Posted by: rcottrill | September 12, 2016

God Holds the Key

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Joseph Parker (b. Apr. 9, 1830; d. Nov. 28, 1902)
Music: Natchitoches, by George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

parker josephNote: Joseph Parker (whom some hymnals mistakenly call “John Parker”) was an acclaimed London pastor, a contemporary of Charles Spurgeon’s who, like Spurgeon, preached strongly evangelical sermons. Author Elgin Moyer says, “he became a champion of the poor, the ignorant, and the underprivileged” (Who Was Who in Church History, p. 320). It’s reported he gave much of his income to charity.

The tune by Stebbins is fine, but you can see from that a number of books use a tune by David E. Roberts. It works well too, and is the one I’m more familiar with.

Many times, when we’re in need of information, we ask people, “Who knows?” For example, “Who knows where I can find a reliable plumber?” Or, “Who knows a restaurant where I can get a really good steak?”

The question can also be asked for dramatic effect, giving the answer too. In September of 1937 stories about a pulp fiction crime fighter called the Shadow started a long run on the radio. As each show began, an announcer intoned, dramatically, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? [Then came his answer.] The Shadow knows!” followed by mocking laughter.

Of course, it was completely make-believe. If law enforcement today truly had the power to know what was going on in the heads and hearts of criminals, they might be able to prevent crimes from happening, the way the Shadow did every week. But they don’t–and therefore can’t. Only God knows the full extent of the evil in the human heart (Jer. 17:9-10).

Sometimes the query is what’s known as a rhetorical question–a question intended to emphasize a point, but not expecting an answer. For example, suppose you ask a friend, “Do you think we’ll get a lot of snow this winter?” He might respond, with a shrug, “Who knows?”–implying that he certainly doesn’t know, and probably nobody else does, either.

In the Bible, a man named Mordecai asked one of those rhetorical questions for which he didn’t seem to expect a definite answer. The account is given to us in the book of Esther, one of the most exciting stories in all the Bible. By 483 BC, when the events depicted began, the Jewish slaves had been given permission, after seventy years in bondage, to return to their homeland and rebuild. However, some had settled down and raised families in Babylon (then known as Persia), and they decided to remain.

Among them was a beautiful Jewish woman named Esther, Mordecai’s niece. Through a series of events described in the first couple of chapters of the book, she had become the queen of Persia, the wife of King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes). Then in chapter three we’re introduced to a despicable villain named Haman, who plotted to have all the Jews in the empire slain.

It’s at that point her uncle asks Esther the question: “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Est. 4:14). But Mordecai wasn’t expecting a direct answer. At that point only the Lord knew. Her uncle simply wanted Esther to think about it. Perhaps, in the providence of God, she had become queen to be in a position to save her people. And that’s how things turned out. Through the chapters that follow, clever Esther foils the plot of Haman, and he is hanged. To this day, the Jewish feast of Purim celebrates their deliverance.

Who knows? The point of the book is that God knew, and He was working through the strange course of events to accomplish His purposes–which included the preservation of His people Israel, and thus of the kingly line through which Christ would be born.

“I am God, and there is no other…declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’” (Isa. 46:9-10).

This brings us to a hymn written by Joseph Parker, a hymn about life’s unknowns. When the future is uncertain to us, we can be fully assured, “Known to God from eternity are all His works” (Acts 15:18).

CH-1) God holds the key of all unknown,
And I am glad;
If other hands should hold the key,
Or if He trusted it to me,
I might be sad, I might be sad.

CH-3) The very dimness of my sight
Makes me secure;
For, groping in my misty way,
I feel His hand; I hear Him say,
“My help is sure, My help is sure.”

CH-5) Enough! this covers all my wants,
And so I rest!
For what I cannot, He can see,
And in His care I saved shall be,
Forever blest, forever blest.

1) What things about the future of your own life do you sometimes wish you knew now?

2) What are some reasons why God may not reveal those things to you?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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