October 2012


Words by Julia Cady Cory (1882-1963)

(Also included in the Baptist Hymnal, 1975 ed. Convention Press, Nashville – #15, 1991 ed. Convention Press, Nashville – #19 with an update in the first line to read “You” instead of “Thee,” 2008 ed. LifeWay,  Nashville – #9, also with updated language in title; Inspiring Hymns, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1968 – #229, with the attribute to Julia Bulkley Cady; The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, Word, Waco, 1986 – #16; The Celebration Hymnal, Word/Integrity, Waco, 1997 – #68.)

The Hymn

  1. We praise Thee, O God, our Redeemer, Creator,
    In grateful devotion our tribute we bring;
    We lay it before Thee, we kneel and adore Thee,
    We bless Thy holy Name, glad praises we sing.
  2. We worship Thee, God of our fathers, we bless Thee;
    Through life’s storm and tempest our guide have Thou been;
    When perils overtake us, escape Thou wilt make us,
    And with Thy help, O Lord, our battles we win.
  3. With voices united our praises we offer,
    To Thee, great Jehovah, glad anthems we raise.
    Thy strong arm will guide us, our God is beside us,
    To Thee, our great Redeemer, forever be praise.

Cory later added this stanza for use at Christmas:

Thy love Thou didst show us, Thine only Son sending,
Who came as a Babe and Whose bed was a stall,
His blest life He gave us and then died to save us;
We praise Thee, O Lord, for Thy gift to us all.

(Hymn words accessed at Cyber Hymnal)

[One quick note: The wording seems to have gone through a metamorphosis through the years which included the aforementioned updating from “Thee” to “You”. In some versions (as in the Cyber Hymnal choice) line 3 of the second stanza changes “wilt” (the archaic) to “will”. Even others change the phrasing from “Thou wilt” (more poetic) to “You will” (see the later editions of Baptist Hymnal).]

Scriptural Connection

As we look at yet another praise hymn, the Scriptural connection will take even another turn depending on whether the interpreter is focusing on the praise aspect or the reference to God as “Redeemer” or even seeing God as the “Creator” (all of which are valid approaches to this hymn). Possibilities range from Psalm 100 to 1 Chronicles 16 to Isaiah 63.

Pausing for a moment in Isaiah we see the prophet (v. 16) saying, “You, Lord, are our father from ancient times. Your name is our Redeemer.” I might go so far as to suggest that the writer of the prophecy is focusing on God’s name being “Our Redeemer” and that the writer of the hymn is zeroing in on that as she calls us to praise.

It is also a shame that hymn collectors have decided (almost unanimously) to leave out the “Christmas” verse that Cory later added. It is definitely a reference to the Christmas event of the Incarnation, but is general enough to be sung with the rest of the hymn throughout the year.

What does it mean?

This hymn is filled with what some would call archaic language (written in the early 20th Century) where others – myself included – would cherish the cadence and the timbre of the words as not only musical but poetic. The attempts to modernize them by removing the Shakespearean tone does not remove the meaning, but does in some way alter the feeling—the romance—of the words.

The song itself is flat-out praise. It begins by allowing the worshiper to call upon the Lord in a manner that is at once jubilant, worshipful, and respectful. Some of the older ideas that may cause struggle for the modern worshiper have less to do with the ancient language than the cultural references. “Tribute” mentioned in the first stanza for instance, is not a commonly practiced concept in our modern world although a form of tribute is not unknown. In ancient times when a king had conquered a kingdom, it was within his right to demand tribute (or an offering—usually monetary) from the lesser/defeated king. This tribute allowed the world to exist in relative peace, and each kingdom was still governed by her own king. On other occasions a king who understood the power of a neighbor would offer the same kind of tribute to avoid a messy battle which might even lose him his own kingdom.

The tribute that we bring to God is one that is certainly deserved by Him but not demanded. It is freely given that we might come closer to Him. It is a joyful and grateful event when we bring this tribute (one of praise that  takes its form in a variety of ways) to Him.

The hymn goes on to enumerate the reasons that we bring the tribute and do so willingly and gratefully. God provides guidance through rough situations, uniting our spirits, and even (as stanza 4 points out) giving the gift of His Son to the world.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.

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Words by Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

(Also included in Favorite Hymns of Praise,  Tabernacle Publishing Co., Chicago, 1969  – #25, title in this collection includes the full first line of the poem; Inspiring Hymns, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1968 – #3; The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, Word, Waco, 1986 – #62.)

I found it interesting that this old hymn found little interest in most of the newer (post-1970) hymnals. Perhaps it is the ancient language, or maybe the traditional coupling with Haydn’s Creation music which might seem even more high-brow than the ancient language.

