Posted by: rcottrill | December 26, 2016

O Thou Before the World Began

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Carey’s Surrey, by Henry Carey (b. circa _____, 1687; d. Oct. 4, 1743)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: This hymn of Wesley’s originally had the first line, “O Thou eternal Victim, slain” (and that was used as the title). The hymn can be sung to the more familiar tune St. Catherine, by Henri Hemy, also used with Faith of Our Fathers.

F retting and worrying about the future is seldom helpful. It simply adds to the burden of today what might happen tomorrow. And many things we worry about never happen anyway!

That being said, there is a place for thoughtful preparation for future events. During the chilly days of fall, we put snow tires on the car because we can be pretty sure, in our temperate climate, that snow is coming. We put money in the bank, or stock the freezer with food, for a similar reason: we’re preparing ahead of time for what we have reason to expect.

The Lord Jesus talked about that. He said, “Which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it–lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish?’” (Lk. 14:28-30).

In His parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13), the Lord illustrates something similar. In weddings of that day, at evening, the bridegroom would bring the bride from her parents home to his own home, where there would be a time of feasting. The ten young women in the story were to be the official welcoming party, going out to join the procession.

But for some reason, the procession was delayed (vs. 5). Five of the young women brought extra oil for their lamps, and took the delay in stride. But five were foolish, and when the wedding party approached, their lamps were flickering out. While they went to buy more oil for themselves, they missed the celebration (vs. 10).

Over and over the Bible exhorts us not to worry and be anxious.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34).

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

But the Bible does encourage wisdom with regard to looking ahead, and being ready for the future, as much as that is humanly possible. Would it surprise you to know that God has done the same thing?

Of course, in His case, we are dealing with omniscience, the ability to see the future with perfect clarity. He says, “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isa. 46:9-10). “Known to God from eternity are all His works” (Acts 15:18).

Perhaps the most astonishing application of God thinking ahead and planning for the future is the relation of creation to redemption. That is, because Almighty God could foresee the fall of man, and the problem of human sin, He also knew, if we were to be rescued, it would take the cruel death of His beloved Son to do it. He knew that before He created us, but He did it anyway.

God prepared ahead of time for the sacrifice of His Son. Christ is described in Revelation as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). And we are redeemed through faith in “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (I Pet. 1:19-20).

Now having been crucified, buried, and having risen (I Cor. 15:3-4), and ascended, in heaven (Rom. 8:34), our living Saviour “is also able to save to the uttermost [completely and forever] those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). That was the theme of one of the lesser known hymns of Charles Wesley. He wrote:

CH-1) O Thou, before the world began,
Ordained a sacrifice for man,
And by th’eternal Spirit made
An offering for the sinner’s stead;
Our everlasting Priest art Thou,
Pleading Thy death for sinners now.

CH-2) Thy offering still continues new
Before the righteous Father’s view;
Thyself the Lamb for ever slain,
Thy priesthood doth unchanged remain;
Thy years, O God, can never fail,
Nor Thy blest work within the veil.

Behind that preparation for our salvation is the love of God, not only for His eternal Son, but for us fallen sinners. As the Lord Jesus said to His heavenly Father, “You have…loved them as You have loved Me” (Jn. 17:23; cf. Rom. 5:8). In the blazing light of that glorious truth we can only wonder and worship.

Questions:
1) What does it tell us about God that He knew His beloved Son would have to die, if we were to be rescued from sin’s condemnation, but created us anyway?

2) What is your favourite hymn about the cross?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 23, 2016

O How Happy Are They

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Charles Wesley (b. Dec. 18, 1707; d. Mar. 29, 1788)
Music: Miletes, by William Henry Monk (b. Mar. 16, 1823; d. Mar. 1, 1889)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: A study of the growth and development of English hymnody yields many gems that have been long forgotten. But it also uncovers some oddities that are best left in the gathering dust where they lie. Here is an example by Charles Wesley.

Ah! lovely appearance of death,
No sight upon earth is so fair;
Not all the gay pageants that breathe,
Can with a dead body compare.

How blest is our brother, bereft
Of all that could burden his mind?
How easy the soul, that hath left
This wearisome body behind!

The present song does not descend nearly to that level, but it is considered far enough down the scale that some have questioned that Wesley is the author. However, there is no real indication that it came from any other.

Author Mark Twain is reputed to have said, “I once sent a dozen of my friends a telegram saying, ‘Flee at once. All is discovered.’ They all left town immediately.” Since a version of this story is also attributed to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it may not have actually happened. But it suggests that even the most upright in society may have skeletons in their closets.

Guilt is a corrosive and painful emotion. Fueled by memory, and fanned by flames of regret and the fear of discovery, it can crush the individual who struggles with it. That is the theme of Crime and Punishment, a classic 1866 novel by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He tells of the growing mental anguish of Rodion Raskolnikov, after he murders a disreputable pawnbroker. In the days following the violent act Raskolnikov falls into a feverish state, and worries obsessively about what he has done. He desperately tries to clean his clothing of any blood and, by his frayed nerves, and strange actions, actually begins to draw attention to himself as a possible suspect.

