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Words: Matthäus Apelles von Löwenstern (b. Apr. 20, 1594; d. Apr. 11, 1648); English paraphrase of the German original by Philip Pusey (b. June 25, 1799; d. July 9, 1855)
Music: Flemming, by Friedrich Ferdinand Flemming (b. Feb. 28, 1778; d. May 27, 1813)
Note: The Cyber Hymnal lists Flemming as one of the alternate tunes. It’s the one I’m most familiar with using for this hymn.
The twentieth century was dominated by international hostility, with two wars worldwide in scope, and a number of other conflicts that drew in many nations including our own. But wars have been with us since ancient times. The first in biblical history is described in Genesis chapter 14.
Centuries before our own time the Thirty Years’ War devastated Europe (1618-1648). Widespread and destructive battles at first pitted Protestants against Catholics. But, as time went on, the conflict turned to more political aims. Nations bankrupted their treasuries to finance their armies, and the destruction of whole communities brought a large death toll, often continuing to grow through the famine and disease left in the wake of war.
The history books paint the broader picture for us, but rarely focus to any extent on the personal tragedies involved. Individuals and families suffered, and people of faith prayed for the end of hostilities. One who did so was Matthaus Lowenstern. The son of a saddle maker, Lowenstern became a highly respected poet and composer. His abilities also led to government service, and he eventually was given status as a nobleman.
Four years before the end of the war, he produced a prayer hymn reflecting the passionate desire of the people of Europe for peace. Two centuries later, an English paraphrase was written, called Lord of Our Life and God of Our Salvation. It appeals to God as the Almighty, and the “Hope of every nation,” to bring peace to the nations, peace in the church, and personal peace as well.
CH-1) Lord of our life, and God of our salvation,
Star of our night, and Hope of every nation,
Hear and receive Thy church’s supplication,
Lord God Almighty.
CH-3) Lord, Thou canst help when earthly armour faileth;
Lord, Thou canst save when deadly sin assaileth;
Lord, o’er Thy rock nor death nor hell prevaileth;
Grant us Thy peace, Lord.
CH-4) Peace, in our hearts, our evil thoughts assuaging,
Peace, in Thy church, where brothers are engaging,
Peace, when the world its busy war is waging;
Calm thy foes raging!
The word “peace” is found in our English Bibles hundreds of times. There, we are told how sinners can have peace with God, through faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1). In truth, “He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). The Lord can also give us peace in our lives and in our hearts, as we commit those things that worry us to Him in trustful prayer (Phil. 2:6-7).
Lasting peace among the nations is more difficult. Politicians and peace talks won’t do it. Sinful human nature gets in the way. International rivalries and greedy ambitions stand in the way. It is only in connection with the return of Christ, “the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6-7), that a stable international accord will be maintained.
“He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isa. 2:4).
Military might cannot bring lasting peace. More often it simple brings an escalation of armaments on the other side. Meanwhile, we work for peace at a more personal level, in our families, our churches, our places of work, and our communities. For this we need a daily supply of grace from the Lord (see Heb. 4:16).
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). “Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify [build up] another” (Rom. 14:19).
Lowenstern, recognizing in his final stanza that there is also the prospect of peace for the children of God in eternity. “There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest” (Job 3:17). Eternal peace will be ours at last.
CH-5) Grant us Thy help till backward they are driven;
Grant them Thy truth, that they may be forgiven;
Grant peace on earth, or after we have striven,
Peace in Thy heaven.
1) What are some of the barriers to international peace?
2) What can we do to maintain a righteous peace, personally, with those around us?