The Hymn

  1. The spacious firmament on high,
    With all the blue ethereal sky,
    And spangled heavens, a shining frame
    Their great Original proclaim.
    Th’unwearied sun, from day to day,
    Does his Creator’s powers display,
    And publishes to every land
    The work of an Almighty Hand.
  2. Soon as the evening shades prevail
    The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
    And nightly to the listening earth
    Repeats the story of her birth;
    While all the stars that round her burn
    And all the planets in their turn,
    Confirm the tidings as they roll,
    And spread the truth from pole to pole.
  3. What though in solemn silence all
    Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
    What though no real voice nor sound
    Amid the radiant orbs be found?
    In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
    And utter forth a glorious voice,
    Forever singing as they shine,
    “The hand that made us is divine.” (Hymn words accessed at Cyber Hymnal)

Scriptural Connection

One hymnal offers Psalm 19 as a connection for this hymn because of the psalm’s reference to Creation praising God. This is a good option, but I would rather make a connection with the Creation story found in Genesis 1. This also gives us another connection with the Haydn music that is so readily attached to the poem.

What does it mean?

In this hymn we find one of the reasons that many modern people have difficulty with the old hymns and sacred songs. We just don’t talk that way anymore. Even so, this language (especially coupled with the classical selection from Haydn’s work) brings beauty to the mind.

Even though we would consider the word “firmament” archaic at best and dead at worst, it brings to mind the great expanse of the heavens. That’s the point. Our mind is drawn to the canvas of the skies upon which God has painted the whole of Creation. We hear the words “star spangled” and our mind rushes to the scattering of thousands of stars across an unbroken night sky. Bowing to those who would choose Psalm 19 for the Scripture connection, my own heart thrills at the thought of these mighty heavens filled with unreachable stars praising God (their “Original”).

Granted I would rarely (if ever) use the contraction for “the unwearied” but for meter’s sake, the poet gives us a beautiful contraction which teaches us that the heavens (and creation with them) never tire of broadcasting (“publishing”) the story of the Great Creator—identified here as the “great Original,” the “Creator,” and the “Almighty Hand.”

The second stanza draws our attention again to Genesis 1 as the moon relates to us the “story of her birth.” The “orbs” mentioned in the third stanza would be all the heavenly bodies (stars, planets and natural satellites alike) all lifting up their voices in the song that proclaims that Almighty God is the maker of them all.

This wonderful hymn is filled with ancient language that speaks volumes. It is sad that it took a study such as this one to open my eyes to it. Though it is in the hymnal that I grew up with it was often skipped in favor of other praise hymns. Consequently it slipped out of usage in my own tradition and now is not to be found in the newer hymn collections. The music that is the poem’s traditional partner is taken from a section of Franz Haydn’s opus called Creation. This fact alone suggests that we might want to resurrect the use of this song in our own proclamation of the greatness of our God.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.

When the kiddos and the Blushing Bride have a long weekend, we like to take advantage. This week they all had Friday off (as well as today–Columbus Day holiday), so we made plans to do a quick overnight camping trip. Yes, it is coming on Fall so the weather would be cooler, but the kids have been wanting to go, and we had the time. We found a nice family campground in Champaign, IL, where University of Illinois is located with several free museums housed  there.

We visited the John Phillip Sousa Center of American Music. The band director in charge not only showed us several antique instruments–including one from the American Civil War–but he also showed us some of the parts from “Stars and Stripes” in Sousa’s own hand! Then he made a copy of the 2nd clarinet part and gave it to our oldest daughter who is a beginning clarinet virtuoso. We then visited the Spurlock Museum and visited ancient cultures from Rome and Greece to Cherokee. It was great–Family time, God is good.

We arrived at the campground and the rain let up. So, the owner of the campground upgraded our tent site to an RV site (no charge) so we would not get as wet, and we got the tents up before more rain came. Nice people who take care of you, God is good.

We did get the fire going and had some supper topped off with s’mores and the kids decided to go on into the tents. H and I were enjoying the fire (even in a little drizzle) when another camper strolled by and commented on our pioneer spirit–really camping with the forecast as it was. Turns out he was a recently retired Pentecostal minister who along with his wife are taking about three months to travel ’round the country in an RV to encourage pastors. Blessing of prayer, a time in their motor home for popcorn and hot chocolate for the children (accompanied by games with a real-life, natural grandma)–New friends and blessings, God is good!

On our way home, the real adventure began. The van started running hot–really hot. Flashing lights and warning signs and–do you really think this van will make it the two-hour drive home? We found an open auto shop where they were willing to work us in for an oil change to take care of the problem. Several minutes later the oil change changed into a broken water pump–can’t get to it until Monday. The owner of the shop rented us another van to get home (all weekend, only charged for one day). Understanding businessmen, God is good.

Because today was also a school holiday, we all returned to get the van (and return the rental). After paying the bill and trading vehicles, we headed back home. We made it the one mile to the interstate before the lights started flashing and warnings began to shout–overheat, too hot, too hot, too hot. We called the shop and returned. Water pump turns into either blown head gasket or cracked head–either of which would cost more than the van is worth to repair. And now you’re wondering how to say, “God is good” in the situation as it is now–we need to replace the van (the broken one is still two hours away, but we did make it home–thanks to available and loving church members), but God is good!