Poet William Wordsworth wrote, “From the body of one guilty deed a thousand ghostly fears and haunting thoughts proceed.” And Shakespeare pointedly says, “The mind of guilt is full of scorpions.”

Long before, King David wrote of the heavy hand of God weighing upon him, because of his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, and his complicity in the death of her husband, one of his most honoured soldiers.

“When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [a Hebrew word possibly meaning Think of that!]” (Ps. 32:3-4).

David’s experience illustrates a couple of things. First, he was not a vile reprobate; he was a man of faith that the Lord had described as “a man after His own heart” (I Sam. 13:14). The potential to fall into sin is in all of us. When a believer yields to temptation and spiritually backslides, he or she can sin terribly. Godly English reformer John Bradford (1510-1555) witnessed prisoners being led off to be executed, and to him is attributed the phrase, “But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford.”

Second, we learn from David’s experience there is forgiveness with God, when the sinner confesses. David also wrote:

“I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah [Think of that!] (Ps. 32:5).

Yes, there’s forgiveness for the child of God who sincerely confesses (I Jn. 1:9), but that does not necessarily cancel all the temporal consequences of sin. In David’s case, a child born of that illicit relationship died, and David experienced conflict in his family for the rest of his life (II Sam. 12:9-14). Yet, it’s true that his relationship with God was restored. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered [by the gracious hand of God]” (Ps. 32:1).

Which brings us to the hymn by Charles Wesley. He wrote some marvelous hymns, but in the more than 6,500 songs that flowed from his pen, this one is not highly ranked. In one stanza his joy at God’s forgiveness is likened to Elijah soaring skyward with a chariot of fire!

I rode on the sky,
Freely justified I!
Nor envied Elijah his seat;
My soul mounted higher,
In a chariot of fire,
And the moon it was under my feet.

What? How’s that again? (Those lines have usually been omitted from later publications of the hymn.) Nonetheless, there’s simple joy in God’s forgiveness expressed in the song. No heavy hand of God here.

CH-1) O how happy are they
Who the Saviour obey,
And have laid up their treasure above!
Tongue cannot express
The sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love.

CH-7) O the rapturous height
Of the holy delight,
Which I felt in the life giving blood!
Of my Saviour possessed
I was perfectly blessed,
As if filled with the fullness of God.

Questions:
1) What has been your own experience of guilt feelings over something you have done?

2) What has been your experience of the joy of God’s forgiveness?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Charles Wesley)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 21, 2016

No Tears in Heaven

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Robert Sterling Arnold (b. Jan. 26, 1905; d. Feb. 8, 2003)
Music: Robert Sterling Arnold

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Mr. Arnold was the cousin of country-western legend Eddie Arnold. Robert Arnold sang in quartets, taught piano and voice, and wrote songs, sometimes working with Albert Brumley (who gave us I’ll Fly Away). Arnold’s best known selection, No Tears in Heaven, has been recorded by many country-western artists.

We have a word for it: banned. For something to be officially or legally banned means it is prohibited or excluded in some way.

When a ban is announced, it is bound to raise the ire of some. They see it as an assault on their personal rights. The implication seems to be that we should have the right to do or say whatever we please, anywhere, any time. But of course this is nonsense. Swinging your arms may be fine when you’re exercising at home, but not when you’re in a crowded elevator.

What may be acceptable for an individual in isolation and in privacy isn’t always fitting when we are in a group. Living in a community places certain restrictions on us, usually in consideration of the welfare of others. Because of the health hazards of smoking, it has been banned from public places. And there are signs in hospitals and elsewhere warning they have “a zero tolerance for violence or abusive language.”

The early Christians faced wave after wave of deadly persecution. Their church services were banned, and their preaching. When brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin and told not to preach the gospel of salvation in Christ, Peter and the others said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And, having been beaten (vs. 40), “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (vs. 41).

Later, Christians were threatened with death from the Roman government. But there was a way individuals could avoid imprisonment and possible death. If he or she offered a sacrifice to a false god–specifically to Caesar himself–they were given an official certificate indicating they were not followers of Christ. But multitudes refused the option, and were cruelly tortured and slain.

Nor is this kind of persecution unknown today. The Bible is a totally and absolutely banned book in North Korea. Citizens are to worship leader Kim Jong-un, rather than God. Anyone caught with a Bible in his possession can be imprisoned, tortured, and killed. And this cruel punishment can extend to three generations of the convicted person’s family.

But what if we examine another area where certain things are banned: heaven. Usually, when we think of heaven, what comes to mind is what is there. The throne of God is there; Christ, the Lamb of God, is there; the holy angels are there; and the glorified saints are there.

