Posted by: rcottrill | October 31, 2014

All People That on Earth Do Dwell

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Words: William Kethe (b. date unknown; d. June 6, 1594)
Music: Old Hundredth, composed or arranged by Louis Bourgeois (b. circa 1510; d. circa 1561)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Graphic All People That on ENote: Published in 1561, this is the oldest English version of a psalm still sung–and sung with very few changes from the original. It has appeared in the majority of hymnals for the last four hundred and fifty years.

Pictured here (from is a copy printed around 1640. The hymn was included in William Kethe’s Four Score and Seven Psalms of David, with Old Hundredth appearing as the tune. Musician Louis Bourgeios was appointed by John Calvin as the music editor of the Geneva Psalter. A century and a half after William Kethe’s work, Isaac Watts paraphrased the same psalm with:

Before Jehovah’s awful throne,
Ye nations, bow with sacred joy…

Here is the passage on which the present hymn is based (Ps. 100:1-5):

1 Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Early critics (in 1650) pointed out that “Him serve with fear” (CH-1) does not express the psalm, which encourages us to “serve the Lord with gladness.” The Scottish Psalter changed the line to “Him serve with mirth.” But that doesn’t seem quite right either. The dictionary says that mirth is: “gaiety or jollity, especially when accompanied by laughter.” Does jolly laughter do it for you?

Ronald Knox’s paraphrase of vs. 2 of the psalm says: “Pay the Lord the homage of your rejoicing.” I think that helps us. The Hebrew word is simchah, which is most often translated “joy.” To my mind that works far better than mirth. “Him serve with joy.” Even when our service for the Lord is a painful and wearying burden, we can find inner joy in knowing we are pleasing Him.

CH-1) All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell;
Come ye before Him and rejoice.

In CH-2, the word “folk” (folck in the original) is thought by some to be a printer’s error–that the word “flock” was intended. (That is how it is sometimes printed in later hymnals.) However, I disagree. Vs. 3 of the psalm says, “ We are His people [His folk] and the sheep of His pasture.” the psalmist and the hymn writer wanted to refer to us as both, as God’s people and His sheep. And evolutionists take note: “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (vs. 3). “ Without our aid He did us make” (CH-2).

CH-2) The Lord, ye know, is God indeed;
Without our aid He did us make;
We are His folk, He doth us feed,
And for His sheep He doth us take.

Praise and thanksgiving are always–and eternally–fitting activities for the saints. As vs. 4 of the psalm puts it, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” the Hebrew word for “thankful” (yadah) means literally: to hold out an empty hand.

That suggests our response to grace. We have nothing to give God in exchange for His bounty. We reach out empty hands to God, in faith, believing that our heavenly Father will place in our hands those blessings of His grace that He knows are best for us. We can rest in the fact that “the Lord our God is good” (CH-4).

CH-3) O enter then His gates with praise;
Approach with joy His courts unto;
Praise, laud, and bless His name always,
For it is seemly so to do.

CH-4) For why? the Lord our God is good;
His mercy is for ever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
And shall from age to age endure.

The doxology of CH-5 is not taken from the psalm, but has been added. It is a fitting conclusion to a great hymn. You can see it on the Cyber Hymnal.

1) What would you say to someone who claims to be “a self-made man?”

2) What reasons for praising God does the psalm give? (And what are some others you can think of?)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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