Posted by: rcottrill | December 23, 2015

Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord

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Words: Benjamin Mansell Ramsey (b. Aug. 10, 1849; d. Aug. 31, 1923)
Music: Benjamin Mansell Ramsey

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Mr. Ramsey was an English music teacher, composer, and choral conductor. A prolific composer of parts-songs, piano pieces, and carols, he also produced works on music theory and a number of hymns. The present one was published in 1919.

Maps are wonderfully useful things to have. Whenever we’re traveling someplace new, with a map we can find a route from where we are to where we hope to go. Often when my wife and I have made a trip like that, she’s acted as our co-pilot, and had one handy.

We need that kind of guidance in life as well. For many years I’ve had a weekly newspaper column about hymns called Words for the Pilgrim Way, about the path that Christians follow in life. We not only follow a path, we follow a Person, the Lord Jesus, who said of Himself, “I am the way” (Jn. 14:6). John Bunyan’s 1678 classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, presents the Christian life that way, as a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City (heaven).

It is interesting also that, in the days of the early church, the Christian faith was described as “the Way,” and believers were known as people of the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4, 14; 24:23). The followers of Christ are on a journey. And just as with a vacation trip, there are exciting things to enjoy along the way; there are also wrong turns and bad roads to avoid.

Whether intended or not, by those who used the term, “the Way” suggests that while there are individual aspects to life that make our life’s journey unique, in the more basic sense there is only one way. Any other way but God’s way is ultimately a path to destruction. As Proverbs puts it, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 16:25). In the verse referenced earlier, Christ states emphatically, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6).

If the Lord knows the way we should take, it stands to reason we should seek His guidance in following it. Through a study of God’s Word, and through daily prayer, and also through such things as providential circumstances and the counsel of other believers, He will direct our path. It was with that understanding that Benjamin Mansell Ramsey wrote a hymn entitled Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord.

CH-1) Teach me Thy way, O Lord,
Teach me Thy way!
Thy guiding grace afford,
Teach me Thy way!
Help me to walk aright,
More by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light,
Teach me Thy way!

Immediately we see implied, in the hymn–truths mirrored in Scripture–that God knows the way, and has the ability, and willingness, to provide the guidance we need. First in the author’s list of concerns is that he might “walk aright,” live righteously, in obedience to God. And that he would grow in faith, and have greater trust in the Lord (cf. II Cor. 5:7).

In the second stanza, he asks for help, “when I am sad at heart,” and “in hours of loneliness.” But there are also these interesting lines: “In failure or success, / Teach me Thy way!” Most of us know those difficult times when we seem in danger of losing the battle. It’s then we cry out to God. But Mr. Ramsey recognizes that times of success we are also in need. These have their pitfalls too.

CH-2) When I am sad at heart,
Teach me Thy way!
When earthly joys depart,
Teach me Thy way!
In hours of loneliness,
In times of dire distress,
In failure or success,
Teach me Thy way!

In the third stanza the hymn writer prays “Make Thou my pathway plain,” especially “when doubts and fears arise.” We all have them. Times when there is either no clear way ahead, or when there is an array of possibilities and we don’t know which is best for us. The bottom line is, always, on this side of heaven: we’ll be in need of divine guidance. That is how the author ends his song.

CH-4) Long as my life shall last,
Teach me Thy way!
Where’er my lot be cast,
Teach me Thy way!
Until the race is run,
Until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won,
Teach me Thy way!

1) In what situation recently did the Lord provide some direction for you?

2) What other hymns do you know about the Lord leading and guiding?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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