Posted by: rcottrill | December 9, 2015

Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above

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Words: Johann Jakob Schütz (b. Sept. 7, 1640; d. May 22, 1690); English translation by Frances Elizabeth Cox (b. May 10, 1812; d. Sept. 23, 1897)
Music: Mit Freuden Zart (With Tender Joy), from the Bohemian Brethren’s Kirchengesänge (Berlin, 1556), and their Gesangbuch (Berlin, 1556)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Shütz was a godly lawyer in Germany, and a Lutheran who joined the Pietists, a group known for its warmhearted spirituality.

This is a very fine hymn. I wonder how many churches make use of it. The hymn is based on, or inspired by, Deuteronomy 32:3, “I proclaim the name of the LORD: ascribe greatness to our God.” And notice that each stanza ends with a kind of one-line refrain, “To God all praise and glory.” That reminds me of Johann Sebastian Bach, who, at the bottom of his music manuscripts would write “S.D.G.” representing Soli Deo Gloria, “To God alone the glory.”

Praising God. The Bible talks about it hundreds of times. Words such as praise, worship, and glorify are found over four hundred times in the Scriptures. But for a few moments, consider just the word “praise.”

From Genesis to Revelation, two hundred and sixty-four times, some form of the word is used. When Leah bore Jacob a son, she said, “‘Now I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah [a form of the word praise]” (Gen. 29:35). And near the end of the Bible the command is heard in heaven, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!” (Rev. 19:5).

The book of Psalms contains more than half of the times the word praise is found. First, in Psalm 7:17 we have, “I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.” Then, the last thing in the book of Psalms is a call to praise. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” (Ps. 150:6).

The psalms are Hebrew poetry, written to be sung. The root meaning of the word “psalm” itself is to strike with the fingers, referring to the accompaniment of the songs on stringed instruments. (Remember David’s skill with the harp? First Samuel 16:23.) Psalms is the hymn book of the Bible. It was the hymn book of Israel, and also the hymn book of the early church. The songs’ emphasis on praise is understandable.

Compare our own church hymn books for a moment. Some churches now project the words to be sung on a screen, or on a wall. But there is still value in using hymn books, with musical notes, and information about the authors and composers. Our hymns, like those in Psalms, are poetry written to be sung. And one of the dominant themes in the songs we sing is the praise and worship of God.

¤ We can praise the Lord as our King, with O Worship the King, and Psalms does that too (Ps. 10:16).
¤ We can praise the greatness of God with How Great Thou Art, and Psalms does that as well (Ps. 47:2).
¤ We can praise our God for His Amazing Grace toward us, and so does Psalms (Ps. 84:11).

But, for all the similarities, there is one big difference between today’s hymn books and the book of Psalms. It relates to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Today we have many wonderful hymns about the Lord Jesus, His coming and earthly life, His death and resurrection, His ascension and promise to return. The psalmists, along with other Old Testament writers, saw these things off in the distance, only dimly, as God’s Spirit gave them glimpses of future things.

We need songs that reflect God’s New Testament revelation. That being said, there’s still a place for the praise of God in the pattern of the Old Testament. The New Testament doesn’t replace it. It fulfils and completes it. Which brings us to a wonderful hymn of praise to God by Johann Schütz. He writes:

CH-1) Sing praise to God who reigns above, the God of all creation,
The God of power, the God of love, the God of our salvation.
With healing balm my soul is filled and every faithless murmur stilled:
To God all praise and glory.

CH-3) The Lord is never far away, but through all grief distressing,
An ever present help and stay, our peace and joy and blessing.
As with a mother’s tender hand, God gently leads the chosen band:
To God all praise and glory.

CH-4) Thus, all my toilsome way along, I sing aloud Thy praises,
That earth may hear the grateful song my voice unwearied raises.
Be joyful in the Lord, my heart, both soul and body bear your part:
To God all praise and glory.

A psalmist could have written that. But notice how Schütz’s hymn, in its last stanza, ties in New Testament truth, through the person of Christ. Like Isaac Watts (1674-1748) he understood that the Psalms, wonderful and useful though they are, are not God’s complete revelation. We also need to be singing about New Testament truths.

CH-5) Let all who name Christ’s holy name give God all praise and glory;
Let all who own His power proclaim aloud the wondrous story!
Cast each false idol from its throne, for Christ is Lord, and Christ alone:
To God all praise and glory.

Questions:
1) What are three things you have to praise the Lord for today?

2) How is it we can legitimately praise God for our trials and difficulties?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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