Posted by: rcottrill | August 27, 2014

Ten Thousand Angels

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Words: Ray Overholt (b. July 24, 1924; d. Sept. 14, 2008)
Music: Ray Overholt

Wordwise Hymns (none)
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Note: This gospel song, written in 1958, has an unusual story related to it.

Ray Overholt was a popular singer song-writer over a period of several decades. He even had his own television show for a time. He married his wife Millie in 1956, and she continued to sing with him and accompany him, over the years.

By his own admission, in the mid-1950’s Ray’s life was not a happy one. Working the nightclub circuit, he was drinking heavily and doing other things that he himself felt were wrong. Finally he told his wife he wanted to clean up his life. He wasn’t exactly sure how to do that, but he knew people were praying for him.

Mr. Overholt had written many secular songs, but one day he decided to try his hand at writing something in a religious vein. He took up a Bible to get some ideas–a book he had seldom opened before–and his eye fell on the scene in the garden of Gethsemane.

After taking part in the Passover meal with His disciples, Christ made His way to the garden to pray. Leaving most of the men behind, He took Peter, James and John with Him a little further. Then the Lord proceeded alone to a place where He could pray about the momentous events ahead of Him. In His agony, He submitting Himself to the will of God the Father.

“He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’” (Matt. 26:39).

Shortly after, when Judas, the betrayer, brought an armed contingent to arrest the Lord Jesus, Peter drew a sword, determined to defend his Master (Jn. 18:10). We’re often critical of Peter. Yet that was a bold impulse–though a futile one. All he managed to do was to cut off one man’s ear. And Christ said to him:

“Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword….Do you think that I cannot now pray My Father, and He will provide Me with more that twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:52-53).

In other words, the Lord was not helpless, either in His own Person, or because of the mighty angelic hosts at His command. He submitted to His captors for a higher purpose. He was going to the cross willingly, to take upon Himself the punishment for our sins (I Cor. 15:3; I Pet. 2:24).

As to the reference to “legions of angels,” Roman legions were composed of anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 men. If that is what the Lord had in mind, it suggests that 72,000 powerful spirit beings were accessible for His defense. Ray Overholt didn’t know at the time what a legion was, but the scene impressed him deeply. More particularly, the person of Christ made an impression on him, and he began reading the Gospels to learn more about Him.

Though still not a believer, based on what he discovered, the musician wrote the song he entitled Ten Thousand Angels.

1) They bound the hands of Jesus
In the garden where He prayed;
They led Him through the streets in shame.
They spat upon the Saviour so pure and free from sin;
They said, “Crucify Him; He’s to blame.”

He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set Him free.
He could have called ten thousand angels,
But He died alone, for you and me.

Some time later, Ray Overholt was asked to sing at a church. I have no idea why a church would want an unsaved nightclub singer to perform there, but that is what happened. The question was, what could he sing for the little congregation? He decided on the only religious song in his repertoire, Ten Thousand Angels.

After Ray Overholt sang, the pastor preached a clear gospel message, and the Spirit of God convicted Ray that he needed saving. He says, “I knew I needed Christ, so I knelt there and accepted, as my Saviour, the One whom I had been singing and writing about.”

Mr. Overholt had been converted, at least in part, by the message of his own song. The tables had turned. The One he had been vaguely seeking and learning about had sought and found him! He went on to many years of ministry, preaching and singing about his Saviour.

4) To the howling mob He yielded;
He did not for mercy cry.
The cross of shame He took alone.
And when He cried, “It’s finished,”
He gave Himself to die;
Salvation’s wondrous plan was done.

1) Contrast the attitude and feelings of Christ’s followers: at the Triumphal Entry, at the cross, at the empty tomb. What can we learn from this?

2) The Bible says, “This is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (I Jn. 5:11). Are you confident today that you are saved? If not, please check out the article God’s Plan of Salvation.

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (none)


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