But what will definitely be excluded? The “beast” (the Antichrist of prophecy) and his false prophet will not be there (Rev. 19:20). Nor will the devil, and his demon army (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20: 10). And anyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life, anyone who has not accepted God’s way of salvation, will not be admitted (Rev. 20:15; 21:7). Then, there is this wonderful promise:

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Death and sorrow will be banned, and “crying” too. That word translates a Greek term with a wider application. It applies not only to shedding tears, but to wails of distress and woe, and cries for vengeance. None of that will be there.

Which brings us to the song by Robert Arnold.

And first, let’s address what’s perhaps a minor quibble, though the song asserts it more than two dozen times. The Bible never says there will be no tears in heaven. It says the Lord will wipe away the tears that are shed there (Rev. 7:17; 21:4). Perhaps these will be tears of sorrow for those who are not with us, or tears of regret that we could have loved God more deeply, or served Him more faithfully. But there will indeed be tears, at least in the beginning.

Even so, the basic sentiment of the song is valid. Heaven will be a place of abundant joy, not of sorrow and sadness.

1) No tears in heaven, no sorrows given,
All will be glory in that land;
There’ll be no sadness, all will be gladness,
When we shall join that happy band.

No tears in heaven fair,
No tears, no tears up there;
Sorrow and pain will all have flown;
No tears in heaven fair,
No tears, no tears up there,
No tears in heaven will be known.

Questions:
1) What things give you sorrow here for which God may have to wipe away tears in heaven?

2) What hymns do you know that speak of heaven as a place of joy?


Links:

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 21, 2016

No Tears in Heaven

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Robert Sterling Arnold (b. Jan. 26, 1905; d. Feb. 8, 2003)
Music: Robert Sterling Arnold

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Arnold was the cousin of country-western legend Eddie Arnold. Robert Arnold sang in quartets, taught piano and voice, and wrote songs, sometimes working with Albert Brumley (who gave us I’ll Fly Away). Arnold’s best known selection, No Tears in Heaven, has been recorded by many country-western artists.

We have a word for it: banned. For something to be officially or legally banned means it is prohibited or excluded in some way.

When a ban is announced, it is bound to raise the ire of some. They see it as an assault on their personal rights. The implication seems to be that we should have the right to do or say whatever we please, anywhere, any time. But of course this is nonsense. Swinging your arms may be fine when you’re exercising at home, but not when you’re in a crowded elevator.

What may be acceptable for an individual in isolation and in privacy isn’t always fitting when we are in a group. Living in a community places certain restrictions on us, often in consideration of the welfare of others. Because of the health hazards of smoking, it has been banned from public places. And there are signs in hospitals and elsewhere warning they have “a zero tolerance for violence or abusive language.”

The early Christians faced wave after wave of deadly persecution. They were banned from meeting together, or preaching God’s Word. When brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin and told not to preach the gospel of salvation in Christ, Peter and the others said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And, having been beaten (vs. 40), “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (vs. 41).

Later, Christians were threatened with death from the Roman government. But there was a way individuals could avoid imprisonment and possible death. If he or she offered a sacrifice to a false god, specifically Caesar himself, they were given an official certificate indicating they were not followers of Christ. But multitudes refused the option, and were cruelly tortured and slain.

Nor is this kind of persecution unknown today. In North Korea, citizens are to worship leader Kim Jong-un, rather than God. The Bible is a totally and absolutely banned book. Anyone caught with a Bible in his possession can be imprisoned, tortured, and killed. And this cruel punishment can be applied to three generations of the convicted person’s family.

But what if we examine another area where certain things are banned. Heaven. Usually, when we think of heaven, what comes to mind is what is there. The throne of God is there; Christ, the Lamb of God, is there; the holy angels are there; and the glorified saints are there.

But what will definitely be excluded? The “beast” (the Antichrist of prophecy) and his false prophet will not be there (Rev. 19:20). Nor will the devil, and his demon army (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20: 10). And anyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life, anyone who has not accepted God’s way of salvation, will not be admitted (Rev. 20:15; 21:7). Then, there is this wonderful promise:

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Death and sorrow will be banned, and “crying” too. That word translates a Greek term with a wider application. It applies not only to weeping, but to wails of distress and woe, and cries for vengeance. None of that will be there.

Which brings us to a song by Robert Arnold. And to address what’s perhaps a minor quibble, though the song asserts it more than two dozen times, the Bible never says there will be no tears in heaven. It says the Lord will wipe away the tears that are shed there (Rev. 7:17; 21:4). Perhaps these will be tears of sorrow for those who are not with us, or tears of regret that we could have loved God more deeply, or served Him more faithfully. But there will indeed be tears, at least in the beginning.

Even so, the basic sentiment of the song is valid. Heaven will be a place of abundant joy, not of sorrow and sadness.

1) No tears in heaven, no sorrows given,
All will be glory in that land;
There’ll be no sadness, all will be gladness,
When we shall join that happy band.

No tears in heaven fair,
No tears, no tears up there;
Sorrow and pain will all have flown;
No tears in heaven fair,
No tears, no tears up there,
No tears in heaven will be known.

Questions:
1) What things give you sorrow here for which God may have to wipe away tears in heaven?

