Saturday, 27 September 2008

Fave Hymns

First in a series congratulating writers and exploring the theology in their work.

Seems to me that there is something rather special when a poet and a tunester get together under the power of the Holy Spirit. The result is a declaration of deep truth which can continue for a l
ong, long time to assist a congregation or an individual in worshipping God.

Three examples:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteous;

No merit of my own I claim

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
In every high and story gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
Sustain me in the whelming flood;
When all supports are washed away,
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

When he shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in him be found,
Clothed in his righteousness alone,
Redeemed to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,

All other ground is sinking sand.

This is a magnificent piece of work, IMHO.
NB in the second verse, imagery of night and bad weather combine to speak of trials and trouble and that sense of feeling far from God. But actually he's still there, sustaining, being dependable and constantly reliable and unchanging. Just because we may feel a bit isolated doesn't mean that he's gone anywhere at all!
In verse three the shorter version of overwhelming is used in a way that strikes me as unusual but poetically justifiable. Note: his oath – God's word is not to be broken; his covenant – not my idea, but God's gracious legal bond to keep his side of the bargain; and his blood – by which I am purchased. Also note, God the Father has sworn the oath; God the Holy Spirit seals the covenant; God the Son shed his blood. This hymn's Trinitarian!
And in verse four, the mild hint of a lack of eternal security ('oh may I then in him be found') is not the writer's intention. My guess is that he knew he was 'once saved, always saved' or he wouldn't have written the rest of this hymn in this way. On Christ the solid rock I may sometimes stand would have nearer the mark... No, I think he's expressing Biblical Hope rather than worldly, vague, wishful thinking when he asks that.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


This timeless classic expresses the eternal love of God, always looking out for me, always positive about me, never joining in complaining or moaning about me, despite my many weaknesses and sins. He's always loving, always loyal, always forgiving, always present, always faithful.
Pardon, peace, presence - what a trio of qualities, all directed at me! How wonderful How marvellous! (Oh, that's another song)
Not only does God give me the ability to walk in the light while here on the earth, but he also promises so much treasure beyond this life. What depth this song contains!
And then the chorus (refrain) gives opportunity for expression of joy, gratitute, declaring prophetically over myself that God is faithful and whatever I need is provided. Hallelujah!

How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
And make a wretch His treasure!
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon the cross –
My sin upon His shoulder.
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished!

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom!

The first time I heard this being sung two very unusual (for me) things happened; I wept at the power of the truth expressed so vividly; and I genuinely believed I was discovering some forgotten gem of Wesley or Watts or someone similar. Little did I realise it was a man who walked among us.
The tone of wonder and gratitude reminds me of the old hymn which asks 'Was it the nails, Oh Saviour, that held thee to the tree? Nay, 'twas thine everlasting love, Thy love, thy love for me.' (from Give me a sight, O Saviour of thy wondrous love for me). The first time I sang this one the impact on me was significant, too.
The wonderful revelation in my spirit that Jesus could indeed have come down from the cross and destroyed his enemies at any moment and yet didn't do that on account of his love for me and desire to see my soul saved is utterly breathtaking.
The Fathe's love is deep, far-reaching, soul-searching, eternal (saving to the very uttermost), everlasting, full of forgiveness, undeserved and pure beyond imagining.
My sin held him there until it was accomplished - a variant on the translation 'it is finished!'. The work is complete, achieved, the exchange has happened, the covenant is sealed, the legal transaction transacted.
There is little for me to boast about, yet will I boast in the love the Father has for me, shown through the Son, revealed by the Holy Spirit.

No comments: