Posted by: rcottrill | October 10, 2016

God of Eternity

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Words: Fanny Crosby (b. Mar. 24, 1820; d. Feb. 12, 1915)
Music: Bethany, by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; d. Aug. 11, 1872)

Wordwise Hymns (Lowell Mason)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Fanny Crosby wrote more sacred songs that almost anyone–around 8,500 of them. It’s surprising, though, that for the first forty-four years of her life she wrote a great deal of poetry, but not a single hymn. Then one day she was challenged by hymn writer William Bradbury to write some lines with a Christian message that he could set to music. She came back, a few days later, with verses beginning:

We are going, we are going
To a home beyond the skies,
Where the fields are robed in beauty
And the sunlight never dies.
Where the fount of joy is flowing
In the valley green and fair,
We shall dwell in love together,
There shall be no parting there.

Not much of biblical truth in that, but there was more and better to come in that regard. What it does show is Fanny Crosby’s facility for writing smoothly rhymed, singable lyrics. It also illustrates the devotional warmth of her songs, and her anticipation of heaven–something she was to write about often. Here’s Fanny’s very last song was written just hours before her death.

In the morn of Zion’s glory,
When the clouds have rolled away,
And my hope has dropped its anchor
In the vale of perfect day,
When with all the pure and holy
I shall strike my harp anew,
With a power no arm can sever,
Love will hold me fast and true.

When we try to describe a person for someone else, we use words. And more words used, adding to the description, will likely make it easier for our friend to know who it is we’re talking about. Words help to build a mental picture for us.

For example, if I ask you to name a famous detective, you might guess several possibilities. But if I add that he’s a fictional character, then describe how he was said to live in London, England, that helps. If I say further that he had a friend named Dr. John Watson, and add that the stories about him were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, most would likely know I was speaking of Sherlock Holmes.

In the Scriptures, there are hundreds of names, titles, and descriptions of God. Together they give us a better understanding of who and what God is. Here are just a few examples. He is the Creator (Isa. 40:28); the Most High (Ps. 92:1); the Almighty (Rev. 1:8); the Saviour (Jude 1:25); the King (I Tim. 1:17); the I AM (Exod. 3:14); the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9); the LORD of Hosts (literally Jehovah of armies–the armies of holy angels); the believer’s heavenly Father (Matt. 6:9), and so much more.

In our hymn books are three kinds of songs about the Lord. They provide the words by which we can know more about God, speak to Him, and to one another about Him. The Bible describes the three as: “psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16).

¤ Our hymnals contain some psalms from the Old Testament, set to music, such as the well known Psalm 23.

¤ They also contain hymns. Though we can use that word in a generic sense to refer to all the selections in the hymn book, more precisely a hymn is a song addressed to God in praise and prayer (e.g. How Great Thou Art).

¤ The “spiritual songs” mentioned in the above Bible text are likely what we now call gospel songs. In them we speak to one another, with words of teaching and testimony (e.g. What a Friend We Have in Jesus).

Sometimes a song can do both of the last two things, speak to God and to others, but those are the three general types of music in our hymn books.

The present song of Fanny Crosby’s is a true hymn. It was published in 1873, but unfortunately it’s little known today. A hymn, full of warmth and worship, it addresses the Lord, and uses about a dozen names and descriptions of Him. (Bethany, the tune suggested above, is also used with the hymn Nearer, My God, to Thee.)

I puzzled a bit over calling the Lord the “Author of Praise.” And yes, we are the ones who express praise to Him. But He does give us both the knowledge of Himself and the spiritual energy needed to praise Him sincerely. The Bible says, “By Him [through Him] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15).

CH-1) God of eternity, Saviour and King,
Help us to honour Thee, help while we sing;
Now may the clouds of night
Break into splendour bright,
Jesus, our life and light,
Our Lord and King!

CH-2) God of eternity, Ancient of Days,
Glorious in majesty, Author of Praise;
Hear Thou our earnest call,
While at Thy feet we fall,
Jesus, our all in all,
Our Lord and King!

CH-4) God of eternity, Love is Thy name,
God of the earth and sea, Thee we proclaim;
Love, through Thine only Son,
Thy work of grace hath done;
O blessèd Three in One,
Our Lord and King!

1) What names of God (including those of Christ and the Holy Spirit) are especially meaningful to you?

2) Which of Fanny Crosby’s many hymns is your special favourite?

Wordwise Hymns (Lowell Mason)
The Cyber Hymnal


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