Posted by: rcottrill | January 4, 2017

As Thy Days Thy Strength Shall Be

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Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: Gott Sei Dank, by Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen (b. Dec. 2, 1670; d. Feb. 12, 1739)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Frances Havergal born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: As of my work on this article, Hymnary.org’s information on this hymn is rather a tangle. It has both Frances Havergal and someone called Mrs. P. Munzinger credited as authors. But as you look at the rest of the page it becomes clear that two different hymns are being confused.

Benjamin Franklin quoted the proverb in the 1735 edition of his Almanac: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

As with many proverbs, there’s a grain of truth in that. Getting enough sleep, and making a good start to the day is worthwhile. But proverbs are not intended to be guarantees. Rather, they’re observations about how things often tend to work out. In truth, those with regular sleep habits aren’t always healthy, or wealthy, or wise. What we do with our waking hours is more important than when they start or stop.

Further, the proverb ignores a metabolism factor. Some are morning people, others are evening people. The morning folks–larks, they’re sometimes called–bounce out of bed at an early hour, and their minds and bodies are quickly in gear. They tackle the day’s work with zest. The minds of night owls are in a fog early in the day. They may feel they need the jolt of caffeine from that first cup of coffee to get them going. But late at night they are energetic and more productive.

And none of this addresses the spiritual dimension of life, which is not directly concerned with becoming wealthy or healthy in a material or temporal sense. Wisdom is more in its purview. And genuine godly wisdom is not a product of when we get up or go to bed. It comes through our relationship with God and His Word, and is to guide the daily walk of the Christian. The Bible says:

“The fear of the Lord [reverencing Him, giving Him His rightful place in our lives] is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Ps. 111:10).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him [recognize Him as your Lord and Saviour], and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6).

And the Lord has promised sufficient grace–divine enablement–for each day to accomplish what He wants us to do. Just as He told Israel, long ago, “As your days, so shall your strength be” (Deut. 33:25). And as He told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).

God’s ever-sufficient grace makes us strong enough to do His will. His will, not our own. The Lord doesn’t promise us we’ll be able fulfil selfish ambitions, or avoid any problems or trials in our lives. In truth, the latter are opportunities for Him to reveal His grace and goodness to us.

William Havergal was an English clergyman, serving as rector of St. Nicholas’ Anglican Church in Worcestor. At the midnight hour on December 31st, the bells of the church began to chime joyously, welcoming in the new year, 1859. Havergal’s two daughters, Maria and Frances shared a bedroom in the rectory.

Maria, wakened by the bells, roused her sister sharing a version of Deuteronomy 33:25 quoted above, “As thy days thy strength shall be.” Strength enough for each day of the new year. Frances (who seems to have been a morning person!) in moments composed a hymn poem in her head, and recited it to her sister.

CH-1) As thy days thy strength shall be!
This should be enough for thee,
He who knows thy frame will spare
Burdens more than thou canst bear.

CH-2) When thy days are veiled in night,
Christ shall give thee heavenly light;
Seem they wearisome and long,
Yet in Him thou shalt be strong.

Frances Havergal was twenty-three at the time of this incident. She went on to become one of our most highly esteemed hymn writers, giving us hymns such as Like a River Glorious, and Who Is on the Lord’s Side?

The next day, she added a little more to the poem quoted previously. It concludes:

CH-4) When thy days on earth are past,
Christ shall call thee home at last,
His redeeming love to praise,
Who hath strengthened all thy days.

Questions:
1) How has the Lord given you strength for a challenge or personal trial recently?

2) How might you be able to be a channel of God’s grace to someone you know who needs help?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Frances Havergal born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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