2) What hymns do you know that speak of heaven as a place of joy?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 21, 2016

No Tears in Heaven

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Robert Sterling Arnold (b. Jan. 26, 1905; d. Feb. 8, 2003)
Music: Robert Sterling Arnold

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Arnold was the cousin of country-western legend Eddie Arnold. Robert Arnold sang in quartets, taught piano and voice, and wrote songs, sometimes working with Albert Brumley (who gave us I’ll Fly Away). Arnold’s best known selection, No Tears in Heaven, has been recorded by many country-western artists.

We have a word for it: banned. For something to be officially or legally banned means it’s prohibited or excluded in some way.

When a ban is announced, it is bound to raise the ire of some. They see it as an assault on their personal rights. The implication seems to be that we should have the right to do or say whatever we please, anywhere, any time. But of course this is nonsense. Swinging your arms may be fine when you’re exercising at home, but not when you’re in a crowded elevator.

What may be acceptable for an individual in isolation and in privacy isn’t always fitting when we are in a group. Living in a community places certain restrictions on us, usually in consideration of the welfare of others. Because of the health hazards of smoking, it has been banned from public places. And there are signs in hospitals and elsewhere warning they have “a zero tolerance for violence or abusive language.”

The early Christians faced wave after wave of deadly persecution, and were often banned from assembling or preaching the gospel. When brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin and told not to preach about salvation in Christ, Peter and the others said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). And, having been beaten (vs. 40), “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (vs. 41).

Later, Christians were threatened with death from the Roman government. But there was a way individuals could avoid imprisonment and possible death. If he or she offered a sacrifice to an idol–or to Caesar himself–they were given an official certificate indicating they were not followers of Christ. But multitudes refused the option, and were cruelly tortured and slain.

Nor is this kind of persecution unknown today. The Bible is a totally and absolutely banned book in North Korea. Citizens are to worship leader Kim Jong-un, rather than God. Anyone caught with a Bible in his possession can be imprisoned, tortured, and killed. And this cruel punishment can be applied to three generations of the convicted person’s family.

But what if we examine another area where certain things are banned. Heaven. Usually, when we think of heaven, what comes to mind is what is there. The throne of God is there; Christ, the Lamb of God, is there; the holy angels are there; and the glorified saints are there.

But what will definitely be excluded? The “beast” (the Antichrist of prophecy) and his false prophet will not be there (Rev. 19:20). Nor will the devil, and his demon army (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20: 10). And anyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life, anyone who has not accepted God’s way of salvation, will not be admitted (Rev. 20:15; 21:7). Then, there is this wonderful promise:

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Death and sorrow will be banned, and “crying” too. That word translates a Greek term with a wider application. It applies not only to weeping, but to wails of distress and woe, and cries for vengeance. None of that will be there.

Which brings us to a song by Robert Arnold. And first, to address what’s perhaps a minor quibble, though the song asserts it more than two dozen times, the Bible never says there will be no tears in heaven. It says the Lord will wipe away the tears that are shed there (Rev. 7:17; 21:4). Perhaps these will be tears of sorrow for those who are not with us, or tears of regret that we could have loved God more deeply, or served Him more faithfully. But there will indeed be tears, at least in the beginning.

Even so, the basic sentiment of the song is valid. Heaven will be a place of abundant joy, not of sorrow and sadness.

1) No tears in heaven, no sorrows given,
All will be glory in that land;
There’ll be no sadness, all will be gladness,
When we shall join that happy band.

No tears in heaven fair,
No tears, no tears up there;
Sorrow and pain will all have flown;
No tears in heaven fair,
No tears, no tears up there,
No tears in heaven will be known.

Questions:
1) What things give you sorrow here for which God may have to wipe away tears in heaven?

2) What hymns do you know that speak of heaven as a place of joy?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 19, 2016

Not Dreaming

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Rodney Simon (“Gypsy”) Smith (b. Mar. 31, 1860; d. Aug. 4, 1947)
Music: Ensign Edwin Young (b. Jan. 3, 1895; d. July 22, 1980)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Gypsy Smith)
Hymary.org

Note: Rodney Smith was born in a gypsy tent in Epping Forest, near London. He had no formal education, and could neither read nor write in his early years. His family made a living by selling baskets, tinware and clothes pegs. After his mother died, when Rodney was a boy, his father trusted Christ as Saviour, as did Rodney himself in his early teens.

As an adult, Smith became an ardent evangelist, preaching to large crowds in England, where he soon became known as Gypsy Smith. For nearly seventy years, he was a world traveler, circling the globe twice, preaching the gospel in Britain, France, Australia, South Africa and elsewhere. He made thirty trips to America.

Dreams are fascinating things. The dictionary defines them as: images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep. They have been studied down through recorded history, but there are still unsolved mysteries as to why we dream, or what they might mean.

Apparently, though they are often forgotten after we wake, we dream three to five times a night. Our dreams may last only a few seconds, or take as long as twenty or thirty minutes. They can be pleasant and exciting, or sometimes frustrating and even frightening. With the one we may be sorry to awaken, with the other we are very glad to return to real life!

