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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: George Stark Schuler (b. Apr. 18, 1882; d. Oct. 30, 1973), and Henry Allen (“Harry”) Ironside (b. Oct. 14, 1876; d. Jan. 15, 1951)
Music: George Stark Schuler
Note: George Schuler was a music teacher at Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago. He gave us the music for the gospel song Make Me a Blessing. Harry Ironside, born in Toronto, Canada, was wonderful Bible teacher, who ministered all over the world. My parents spoke of him. His expositions of the Scriptures are still available in book form today, more than half a century after his death. If you aren’t familiar with his writings, try his commentaries on the Gospel of John, or Romans.
There are words in the English language that have changed their meaning over the years. The dictionary has a word for older definitions: archaic. It means: belonging to an earlier period, roughly some time before the year 1900.
Here are a few examples of archaic meanings. A clue (or clew) was a ball of yarn; awful once meant worthy of awe and reverence; nice meant silly or foolish; gay meant happy; pretty meant crafty or cunning; and bully meant good. In 1904 Teddy Roosevelt called the White House “a bully pulpit,” meaning a good place from which to preach American values.
Another word that’s changed its common meaning is overshadow. Today the word carries the sense of something being more important or significant. For instance, the many records set by Wayne Gretzky overshadow those of any hockey player before him. But the word originally meant to cover, shelter or hide, sometimes suggesting the idea of protecting or providing for in a special way.
In the Bible, the word is used to describe two golden images of angels (called cherubim) that spread their wings above the ark of the covenant in the temple (II Chron. 5:8). It was there that the glorious presence of God was revealed in Old Testament times (Ps. 99:1).
The ark became, for that time, an earthly representation of God’s throne in heaven. When the Apostle John is caught up into heaven, centuries later, he sees a vision of what he calls “living creatures” hovering around the throne, saying “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 4:8). These angels (likely cherubim) are appointed to be guardians of the throne of God, shielding it from all that is unrighteous or unholy.
Our word is also used when an angel comes to a young virgin named Mary and explains how it is that she will give birth to Jesus by a special empowering of God. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Lk. 1:35).
One day in the early 1930’s George Schuler was seated at the piano, “doodling,” as he called it, and he had deep sense of God’s loving care through the years of his life. The Bible speaks of “His great love with which He loved us” (Eph. 2:4), and many have experienced it. Second Thessalonians says, “Our God and Father…has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [comfort and encouragement] and good hope by grace” (II Thess. 2:16).
As he thought about this, Schuler began improvising a melody, and suddenly words to fit it came into his mind: “I’m overshadowed by His mighty love, love eternal, changeless, pure.” He completed the melody, but was unable to fill in all the words for the song.
The pastor of Moody Church in the city at that time was well-known Bible teacher Harry Ironside. Schuler contacted him and asked if he could provide some lyrics for a melody he’d written. Though Ironside protested that he was not a poet, he agreed to try. But weeks went by, then months, and nothing happened. Copies of the tune got buried under other work by both busy servants of God, and they forgot about the project.
It was a full year later that George Schuler was looking through a pile of unpublished music and came across what he’d written. He phoned Dr. Ironside, who apologized for the oversight, and quickly sat down at his desk and produced the song Overshadowed. It is not really a congregation hymn, but has made a beautiful solo number for many.
1) How desolate my life would be,
How dark and drear my nights and days,
If Jesus’ face I did not see
To brighten all earth’s weary ways.
I’m overshadowed by His mighty love,
Love eternal, changeless, pure,
Overshadowed by His mighty love,
Rest is mine, serene, secure;
He died to ransom me from sin,
He lives to keep me day by day.
I’m overshadowed by His mighty love,
Love that brightens all my way.
1) What does it mean to you, and to your own life, that you are overshadowed by the love of God?
2) What are your favourite hymns about the love of God?