Posted by: rcottrill | March 7, 2016

All Hail to Thee, Immanuel

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Words: D. R. Van Sickle (data unknown)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 18556; d. Sept. 15, 1932)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This is more of a choral selection than a congregational hymn. I sang it in a choir myself, some sixty years ago. I had no idea, at the time, the fascinating story of how the song came to be. It’s from Charles Gabriel’s writings that we get that.

The traditional boomerang is an L-shaped wooden throwing club, used for hunting by indigenous Australian peoples for thousands of years. Its unique construction causes it to return to the thrower if it doesn’t strike the desired target. The word boomerang has entered the English language to describe something that comes back to the originator, either to cause harm or a blessing.

Crime is like that. Lawbreakers plot and plan, then cheat and steal, or commit murder. They hurt others under the assumption that their misdeed is hidden, that they will get away with it and not get hurt themselves. But with officers of the law on their track, they will sooner or later have to pay for what they did. And even when a crime remains unsolved, God knows, and there will be a terrible cost.

The Bible tells of a wicked king of Israel named Ahab. King Ahab began to covet the vineyard of Naboth, a near neighbour. He offered to buy it, but Naboth refused (I Kgs. 21:1-3). The king went into a pout over that, but his wife Jezebel told him she had the solution. Simply kill Naboth, and take the vineyard! And she made the necessary arrangements (vs. 9-10).

Ahab arrogantly seized his prize, without having to pay for it–so he thought. But the Lord sent the prophet Elijah to pronounce his doom (vs. 19). Judgment didn’t fall right away. But later the death of the king came in battle, and the dogs licked up the blood in his chariot (22:38). The gruesome death predicted for wicked Jezebel (21:23) took place years later too, just as God said it would (II Kgs. 9:30-37). Their wicked crime came back on their own heads.

A preacher named Robert G. Lee (1886-1978) preached a famous sermon on this terrible judgment calling it Payday Someday. Dr. Lee said, “Payday Someday! God said it, and it was done!…Even though the mill of God grinds slowly, it grinds to powder.”

But the boomerang effect can also bring positive results. One day in 1910, gospel musician Charles Gabriel received some words for which the author thought Mr. Gabriel could supply a tune. That, in itself, was surely not unusual. The musician’s skills were widely known, and many likely did the same thing with poetry they had produced. However, Gabriel did not learn until later the unusual origin of the text before him.

The hymn, taking its name from the first line is All Hail to Thee, Immanuel–Immanuel (or Emmanuel, meaning God with Us) being one of the titles of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:21-23). The writer was D. R. Van Sickle who, like Charles Gabriel, probably lived in the latter part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. We know nothing else about him, except the reason he wrote the song.

Mr. Van Sickle was not a Christian. But he boasted that anyone could write a hymn, even himself–even though he didn’t believe a word of what he was writing! To prove it, he produced his hymn, which says, “Let every heart obey Thy will, and every voice adore….the King we love so well” But he didn’t. Look at the words of this very fine hymn, and then read the P.S. to the story.

CH-1) All hail to Thee, Immanuel,
We cast our crowns before Thee;
Let every heart obey Thy will,
And every voice adore Thee.
In praise to Thee, our Saviour King,
The vibrant chords of heaven ring,
And echo back the mighty strain:
All hail! All hail! All hail Immanuel!

Hail to the King we love so well! Immanuel! Immanuel!
Hail to the King we love so well! Immanuel! Immanuel!
Glory and honour and majesty, wisdom and power be unto Thee,
Now and evermore!
Hail to the King we love so well! Immanuel! Immanuel!
Hail to the King we love so well! Immanuel! Immanuel!
King of kings and Lord of lords, all hail, Immanuel!

CH-3) All hail to Thee, Immanuel,
Our risen King and Saviour!
Thy foes are vanquished, and Thou art
Omnipotent forever.
Death, sin and hell no longer reign,
And Satan’s pow’r is burst in twain;
Eternal glory to Thy name:
All hail! All hail! All hail Immanuel!

These words  are loaded with sound Bible truth. The author had done some good research. Since the stirring song was published, it has been sung in many evangelical churches–including one day, long ago, when D. R. Van Sickle was in the congregation. And as he listened to the words, he was convicted of his sin and put his faith in the Saviour. The boomerang returned, this time, with a blessing from the Lord. (For further thoughts on this hymn, see Bad People, Good Music.)

1) What does it suggest to you that unsaved individuals can write (or sing) Christian songs?

2) Is this appropriate? Is it something of which the Lord approves (see: Ps. 28:7; 47:7; 57:7; I Cor. 14:15; Col. 3:16)?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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