Posted by: rcottrill | June 20, 2016

My Heart Is Resting, O My God

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Words: Anna Laetitia Waring (b. April 19, 1823; d. May 10, 1910)
Music: Pentatone, by Henry Walford Davies (b. Sept. 6,1869; d. Mar. 11, 1941)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: We know only a little about the Welsh-born Miss Waring. She mastered Hebrew as a young girl, and throughout her life studied the Psalms in their original language. She was actively involved in charity work, assisting in the Discharged Prisoners Society. And apparently she suffered greatly, but rejoice in God’s sustaining grace, writing:

Who would not suffer pain like mine
To be consoled like me?

She also wrote the lovely In Heavenly Love Abiding, as a meditation on the 23rd Psalm. The present hymn is unique in its deep exploration of God’s provision for a needy soul. It’s worth going to the Cyber Hymnal, reading it all, and thinking it through.

Some songs we hear seem to make no sense at all. One, written in 1943, made the pop charts with: “Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey, / A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe!” It’s a good thing the “translation” is given in the song itself, or we’d never know that “Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy. / A kid’ll eat ivy, too, wouldn’t you?”

Secular fun songs aside, we’ve been guilty of singing nonsense in church as well–intended or not! When I was a boy in Sunday School, we sang with enthusiasm: “Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, / Heavenly breezes blow; / Climb, climb up sunshine mountain, / Faces all aglow.” But it’s doubtful if anyone can adequately explain what that means. It certainly meant little to young children, other than a way to blow off steam with the actions accompanying the words.

It’s still going on. Religious rocker Rick Cua gave us: “I can, I will, I stand, / I do believe that I can, / I will use the power, / I can, I will, I am the warrior / And I’ll fight for you, / I can, I will.” But we look in vain through the entire song to see clearly who “you” is, what “the power” source is, or what “fight” he’s referring to. Is “you” Buddha? Or Mohammed? Or someone else?

It may be that biblically informed Christians can read into songs like that some semblance of God’s truth, but that’s no excuse for singing in riddles. The Bible warns, “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (I Cor. 14:8). How different were the Levites in Nehemiah’s day, who “read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading” (Neh. 8:8).

I would ten times rather have a simple, and repetitious gospel song such as Elisha Hoffman’s 1893 offering I Must Tell Jesus, which says something important, and says it clearly–and often, than some obscure nonsense that tries to pass itself off as spiritual depth.

Having said that, however, there are songs that reach a deeper level. So much so that they cannot be sung meaningfully in church without explanation, and seem better suited to study in the believer’s personal devotions. But if God is an infinite Being far above ourselves, we’d expect to find some things in the Bible–and our hymnody–that challenge our most careful thought.

A comment on the exalted language of the Scriptures and of our hymns comes from a perhaps unexpected source. A 1990, Reader’s Digest published a speech by Prince Charles criticizing the modern tendency to bring God down to our level, to try to explain Him in more mundane terms. The prince said, “It should not be our task to express our worship (whether in word or song) in terms of the lowest common denominator. We exalt the separateness of God by unique expression reserved only for Him….Elevated is what God is.”

The song by hymn writer Anna Waring, called My Heart Is Resting, O My God, provides an example. With eleven eight-line stanzas, it is one of our longest, but every line is rich with meaning, and worthy of meditation. It reflects the words of Jeremiah that inspired it: “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lam. 3:24).

CH-1) My heart is resting, O my God–
I will give thanks and sing;
My heart is at the secret Source
Of every precious thing.
Now the frail vessel Thou hast made
No hand but Thine shall fill–
For waters of the earth have failed,
And I am thirsty still.

There have been various formats of the song. One uses the first three stanzas, and the eleventh. Another splits stanzas into four lines each. Still another uses a few stanzas and adds a refrain. The following, found in, combines the last four lines of the third stanza with the last four lines of the second.

I have a heritage of joy,
That yet I must not see;
But the hand that bled to make it mine
Is keeping it for me.
And a new song is in my mouth,
To long-loved music set:
“Glory to Thee for all the grace
I have not tasted yet.”

To the diligent and thoughtful soul, that makes perfect sense.

1) What are some simple (and perhaps repetitious) gospel songs that you find meaningful?

2) What are some deeper hymns that have been a blessing to you.

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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