Posted by: rcottrill | November 3, 2017

God Is My Strong Salvation

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Words: James Montgomery (b. Nov. 4, 1771; d. Apr. 30, 1854)
Music: Aurelia, by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (b. Aug. 14, 1810; d. Apr. 19, 1876)


Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This is a fine hymn. The tune Aurelia, also excellent, is usually used with The Church’s One Foundation.

But if you use the song, you need to address a little problem. The word “affiance” (line three of the second stanza) means trust, or confidence. It’s related to our word fiancee, referring to a trusted pledge of marriage. It could be explained to a congregation before the hymn is sung, but there’s another solution–to replace the word with another.

The Cyber Hymnal currently substitutes the word “sustenance.” But then the line doesn’t seem to scan properly. The parallel line in the first stanza, “In darkness and temptation,” has 7 sounded syllables. “His truth will be my sustenance” has 8, unless we shorten the last word to “sust’nance” which is a little odd.

Another word that (1) retains the meaning, (2) rhymes with “reliance,” and (3) can fit the metre is “assurance.”

His truth be my assurance,
When faint and desolate.

In Charles Dickens’s wonderful story, A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge is first confronted by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, he tries to explain away the apparition. “You may be an undigested bit of beef,” he says, “a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.”

He’s saying that what we eat can affect our perceptions, our point of view. So can other things. Illness, fatigue, or stress can do it too. Not that we necessarily begin seeing ghosts, but our understanding of how things really are is affected. We may move from happiness to discouragement, from faith to fear, simply because of such matters of human frailty.

The Bible tells us about a great king of Israel, and how his rebel son brought him into mortal danger and pierced his soul with grief. The king was David, and his wayward son was Absalom. David was a man of faith, and the Lord had led him from one triumph to another. But now he was growing old, and less able to cope with the troubles that descended upon him.

The account is found in Second Samuel, chapters 15-18, describing a period when the king experienced a roller coaster of emotions. Absalom secretly and slyly won the favour of the people over time (15:1-6), and began to organize a rebel army (15:10-12). Then the king’s close friend and counselor Ahithophel deserted David and joined Absalom, and the king fled from Jerusalem (15:13-14).

When Absalom entered the city and tried to establish his reign (16:15-16), David responded not as one with a God-given right to the throne, or as one concerned for the welfare of the nation. His main worry, as a doting father, was that his son wouldn’t get hurt. “Deal gently…with the young man Absalom,” he said (18:5). But David’s forces knew Absalom was a danger to the people, and they killed him (18:15). With that, the king was stricken with grief at the loss of his son (18:33).

In all this David’s faith was severely tried, and he wrestled with fears. Some scholars have suggested that he wrote Psalm 27 during this period. It’s a beautiful expression of triumphant faith, except for a jarring change of mood in verse 7. Critics have claimed that maybe the centre section was written by someone else, and the two passages patched together.

However, this theory fails to taken into account a couple of things. First, that it’s not that unusual for David’s psalms to contain dramatic changes of mood. And second, that this struggle of the king fits human experience–our own experience. Moments of strong faith are sometimes interrupted by an attack of doubt and desperation. Listen to David’s cry for help:

“Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me…. Do not hide Your face from me; do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation” (Ps. 27:7, 9).

We can identify with times like that. The important thing is that, as the psalm ends, David sounds a note of hope for us all: “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart” (vs. 14).

“Waiting” involves trust, patience and attentiveness, with a readiness to respond, as the Lord reveals the next step. Waiting, in this context, does not necessarily mean inactivity. It means looking to the Lord, even as we are involved in life and our service for Him.

In 1822, newspaper editor and hymn writer James Montgomery produced a hymn on this psalm, focusing particularly on the first few verses and the last. It’s a brief hymn, but it has a stirring and encouraging message. (See the earlier note for the word “affiance.”)

CH-1) God is my strong salvation;
What foe have I to fear?
In peril and temptation
My Light, my Help, is near.
Though hosts encamp around me,
Firm to the fight I stand;
What terror can confound me,
With God at my right hand?

CH-2) Place on the Lord reliance;
My soul, with courage wait;
God’s truth be thine affiance*
When faint and desolate.
God’s might thy heart shall strengthen,
God’s love thy joy increase;
Mercy thy days shall lengthen;
The Lord will give thee peace.

1) What do you think David means in Psalm27:1 when he says, “the Lord is my light”?

2) Is there something for which you are currently “waiting” on the Lord (see the definition of the word above)?


Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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