Posted by: rcottrill | January 9, 2015

O Jesus, King Most Wonderful

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Words: Bernard of Clairvaux (b. _____, 1091; d. Aug. 21, 1153); English translation of the Latin, Jesu, Rex Admirabilis, by Edward Caswell (b. July 15, 1814; d. Jan. 2, 1878)
Music: Holy Cross, by James Clifft Wade (b. circa Feb. 1846; d. ?)

Wordwise Hymns (Bernard of Clairvaux)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Most hymnals use four or five stanzas of this thoughtful hymn. However, I have seen hymnals that include a sixth, and even a seventh, stanza. These are:

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night,
And joy to all impart.

Thee, Lord, our grateful voices bless;
Thee, would we love alone;
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

Little is known of James Wade. The Cyber Hymnal says he was a composer and editor of vocal music, and “as of 1881, he was a schoolmaster and organist in Bray, Berkshire.”

T his is a warm and worshipful hymn, typical of the writing of Bernard.

CH-1) O Jesus, King most wonderful,
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou Sweetness most ineffable,
In whom all joys are found!

Christ is described as King and Conqueror, and “Sweetness most ineffable” (CH-1). Words such as sweet and sweetness are used in the Bible more than a hundred times. When they do not refer to sweetness of taste or aroma, they are used in a figurative sense to describe what is pleasant and delightful, or attractive and beautiful. Christ’s beauty is “ineffable”–meaning beyond words. Moses speaks of “the beauty of the LORD our God” (Ps. 90:17).

But Isaiah says of the coming Messiah, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isa. 53:2). In the NASB, it’s “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” The NIV has, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” In His incarnation, apart from His glorious revelation on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-2), it was not His physical appearance that impressed people, but His gracious words, kindly deeds, and beauty of character.

In CH-3, Bernard also speaks of Christ as the “Light of all below” (Jn. 8:12) and the Fount of life (Jn. 11:25). He is also merciful and loving (CH-4). Calling Him the “Fount…of fire” (CH-3) may speak of His purifying ministry in our lives and hearts, through the Holy Spirit. Or, it could indicate the way that knowing Him stirs up a holy zeal for the service of Christ.

CH-3) O Jesus, Light of all below,
Thou Fount of life and fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire!

CH-4) Thy wondrous mercies are untold,
Through each returning day;
Thy love exceeds a thousand fold,
Whatever we can say.

How, then, are we to respond to this wonderful Saviour and Lord? CH-5 and 6 tell us several ways.

¤ Confess Him–witness to others about what He’s done for us (Ps. 105:1-2; Mk. 5:19)
¤ Adore Him–exalt Him in our worship and praise (Ps. 29:2)
¤ Seek Him–make daily fellowship with the Lord our consistent habit (Ps. 105:3-4)
¤ Love Him–exclusively and sacrificially giving ourselves to Him and His service (Matt. 22:37; Rom. 12:1)
¤ Reflect Him–as the Spirit of God forms the image of God in us (II Cor. 3:18)

CH-5) May every heart confess Thy name;
And ever Thee adore;
And seeking Thee, itself inflame,
To seek Thee more and more.

CH-6) Thee may our tongues forever bless;
Thee may we love alone;
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

1) What are the most important lessons of this hymn?

2) Is this a hymn you use–or would use?

Wordwise Hymns (Bernard of Clairvaux)
The Cyber Hymnal

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