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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: Johnson Oatman, Jr. (b. Apr. 21, 1856; d. Sept. 25, 1922)
Music: Bertha Mae Wilson Lillenas (b. _____, 1889; d. _____, 1945)
Note: Johnson Oatman Jr. served as a visiting preacher in many area churches. He also worked in the mercantile trade, and then the insurance business. He was married, and the Oatman’s raised three children. But the man is remembered today mainly for the many gospel songs he wrote–about five thousand of them, including No Not One, Under His Wings, Higher Ground, and Count Your Blessings.
Bertha Lillenas was the wife of hymn writer Haldor Lillenas, and a hymn writer in her own right.
There’s a traditional proverb more than five centuries old that says: fair exchange is no robbery. Meaning it’s not dishonest or foolish to make an exchange of money, goods, or services that’s fair to each party. Whether buying a horse or a hand gun, a cabbage or a computer, we have a right to expect fair and honest treatment. Yet we know there are cheats and schemers around, ready to get the better of us.
Have you ever heard the saying, “If you believe that, I can sell you the Brooklyn Bridge”? That has its roots in the career of a crafty con man named George Parker (1860-1938). Parker made a crooked living “selling” property he didn’t own, especially to uninformed, newly arrived immigrants. Several times, he sold the rights to the control of the Brooklyn Bridge, and later police would arrest duped buyers as they tried to build a toll booth on the bridge to make money.
What had sounded like fair exchange, wasn’t. Buyers had been taken in by a swindle. And it didn’t turn out to be a profitable exercise for Mr. Parker either. He was finally arrested, and spent that last years of his life behind bars.
The Bible records many examples of bad or dishonest dealing. In Genesis we have conniving Jacob buying the birthright of his brother Esau for a bowl of stew (Gen. 25:27-34). The birthright assigned special privileges, and a double portion of his father’s estate, to the firstborn But Esau carelessly gave it away. The Bible says he “despised his birthright” (vs. 34).
In the Gospels, we see the Lord Jesus driving profiteering traders out of the temple. This is what was going on. The leaders demanded that the fee the Law required of men who came to worship be paid in the Jewish half shekel, not in foreign currency. So, money-changers did a brisk business providing the proper coinage at ridiculously high fees.
And any who came from a long distance to celebrate a holy day, and had been unable to bring an animal needed for sacrifice, could buy one, at an exorbitant price. The Lord’s scornful condemnation was, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves’” (Matt. 21:13).
Another outrageous and deadly exchange is made by a person who turns his back on the true and living God, and begins worshiping an impotent idol. They have “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom. 1:25). And the Word of God indicates that an idol need not be an object of wood or stone. “Covetousness…is idolatry” (Col. 3:5), because it exalts to a place of controlling influence over one’s life what is coveted–the supreme place in the heart where God alone belongs.
“What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).
What a poor exchange that is! The worst, since it involves eternal loss. If one could, theoretically, amass all the wealth in all the world, giving up one’s soul for it is not a fair exchange in the end. It’s utter folly.
Johnson Oatman gave us a lesser known gospel song called Jesus Took My Burden. In it, he speaks of bringing his sins, in faith, to the Saviour, and not only being forgiven, but going on his way with a joyful song in his heart. Trading our sins for a song, by the grace of God, that’s a wonderful exchange! As David testified:
“He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth–praise to our God” (Ps. 40:2-3).
1) When I, a poor lost sinner, before the Lord did fall,
And in the name of Jesus for pardon loud did call;
He heard my supplication, and soon the weak was strong,
For Jesus took my burden, and left me with a song.
Yes, Jesus took the burden I could no longer bear,
Yes, Jesus took my burden in answer to my prayer;
My anxious fears subsided, my spirit was made strong,
For Jesus took my burden, and left me with a song.
4) I’ll trust Him for the future, He knoweth all the way,
For with His eye He’ll guide me along life’s pilgrim way;
And I will tell in heaven, while ages roll along,
How Jesus took my burden, and left me with a song.
1) Can you think of an example of a bad exchange you made at one time?
2) Why is giving our sins to Christ and accepting His free gift of salvation a great exchange?