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Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: Dana, by Andreas Peter Berggreen (b. Mar. 2, 1801; d. Nov. 9, 1880)
Note: Frances Havergal was an English hymn writer of note. She had a brilliant mind and, though her life was relatively brief, she contributed many fine hymns to our sacred repertoire. The present song can be precisely dated to Sunday evening, May 19th, 1867. When it was published, the original title was, “Master, Say On!” Hymn historian Robert McCutchan observes that, “The first line of the hymn epitomizes the life of its author.”
There are a number of tunes that will fit the metre of this hymn. It goes well with Irby, the tune used with the Christmas carol Once in Royal David’s City.
Critical mass is a scientific term describing the point where an amount of radioactive material, such as plutonium, is large enough to make a nuclear reaction possible.
The term is also used in medicine, to identify the point at which factors combine to cause a widespread epidemic. In sociology it marks the time when the influence of an idea or product brings a significant and sustained change in society.
It may be a somewhat weak analogy, but I think a kind of critical mass can be reached in our personal lives too. A build-up of factors that lead to a radical change in character, or the direction of a life. And let’s make an application of this particularly to childhood.
It can come about through a repeated experience, such as violence and abuse the child receives in the home, that critical mass is reached and deep and lasting changes take place in the child. But it can also involve a single event that produces a number of life-changing conditions and ultimately a change of direction.
Suppose the company dad works for tells him he must take a new position in a distant city. Moving is a big event for the whole family. For the child it brings a number of bewildering and stressful changes from the way things used to be. Friends and familiar activities are left behind. Some things will never be the same again. Perhaps critical mass is reached and profound changes take place within him or her.
That happened to a Bible character named Samuel. His mother Hannah had prayed for a male child, promising to dedicate him to a life of service for the Lord (I Sam. 1:11). In the Lord’s time, he was born. Later Hannah took little Samuel to the tabernacle, Israel’s centre of worship, leaving him in the care of Eli, the high priest (vs. 24-25). There the boy began a life of service in the tabernacle and, year by year, as he grew, his mother would visit, bringing a new robe for her growing boy (I Sam. 2:19).
Though unforeseen at the time, these events and more were being woven together by the Lord to produce one of the most dynamic spiritual leaders in Israel’s history. The point of critical mass occurred one night when young Samuel heard a voice calling his name. Thinking it was Eli, he went to the aging priest. But it was not Eli who called. This happened twice more. “Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, ‘Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears’” (I Sam. 3:8-9).
Critical mass. When Samuel did so (vs. 10), the Lord commissioned him as a prophet, and he began a long service that extended through the end of the period of Israel’s judges, and on into the monarchy with Saul and David. “The Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord” (vs. 19-20).
Though we’ll not likely hear the Lord speak to us in an audible voice as Samuel did, He continues to speak by His Spirit, through the Scriptures. His words can be directed to us through our own reading and meditation, or perhaps through sermons we hear, or a devotional book we read that’s based on God’s Word. In this way we learn His will, and follow a path that pleases Him. As we prepare to receive what God has for us, we need the willing heart of Samuel. This spirit is reflected in the hymn by Frances Havergal.
CH-1) Master, speak! Thy servant heareth,
Waiting for Thy gracious word,
Longing for Thy voice that cheereth;
Master! let it now be heard.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
What hast Thou to say to me?
CH-4) Master, speak! and make me ready,
When Thy voice is truly heard,
With obedience glad and steady
Still to follow every word.
I am listening, Lord, for Thee:
Master, speak! O, speak to me!
1) What Bible character(s) can you think of that God called to a particular service, who then refused it or disobeyed?
2) What service has the Lord called you to do for Him? (And have you obeyed His call?)