Posted by: rcottrill | December 19, 2014

Only Believe

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Words: Daniel Paul Rader (b. _____, 1878; d. July 19, 1938)
Music: Daniel Paul Rader

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This gospel song was first published in 1921. For another note on this remarkable servant of Christ, see the Wordwise Hymns note on Paul Rader.

One day Pastor Rader was walking across one of Chicago’s busiest streets, holding the hand of his four-year-old daughter. In the midst of the traffic he asked her, “Aren’t you afraid to cross the street, Harriet?” But she instantly replied, “No, not when you’re with me. Why should I be afraid?” It was that incident that led her father to write this song.

The key phrase in this lovely little hymn, “only believe,” comes from the words of the Lord Jesus to Jairus, the ruler of a synagogue, whose daughter had just died. “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well” (Lk. 8:50). And indeed she was (vs. 54-55). The opening line of the first stanza also comes from the words of Jesus.

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32).

In the context, the Lord had been teaching His disciples about the problem of worry and anxiety (Lk. 12:22-31)–teaching that is also recorded in Matthew, as part of the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 6:25-34). The disciples were like a little flock of defenseless sheep who’d be sent out into a hostile world to serve the Lord. But they could (and we can) trust in the Lord’s provision and protection, and seek to live by the values and principles of His kingdom. Then comes the promise of vs. 32.

CH-1) Fear not, little flock, from the cross to the throne,
From death into life He went for His own;
All power in earth, all power above,
Is given to Him for the flock of His love.

Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe,
Only believe, only believe;
All things are possible, only believe.

In a real sense, fear and faith are polar opposites. Fear often tends to smoother faith, while trust in the Lord quiets our fears. We know that. Yet (speaking for myself) fear sometimes seems to get me in its icy grip. It’s then I pray, with another man the Lord dealt with, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9:24).

One reason we, as His sheep, need not fear, is that He is our Shepherd. That’s an image the Bible uses many times, Old Testament and New. As David declares with confidence in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (vs. 1). The Bible in Basic English paraphrases the verse this way: “The Lord takes care of me as His sheep; I will not be without any good thing.”

In the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus describes Himself, in a kind of parable, as “the good shepherd,” who knows His sheep (vs. 14), and willingly gives His life for them (vs. 11). “When he brings out his own sheep [i.e. to find pasture], he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (vs. 4).

In his second stanza Paul Rader combines this lovely picture with an allusion to an Old Testament incident (Exod. 15:22-27). After the Israelites are delivered from Egyptian bondage by the power of God, they find themselves in a hostile wilderness. There, the huge multitude has difficulty finding water, and what they do find is bitter and undrinkable. But the Lord miraculously sweetened the water for them. The hymn writer makes this a picture of the condemnation of sin that Jesus took willingly upon Himself (Matt. 26:39).

CH-2) Fear not, little flock, He goeth ahead,
Your Shepherd selecteth the path you must tread;
The waters of Marah He’ll sweeten for thee,
He drank all the bitter in Gethsemane.

Finally, Pastor Rader draws another illustration from the time the resurrected Christ appeared in the upper room to His disciples, apparently passing into their presence even though the doors remained closed (Jn. 20:26). To the hymn writer it becomes an assurance that, no matter what situation we face, no barrier can keep the Lord from meeting us there (cf. Matt. 28:20).

CH-3) Fear not, little flock, whatever your lot,
He enters all rooms, “the doors being shut,”
He never forsakes; He never is gone,
So count on His presence in darkness and dawn.

1) What is the most reassuring thing to you, knowing the Lord is your Shepherd?

2) What other shepherd hymns do you know and use?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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