The line between wakeful reality and sleeping imagery can become somewhat blurred. We can have dreams that seem very real at the time, not like a dream at all. That uncertainty was experienced by a man the Apostle Paul describes–and many Bible scholars believe he may actually be speaking of his own experience. He says:

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a one was caught up to the third heaven [Paradise]” (II Cor. 12:2).

Was he physically transported to heaven for a time, or was it a dream? He wasn’t sure. He takes the experience as being from the Lord, but the nature of it is uncertain.

In Bible times, God used dreams and visions to convey important information, or foreshadow coming events. He communicated with Joseph, and Daniel this way, also giving them the ability to interpret the dreams of others (Gen. 40:8, 41; 41:13; Dan. 2:1, 19).

Opinions differ as to whether this sort of gift is given today. But since the Bible was completed, there are no more inspired and infallible revelations coming from the Lord. There is nothing to be added to the Bible. We have the truth we need. We simply have to believe, obey, and share the truth we have.

One day, Gypsy Smith was seated in a train, reading his Bible, on the way to Atlanta, when the man seated across from him asked, “Say, what’s that you’re reading?” When Gypsy Smith told him, the made sneered, “The Bible, hey. Do you believe it–all those stories about the apple, and the flood, and hell and sin, and ‘bout getting to heaven?”

When the evangelist said he did, the man retorted, “You’re worse off than I thought you were! Why, you’re dreaming!” But Gypsy Smith replied:

“Sir, this is the Book that told me God loves me. This is the Book that spoke peace and assurance to a poor barefoot and unlearned boy in a gypsy camp, and has sent him around the world telling the rich and poor, the learned and the unlearned that, in this world wrapped in sin and despair, there is hope eternal in Jesus Christ. Sir, if I’m dreaming, let me dream on!”

Recalling the incident a few days later, Smith wrote the gospel song, Not Dreaming. Calling the Lord our “Lover” as he does, may not appeal to some, thinking of it in exclusively human (and perhaps sexual) terms. However, Charles Wesley makes use of it in one of our greatest hymns, Jesus, Lover of My Soul. It is also found, as “O Lord, Thou lover of souls,” in the apocryphal book, Wisdom of Solomon 11:26. The main point of the song is that God’s salvation, and our eternal relationship with Him, through what Christ has done for us, is no fantasy or dream. We have a real and eternal relationship with the Lord.

1) The world says I’m dreaming, but I know ‘tis Jesus
Who saves me from bondage and sin’s guilty stain;
He is my Lover, my Saviour, my Master,
‘Tis he who has freed me from guilt and its pain.

Let me dream on, if I am dreaming;
Let me dream on, my sins are gone;
Night turns to dawn, love’s light is beaming,
So if I’m dreaming, let me dream on.

2) My home in the Glory is fairer than morning,
And Jesus my Saviour will welcome me there;
No, I’m not dreaming! I’m awake, it is dawning,
His smile and His love I’ll eternally share.

Questions:
1) What proofs do you have of the reality of your salvation in Christ?

2) How would you answer the man Gypsy Smith met on the train?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Gypsy Smith)
Hymary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 16, 2016

Behold, the Glories of the Lamb

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Isaac Watts (b. July 17, 1674; d. Nov. 25, 1748)
Music: Martyrdom, by Hugh Wilson (b. _____, 1766; d. Aug. 14, 1824)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Watts was a noted scholar, with a knowledge of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He served as a pastor, and wrote theological books in the Puritan mold. But it is as a hymn writer he is best known today. Songs such as O God, Our help in Ages Past; Joy to the World; Am I a Soldier of the Cross; Alas, and Did My Saviour Bleed, and the superb When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, are still in use today, more than 250 years after his death.

Did you ever have a task or project that seemed so huge and complex you were discouraged from tackling it? Maybe it sat there for weeks, or even months, and only seemed to grow bigger and more daunting day by day.

It’s clear that others have had the same problem, because there are many proverbs and observations about it. Mark Twain wrote, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” And evangelist Vance Havner said, “It’s not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.” Another evangelist, Dawson Trotman, gave us, “The greatest amount of wasted time is the time spent not getting started.”

Especially practical are the simple words of American president Calvin Coolidge: “We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.” To begin somewhere, and do something, to get started, to launch out, to move forward, is the key to useful and enduring accomplishment in many fields of endeavour.

There’s a sense in which this can be applied to the hymns of the Christian church. In the first century, believers used the hymn book of Israel, the book of Psalms. But soon new songs were added. There are passages in the New Testament in a format suggesting they were written to be sung (e.g. I Tim. 3:16).

As to the beginning of hymns written in the English language, there are several possible candidates for that. Caedmon’s Hymn, from around AD 660, is believed to be the first, but it was written in Old English, which looks like a foreign language now. Thomas Ken published three beautiful hymns in 1674, but with the instruction that they were to be used only in private devotions, not in the public services of the church.

