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Words: J. H. T. (details unknown)
Music: Constancy, by Asa Hull (b. Jan. 18, 1828; d. Apr. 4, 1917)
Note: This is a lovely hymn inspired by the experience of Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus. Published in the nineteenth century (Hymnary,org has the earliest version printed in 1868), we only know the initials of the author: J. H. T. (or J. H.).
Asa Hull wrote many hymns and hymn tunes. His tune Constancy is also used in some hymn books for the hymn All for Jesus. As noted in the Cyber Hymnal, the tune Wycliff, by John Stainer also fits both texts. It’s a superior tune, in my view, but in this case will require treating the hymn as having six four-line stanzas.
It’s an odd expression, one that doesn’t necessarily mean what it says. We speak of sitting at someone’s feet, or at someone’s knee, but it may have nothing to do with our posture or position.
To say a young man sat at the feet of Professor So-and-So, means he was a pupil of the professor’s, someone whose teachings he was eager to absorb. Often the phrase also implies that the student admires and respects the teacher. But he may be sitting at a classroom desk, or before a computer, or simply reading a book, or watching a DVD. Any or all of these might involve sitting at the feet of another.
However, for Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, the position became a literal reality. In fact, each time she’s seen in the Gospels, she is at the feet of the Lord Jesus. She sat at His feet to learn (Lk. 10:39); she came to His feet to express her grief at the death of her brother (Jn. 11:32); and she came to His feet to worship, after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 12:3).
It is with the first of these we are concerned here (Lk. 10:38-42). When the Lord Jesus visited in their home, we see quite a contrast between the two sisters. Martha was bustling about, preparing a meal, and the Bible says she was “distracted,” preoccupied and fretful, about all she had to do. So much so she complained that Mary wasn’t helping her (vs. 40).
And what was Mary doing during all of this? She “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (vs. 39). Her presence there was an expression of her love for the Lord, and of her delight in His teaching. It also showed something of her desire to believe and obey His message to her.
Martha, no doubt, had good intentions. She wanted to have the very best meal to set before her Guest. But the Lord gently rebuked her for all her hurrying and scurrying: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her [by you, or anything else]” (vs. 41-42).
“One thing is needful [i.e. necessary].” Jesus would not be with them much longer, as far as His physical presence was concerned. Eating a fine meal with Him had its place, but the spiritual food He could provide just then was much more important. To put a priority on listening and learning from Him was a good thing, and it still is.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Ps. 1:1-3).
What are some ways we can sit at Jesus’ feet today? We can go to church and listen to the Word of God taught. We can talk with spiritually minded friends, and pray with them. We can attend a Bible study and discuss the Scriptures. We can attend a Bible college. We can put a priority on having a time of daily devotions, when we study and pray on our own. Memorizing and meditating on verses of Scripture are valuable too. All such things are spiritually important, and we must not let other priorities lead to neglecting them.
CH-1) Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Oh, what words I hear Him say!
Happy place! so near, so precious!
May it find me there each day.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
I would look upon the past;
For His love has been so gracious,
It has won my heart at last.
CH-2) Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
Where can mortal be more blest?
There I lay my sins and sorrows
And, when weary, find sweet rest.
Sitting at the feet of Jesus,
There I love to weep and pray,
While I from His fullness gather
Grace and comfort every day.
CH-3) Bless me, O my Saviour, bless me,
As I sit low at Thy feet.
Oh, look down in love upon me;
Let me see Thy face so sweet.
Give me, Lord, the mind of Jesus;
Make me holy as He is.
May I prove I’ve been with Jesus,
Who is all my righteousness.
1) What is your favourite or most profitable way to sit at the feet of Jesus?
2) What have you learned there at His feet in the past week?