Posted by: rcottrill | March 26, 2014

Precious Promise

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Words: Nathanael Niles (b. Sept. 15, 1835; d. ______ )
Music: Philip Paul Bliss (b. July 9, 1838; d. Dec. 29, 1876)

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Note: Nathanael Niles was a New York City lawyer in the mid-nineteenth century. The date of his death is as yet unknown to me. (Perhaps around the turn of the twentieth century.) He wrote this gospel song in 1873, at the age of thirty-eight, when he was commuting to work on the train.

T he text upon which the theme of the hymn is based is this one from Psalms:

The Lord promises David (and us), “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” (Ps. 32:8).

Literally, “upon you My eye,” says the Hebrew. Various modern translations recognize the need to clarify and complete the thought in the final clause: “I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (NASB); “I will counsel you and watch over you” (NIV).

The Lord instructs and teaches us through His Word. But He is also “a very present help” (Ps. 46:1), with us, watching over us, and continuing to provide guidance for us in each circumstance and situation. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5) is the believer’s reassurance “on the way from earth to heaven” (CH-1).

CH-1) Precious promise God hath given
To the weary passerby,
On the way from earth to heaven,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

I will guide thee, I will guide thee,
I will guide thee with Mine eye
On the way from earth to heaven,
I will guide thee with Mine eye.

What of times of temptation (CH-2), times when our “trusted watchers fly”? (I’m assuming he means human helpers who turn away from us in times of trouble, the way Job’s acquaintances did from him.) What then? The Bible says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13). And He will guide us to that “way of escape,” giving us the grace to take it.

CH-2) When temptations almost win thee
And thy trusted watchers fly,
Let this promise ring within thee,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

Mr. Nils also reminds us of the discouragement of having “secret hopes” perish, lifelong dreams that seem to crumble to dust. What then? Then the Lord is still with us, and His plan for us will prove to be far better than any we could devise for ourselves. When the Lord seems to close one door, prayerfully watch for another to open.

King David had a desire to build a temple for the Lord, but God said no. Though David would help to assemble materials for the project, it would be his son Solomon who would build the house of God. For David, it was a dream that was to go unfulfilled. However, the Lord told him that, instead of the king building Him a house, He was going to build a house for David, in the sense of a household, a royal family, a dynasty (II Sam. 7:1-29).

We call this promise the Davidic Covenant. And while Israel’s beautiful temple was later destroyed, “[David’s] house and [his] kingdom shall be established forever….[His] throne shall be established forever” (vs. 16), through David’s greater son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The promise to Mary was, “The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Lk. 1:32).

CH-3) When thy secret hopes have perished
In the grave of years gone by,
Let this promise still be cherished,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

Finally, we can be assured that the Lord will guide His children safely “through the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23:4). With Paul we are confident that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8). The apostle had “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which [he says] is far better” (Phil. 1:23). If, for the Christian, “to live is Christ,” then we can say with confidence that “to die is gain” (vs. 21).

CH-4) When the shades of life are falling
And the hour has come to die,
Hear thy trusty Pilot calling,
“I will guide thee with Mine eye.”

1) In what way is it a blessing and an encouragement that the Lord is watching over us, and knows us through and through?

2) In what way is this also a warning and a corrective in our life?

Wordwise Hymns
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