The beginning of a great flood of sacred songs came around 1700 with the work of Isaac Watts. In his day, the English church was singing only the Psalms. There was an idea, promoted by John Calvin and others, that to write new songs was like trying to add to the Bible, which was forbidden (Rev. 22:18). But young Isaac Watts said that by singing only Old Testament texts, Christians were not being instructed in New Testament truth.

A teen-aged Watts argued the point with his father, a deacon in their church, that new songs were needed. Finally, his father told him that, if he thought he could produce something suitable, to go ahead and try. Watts had a sound grounding in Bible knowledge and a gift for writing poetry and, with his father’s encouragement, he set to work.

The next Sunday morning, the congregation had a new hymn to sing, prophetic of many more to come.

CH-1) Behold the glories of the Lamb
Amidst His Father’s throne.
Prepare new honours for His Name,
And songs before unknown.

The sacrifice of a sheep or other animal in Old Testament times was meant to picture the innocent dying in place of the guilty sinner. These offerings pointed forward to the great fulfilment, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary to pay our debt of sin. He was introduced by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). And “worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” (Rev. 5:12) will be our song in heaven. Christ is given the title “the Lamb” some twenty-seven times in the book of Revelation.

Watts’s hymn continues, referencing Revelation 5:9-10, 12-13:

CH-6) Now to the Lamb that once was slain
Be endless blessings paid;
Salvation, glory, joy remain
Forever on Thy head.

CH-7) Thou hast redeemed our souls with blood,
Hast set the prisoner free;
Hast made us kings and priests to God,
And we shall reign with Thee.

“New honours for His name.” That was the beginning. Isaac Watts got us started, writing about six hundred hymns himself. He is rightly called the Father of English Hymnody, but a flood of thousands of songs has followed, flowing from the pens of many godly men and women over the years. It’s not claimed that these are divinely inspired and infallible truth as the Bible is. But the best of them make Bible truths memorable and serve the church well.

Questions:
1) Of all the many names and titles for the Lord Jesus Christ, why do you think “the Lamb” is used so much in the book of Revelation?

2) What is your favourite hymn by Isaac Watts?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 14, 2016

I Will Sing You a Song

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Ellen Maria Huntington Gates (b. Aug. 12, 1835; d. Oct. 22, 1920)
Music: Philip Phillips (b. Aug. 13, 1834; d. June 25, 1895)

Links:

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: The hymn has also been called Home of the Soul, or The Home of the Soul.

It may be difficult to imagine, but there have been churches that have no sacred music in their meetings. No songs from a soloist or choir, no singing by the congregation. Nothing. Silence.

But music is one of the great gifts of God to the human family. There was singing in the Old Testament worship of Israel (I Chron. 13:8). There will be singing in the heavenly kingdom (Rev. 15:3), and several texts indicate that the Lord Himself sings (e.g. Zeph. 3:17). In the church, we are to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” both to praise the Lord, and to instruct one another (Col. 3:16). But sometimes a church has refused.

The Second Baptist Church of Newport, Rhode Island, was formed in 1656, and they rejected singing as part of their religious services, omitting it for over one hundred years. In 1765, singing was introduced–but only after heated discussions at many business meetings. Permission was given to sing one hymn during a service. Those who could not endure the sound were allowed to remain out in the cold until it was concluded!

This is silliness! And it isn’t biblical. The Lord’s people should sing. “Sing to God, sing praises to His name” (Ps. 68:4). And one of the places the hymns of the church have been used effectively is at memorial services. There, people of faith can comfort one another, and express their hope for their eternal future, in song. Hymns such as: Safe in the Arms of Jesus; Abide with Me; What a Friend We Have in Jesus; Come, Ye Disconsolate, and many more, bring encouragement to us. (For a list of other appropriate hymns, see Funeral Hymns.)

One day in 1865, gospel musician Philip Phillips was reading in John Bunyan’s classic book Pilgrim’s Progress about Christian’s entry into heaven. Bunyan wrote:

“Now I saw in my dream that these two men [Christian and Hopeful] went in at the gate; and lo, as they entered, they were transfigured; and they had raiment put on them that shone like gold. There were also those that met them with harps and crowns and gave them to them; the harps to praise withal, and the crowns in token of honour. Then I heard in my dream that…it was said to them: ‘Enter ye into the joy of your Lord!’…Now, just as the gates were opened to let in the men, I looked in after them, and behold, the City shone like the sun; the streets also were paved with gold; and in them walked many men, with crowns on their heads and palms in their hands, and golden harps to sing praises….I wished myself among them.”

Touched by these words, Phillips sent a note to poet and hymn writer Ellen Gates, asking if she could write a hymn based on that scene. When she did so, and sent him the verses, he sat down at the organ in his home and wrote a melody to suit them. For many years, it was commonly used at funeral services. Phillips adds, “It was sung at the funeral of my own dear boy, who had sat on my knee when I wrote the tune.” And Ira Sankey sang it, in 1895 at Phillips’s own funeral.

