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Words: Barbara B. Hart (b. _____, 1916; d. _____)
Music: Finlandia, by Jean Sibelius (b. Dec. 8, 1865; d. Sept. 20, 1957)
Note: On this blog, over a number of years, I have discussed with you the history and biblical themes of the hymns of the church. There are sometimes interesting details about the authors and composers. Other times, there are fascinating stories about how or why a song came to be written. But in the present instance, we know very little.
Today’s hymn was written by a woman named Barbara Hart, who was born in 1916. But I’ve been unable to find anything more about her, or of the background for her hymn. As you can see, there is little or no added information on the three blog links I usually provide. Few hymnals even include the hymn–which is most unfortunate. It was tempting simply to pass it by. However, the subject is so important, and the message is so strong, it deserves to be examined.
It isn’t difficult to see that the home and family are under attack in our society. Family conflict, and breakup is frequent. According to 2010 statistics, four out of ten first marriages in Canada end in divorce. Stable family life is becoming more and more a rare commodity, and everyone suffers from this–husband and wife, children in the home, extended family, and society at large.
Husbands leaving their wives, wives cheating on their husbands, children neglected, abused or abandoned–it is a major tragedy. Often binding marriage vows are eschewed as outmoded and hopelessly old-fashioned. Instead, couples just decide to “live together,” with the implication being that if one doesn’t satisfy the other they’ll simply part company–and try someone else–or someone else again.
This is far from God’s ideal. The Bible declares, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). To which the Lord Jesus added, “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6). The loving relationship between husband and wife is so sacred and special that the Lord Jesus blessed it with His first miracle (Jn. 2:1-11), and the Bible compares it to the love Christ has for His church (Eph. 5:25).
“Children are a heritage from the LORD” (Ps. 127:3). And the home is to provide an atmosphere of loving acceptance and care, where parents diligently “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). But Canadian statistics for 2014 report that over fifteen million of our children live in homes where there has been domestic violence. How dare we treat God’s heritage carelessly or cruelly?
This hymn is a call for Christian husbands and wives to express the kind of commitment Joshua did, long ago, when he said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15). God invented families, and He knows best how they should function. The Bible warns, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1). In response, Barbara Hart penned these words:
1) O give us homes built firm upon the Saviour,
Where Christ is Head and Counselor and Guide;
Where ev’ry child is taught His love and favour
And gives his heart to Christ, the crucified.
How sweet to know that though his footsteps waver
His faithful Lord is walking by his side.
The vibrant spiritual life of both husband and wife is critical in this. Take a piece of paper, and draw a triangle on it. At the highest corner, write “God.” Write your name at one of the lower corners, and your spouse’s name next to the third. Now, notice what happens as each of you, in your spiritual life, draws closer to God. As you each ascend along the line between you and God, you also come closer to one another. That is what’s needed. In the words of the hymn writer:
2) O give us homes with godly father, mother,
Who always place their hope and trust in Him.
Whose tender patience turmoil never bothers,
Whose calm and courage trouble cannot dim;
A home where each finds joy in serving others,
And love still shines, though days be dark and grim.
Regular attendance at the house of God is important (Heb. 10:24-25), but Christian teaching and training should not be left to the church. It should begin at home. The Apostle Paul delighted in Timothy’s upbringing, saying, “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures” (II Tim. 3:15). Our hymn says it:
3) O give us homes where Christ is Lord and Master,
The Bible read, the precious hymns still sung;
Where pray’r comes first in peace or in disaster,
And praise is natural speech to ev’ry tongue;
Where mountains move before a faith that’s vaster,
And Christ sufficient is for old and young.
1) What are some of the purposes for which God designed the home and family?
2) What are some of the obstacles and dangers to home and family life today?