Posted by: rcottrill | June 24, 2019

Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee

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Words: Bernard of Clairvaux (b. _____, 1091; d. Aug. 21, 1153)
Music: St. Agnes, by John Bacchus Dykes (b. Mar. 10, 1823; d. Jan. 22, 1876)

Wordwise Hymns (for another article on the hymn see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Bernard lived about eight centuries ago. He was a deeply spiritually minded man. Centuries after his time, Protestant reformer Martin Luther called him, “the best monk that ever lived, whom I admire beyond all the rest put together.” The Cyber Hymnal has fifteen stanzas for this hymn, including other lines from the longer poem from which the hymn was taken. Most hymnals use only four or five of these.

Sometimes there are sentiments expressed in romantic songs–wholesome ones–that seem to point to our relationship with the Lord, in a deeper and more spiritual sense. That’s not to say there’s no difference between sacred and secular, or between human and divine. But there are some parallels.

In 1934, English band leader Ray Stanley Noble wrote words and music for a tender ballad called The Very Thought of You. With recordings by well known singers such as Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole, it soon became a popular standard. A look at the lyrics invites the comparison mentioned earlier. The song begins:

The very thought of you
And I forget to do
The little ordinary things
That everyone ought to do.

Being in a loving relationship affects our behaviour. At the human level, the intensity of emotion can induce a kind of absent-mindedness bordering on amnesia. Accidentally putting on socks that don’t match, or leaving the house and forgetting to close the door, could be symptoms of it.

That might sometimes happen occasionally in the Christian’s relationship with the Lord, but there’s another aspect of it to consider. Our love for the Lord Jesus ought to affect our behaviour. But it should prompt us to do those things, morally, “that everyone ought to do.”

“If you love Me, keep my commandments,” Christ said. “Whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected [brought to maturity] in him” (I Jn. 2:5).

Then Noble’s song says:

You’ll never know
How slow the moments go
Till I’m near to you.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, says the old proverb. Being away from each other for a time can increase the desire to be together again. But, as with many maxims, there’s another one that says just the opposite: out of sight, out of mind.

In the spiritual realm, the knowledge that we have a personal relationship with the eternal God should excite a desire to fellowship with Him, through prayer and the study of His Word. But what if it doesn’t?

Sometimes the dulling of our desire results from a neglect of the activities mentioned, regular times in His Word, and in prayer. Also, a prolonged absence from the house of God, and fellowship with His people can do the same. But the most common cause is sin in our lives that has not been confessed and forsaken. It was when Adam and Eve sinned that they were moved to hide from God (Gen. 3:8).

Finally, the lover in the popular ballad says:

I see your face in every flower,
You eyes in stars above.

Everywhere he looks, he sees things that remind him of the one he loves. And there’s a spiritual correspondence there too. We see God’s hand at work in everything. Everywhere, there are tokens of His grace and power.

An 1876 hymn called Loved with Everlasting Love, by clergyman George Robinson, puts the spiritual parallel this way:

Heav’n above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen.

Believers are given a new perspective on life, we view things in a different way. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17).

Bernard produced a hymn that echoes Noble’s secular ballad in a profoundly spiritual way.

CH-1) Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

CH-2) Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest name,
O Saviour of mankind!

CH-5) Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

1) Do you know Christians for whom Christ is a real and beloved presence in their daily lives?

2) How does this show itself?

Wordwise Hymns (for another article on the hymn see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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