them to others. That seems to be what this unique endowment of the Holy Spirit enabled them to do (cf. Jn. 16:13).

Today, every Christian is permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9; I Cor. 6:19; Gal. 4:6), and is called to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25). As we submit to God in faith and obedience, we are also filled by the Spirit of God (Eph. 5:18). Regarding the latter ministry of the Holy Spirit, it is helpful to realize that the Greek word for filled (pleroo) can also be translated “fulfilled.” The Spirit’s filling involves an equipping and empowerment of the believer to fulfil the will of God.

It is with an awareness of these things that the beautiful prayer of this hymn becomes especially meaningful.

CH-1. By the energizing of the Holy Spirit we are able to demonstrate the love of Christ to those around us (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22).

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

CH-2. Through the application of the Word of God (Eph. 5:26), the Spirit convicts and cleanses us from sin, as we respond, conforming our lives to the will of God (II Cor. 3:17-18).

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

CH-3. Being “wholly Thine,” speaks of a complete dedication of all we are and have to God (Rom. 12:12). The “glow” that Edwin Hatch refers to may represent that kind of zeal for God that comes to those who are truly committed to Him (Rom. 8:15-16; I Jn. 4:13).

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

CH-4. The animating life of the Spirit of God doesn’t simply relate to time, but to eternity as well. Eternal life begins here, through faith in Christ, but continues on forever, as we go to be with Him (cf. Rev. 4:1-2; 14:13).

Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

1) What are some characteristics that will be evident in a Christian’s life, when the prayer of this hymn is fulfilled in him or her?

2) Is this a prayer you can offer sincerely? (If not, why not?)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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