CH-1) I will sing you a song of that beautiful land,
The far away home of the soul,
Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,
While the years of eternity roll.

CH-2) Oh, that home of the soul! In my visions and dreams
Its bright, jasper walls I can see;
Till I fancy but thinly the veil intervenes
Between the fair city and me.

CH-3) That unchangeable home is for you and for me,
Where Jesus of Nazareth stands;
The King of all kingdoms forever is He,
And He holdeth our crowns in His hands.

CH-4) Oh, how sweet it will be in that beautiful land,
So free from all sorrow and pain,
With songs on our lips and our harps in our hands,
To meet one another again.

Questions:
1) Other than meeting and worshiping Christ, what are you most looking forward to in heaven?

2) What hymns, used at funerals you have attended, have been most of a blessing to you? (For your interest, here is a list of possible Funeral Hymns for such services.)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 12, 2016

I Left the God of Truth and Light

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: James Montgomery (b. Nov. 4, 1771; d. Apr. 30, 1854)
Music: Waltham (or Doane), by John Baptiste Calkin (b. Mar. 16, 1827; d. May 15, 1905)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (James Montgomery born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (James Montgomery)
Hymnary.org

Note: To my knowledge this hymn poem has never been set to music and used as a congregational hymn. Its dramatic change from confession to consolation makes it difficult to find a hymn tune to suit both. I was drawn to Waltham because I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day seems to make that kind of transition–from “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,” to the joy of, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.’”

It’s a way of apologizing. When we accidentally bump into someone exiting a building as we’re entering, we may say, “Excuse me.” We are asking them to overlook an unintended blunder. But there’s another use of the word that’s not simply a matter of common courtesy.

At a much more serious level, when wrongdoers make excuses for themselves, they’re contriving reasons for their conduct that are designed to evade responsibility for their actions. Often this is done by attempting to shift the blame to someone else.

In the 2016 election campaign in the United States, a candidate was revealed on tape boasting in grossly vulgar terms about his abusive and predatory conduct toward women. When confronted, his excuse was, “That’s just locker room talk.” In other words, all the guys talk like that–which, of course, is not true.

Evangelist Billy Sunday famously said, “An excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” The above politician put himself forward as a strong leader. But shouldn’t leaders lead? Shouldn’t they set the example, not willingly descend to copying the conduct of the worst among us.

In the parable of the Great Supper (Lk. 14:15-24), the Lord tells of a man who arranged a splendid banquet, and invited many to come. They readily agreed. But, when a servant came to notify the invited guests that the feast was ready, “They all with one accord began to make excuses” as to why they couldn’t make it (vs. 18).

One said, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it.” (So, he bought the property without going to see it first?) Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them.” (Again, purchased without testing them first?) Yet another said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” (Then why not ask if she could come too?) Weak excuses all.

The banquet pictures God’s kingdom, which one of the Lord’s hearers thought was a wonderful thing to be part of (vs. 15). But many who think heaven is a great idea in theory, regularly put possessions, personal relationships, and the affairs of this life, ahead of kingdom values. Captivated by the world’s ways, they ignore or deny God’s truth.

One man who did that, surprisingly, is hymn writer James Montgomery (1771-1854), the man who gave us Angels from the Realms of Glory, one of our finest Christmas carols. He wrote many other good hymns too. But at some point in his life there was a period of spiritual backsliding.

A newspaper editor, Montgomery wrote a series of articles, under the pen name Gabriel Silvertongue. These contained irreverent and mocking references to Bible. The articles were also published in book form. But Montgomery, later convicted of his sinful rebellion, destroyed every copy of the book he could find, and expressed his grieving repentance in a hymn poem.

There are no lame excuses here, no blaming someone else. This is strong medicine. In its use of powerful imagery it reminds me of Francis Thompson’s 1893 poem The Hound of Heaven, in which he speaks of running away from God. Montgomery’s words also echo those of David in their directness.

“When I kept silent [about my sin], my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [Think of that!] I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah [Think of that!] (Ps. 32:3-5).

1) I left the God of truth and light,
I left the God who gave me breath,
To wander in the wilds of night,
And perish in the snares of death.

2) Sweet was His service, and His yoke
Was light and easy to be borne;
Through all His bands of love I broke,
I cast away His gifts with scorn.

3) I danced in folly’s giddy maze,
And drank the sea, and chased the wind;
But falsehood lurk’d in all her ways,
Her laughter left remorse behind.

4) I dream’d of bliss in pleasure’s bowers,
While pillowing roses stayed my head;
But serpents hiss’d among the flowers;
I woke, and thorns were all my bed.

Then comes James Montgomery’s appeal to a gracious and forgiving God. Like the prodigal son (Lk. 15:11-24), he turns, broken, from the world’s allures, and finds forgiveness and restoration in a loving Father’s arms.

7) Heart-broken, friendless, poor, cast down,
Where shall the chief of sinners fly,
Almighty Vengeance! from Thy frown–
Eternal Justice! from Thine eye?

8) Lo, through the gloom of guilty fears,
My faith discerns a dawn of grace;
The Sun of Righteousness appears
In Jesus’ reconciling face.

9) My suffering, slain, and risen Lord,
In sore distress I turn to Thee,
I claim acceptance on Thy word,
My God! my God! forsake not me.

10) Prostrate before the mercy seat,
I dare not, if I would, despair;
None ever perish’d at Thy feet,
And I will lie forever there.

Questions:
1) What are some things that lead to backsliding? What are some things that lead to repentance and restoration?

2) Can you think of any other hymn that speaks of guilt and forgiveness in a powerful way?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (James Montgomery born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (James Montgomery)
Hymnary.org

Posted by: rcottrill | December 9, 2016

I Have a Shepherd

Graphic Bob New Glasses 2015HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.

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: Leonard W. Weaver (data unknwon)
Music: Mary E. Upham Currier (b. _____, 1858; d. Nov. 8, 1909)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Leonard Weaver was an English evangelist at the turn of the twentieth century. We know little more about him, except that he lived for a time in Grimsby, Ontario, which is a town in Canada, only a few miles from where I was born. Mrs. Currier occasionally used the name M. E. Upham (her maiden name).

Sometimes this hymn is entitled The Lord Is My Shepherd, but it seems helpful to distinguish from others with the same title. In addition to I Have a Shepherd, I’ve seen it printed under the title Following Jesus (words taken from the refrain). The wording below is slightly different in a couple of places to what is found in the Cyber Hymnal. The tune is catchy and easy to sing.

We all have our traditions–practices that have been handed down to us from years gone by. Nations do, and communities do, as well as families and individuals. Often they relate to what we do on special days during the year.

For many, Thanksgiving has its turkey dinner, Christmas has its decorated tree, Valentine’s Day has its hearts and chocolates, on St. Patrick’s Day we may wear something green, and so on. Such traditions are familiar ground we enjoy visiting over and over. We look forward to such things, and would miss them if they were dropped.

Some traditions seem a little strange outside the circle of those who’ve adopted them. I know a family that, after opening their presents on Christmas morning, passes around oranges and eats them. Then, they begin throwing the peels at one another, until all are exhausted in laughter! It must be great fun, but we’ve never done that at our house.

There’s some familiar ground in the Bible too. Even many who rarely go to church can repeat some form of the Golden Rule, “Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Lk. 6:31), and they likely know the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13). In the Old Testament, there’s surely no more beloved passage than the Shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that hymn writers have written dozens of songs, either quoting from that particular psalm, or paraphrasing it, or at least finding inspiration in it. For instance, there’s the almost word for word rendering of the Scottish Psalter of 1650, and Joseph Gilmore’s hymn He Leadeth Me, and Anna Waring’s In Heavenly Love Abiding.

David, who wrote the psalm, became the king of Israel. But in his early years he tended his family’s flock of sheep (I Sam. 16:10-13). We can picture him guarding them through the long night hours, and meditating on the parallels between his care of the animals and how God lovingly cares for His own children.

Similar poetic imagery is used many times in Scripture. “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young” (Isa. 40:11; cf. Jn. 10:11, 14; Heb 13:20-21; I Pet. 5:1-4).

Believer’s after the cross, as before, can be reassured by the shepherd illustration. Because the Lord is my shepherd “I shall not want [meaning be in want of anything needful]” (vs. 1). Literal sheep need green pastures to feed in, and still waters to drink (vs. 2). In human terms, the Lord “restores my soul [gives spiritual refreshment and nourishment],” and “leads me in the paths of righteousness” (vs. 3).

The psalmist speaks of times of severe trial and danger as “the valley of the shadow of death” (vs. 4). There he finds comfort in the shepherd’s rod and staff–a club to drive off predators, and a shepherd’s crook to rescue straying sheep. Even in the presence of enemies, he feels safe (vs. 5), and looks forward to a safe arrival at his eternal home (vs. 6).

Weaver’s hymn, I Have a Shepherd, paraphrases the text of the psalm, giving it a New Testament application to Christ, and adding a refrain about “following Jesus, ever day by day”–a refrain that’s sometimes published and used by itself.

CH-1) I have a shepherd, one I love so well;
How He has blessed me tongue can never tell;
On the cross He suffered, shed His blood, and died,
That I might ever in His love confide.

Following Jesus ever day by day,
Nothing can harm me when He leads the way;
Darkness or sunshine, whate’er befall,
Jesus the Shepherd is my all in all.

CH-2) Pastures abundant doth His hand provide,
Still waters flowing ever at my side;
Goodness and mercy follow on my track;
With such a shepherd nothing can I lack.

CH-3) When I would wander from the path astray,
Then He doth draw me back into the way;
In the darkest valley I need fear no ill,
For He my shepherd will be with me still.

Questions:
1) How have you experienced the loving care of your heavenly Shepherd in recent days?

2) What is your favourite hymn based on Psalm 23?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

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