He’s good because God is always good. He is especially good now because we can rely more heavily on Him as He continues to lead us, love us, and want us.

So, yes. God is good . . . all the time!

Words by Anonymous (from The Foundling Hospital Collection, 1796) A third stanza was added later written by Edward Osler (1798-1863)

(Also included in Baptist Hymnal 1975 ed. – #11 (includes third verse), 1991 ed. – #36 (includes verse 3), 2008 ed. – #33 (also includes verse 3); The Celebration Hymnal, Word, Waco, 1997 – #82 (includes verse 3); The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, Word, Waco, 1986 – #9 (also includes verse 3).)

The Hymn

  1. Praise the Lord: ye heavens, adore Him;
    Praise Him, angels, in the height;
    Sun and moon, rejoice before Him;
    Praise Him, all ye stars and light.
    Praise the Lord, for He hath spoken;
    Worlds His mighty voice obeyed.
    Laws which never shall be broken
    For their guidance He hath made.(Our 1956 hymnal reverses order – “hath He made.”)
  2. Praise the Lord, for He is glorious;
    Never shall His promise fail.
    God hath made His saints victorious;
    Sin and death shall not prevail.
    Praise the God of our salvation;
    Hosts on high, His power proclaim.
    Heaven and earth and all creation,
    Laud and magnify His Name.
  3. Worship, honor, glory, blessing,
    Lord, we offer unto Thee;
    Young and old, Thy praise expressing,
    In glad homage bend the knee.
    All the saints in heaven adore Thee;
    We would bow before Thy throne:
    As Thine angels serve before Thee,
    So on earth Thy will be done. (Hymn words accessed at Hymnary.org)

[Note: The 1956 edition of the Baptist Hymnal includes only verses 1 & 2.]

Scriptural Connection

As with many of our praise hymns (to which the early part of this hymnal are dedicated), it is natural to look to the Psalms for inspiration. In this case a worthy Psalm is 148. This Psalm begins with a call for all of the heavens to praise the Lord, and then proceeds to name individual inhabitants of the heavens (sun and moon) and moves on to all of Creation itself in this magnificent call to worship.

What does it mean?

Just as with our focal scripture from Psalm 148, the hymn-writer calls into praise all of Creation, starting with the inhabitants of heaven (sun, moon, stars, even angels) and then moves to the earth and creatures there. The laws that cannot be broken are the laws of nature that have been set forth by the Mighty Maker—God. In fact, if those laws are broken (for instance in the provision of salvation) it is only God who might dare to brake them.

While I am glad to sing along with Mr. Osler’s third stanza, it seems to be more of a coda to what has been proclaimed in the original two verses. This third stanza offers for the worshiper an opportunity to be included in the praise. I am also satisfied that the two original verses stand alone as a call for worship from all of God’s Creation.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.

Words by Cecil F. Alexander (1818-1895)

(Also included in Baptist Hymnal 1991 ed. – #46; variation in The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, Word, Waco, 1986 – #578.)

The Hymn

  1. All things bright and beautiful, All things great and small,
    All things wise and wonderful, Our Father made them all.
    Each little flower that opens, Each little bird that sings;
    He made their glowing colors, He made their tiny wings.
  2. Cold wind in the winter, Pleasant summer sun,
    Ripe fruits in the garden; He made them every one.
    He gave us eyes to see them, And lips that we might tell
    How good is God our Father Who doeth all things well.

Following is the commonly used version of the hymn in hymnals—as noted some of the verses are omitted in one hymnal or another.

Refrain

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

  1. Each little flower that opens,
    Each little bird that sings,
    He made their glowing colors,
    He made their tiny wings.
  2. The rich man in his castle,
    The poor man at his gate,
    He made them, high or lowly,
    And ordered their estate. [Most hymnals omit this verse]
  3. The purple headed mountains,
    The river running by,
    The sunset and the morning
    That brightens up the sky.
  4. The cold wind in the winter,
    The pleasant summer sun,
    The ripe fruits in the garden,
    He made them every one.
  5. The tall trees in the greenwood,
    The meadows where we play,
    The rushes by the water,
    To gather every day.
  6. He gave us eyes to see them,
    And lips that we might tell
    How great is God Almighty,
    Who has made all things well. (this version accessed at Cyber Hymnal)

Scriptural Connection

Perhaps the best connection to make for this hymn is to turn to Genesis 1 and 2. In these chapters we find the story of not only beginnings, but the story of Creation—how God made all things. He made the big and the small, the spectacular and the mundane. And it all speaks of Him in return.

What does it mean?

This particular hymn is not nearly so difficult to understand. It is a tribute to the Maker of all things. The second verse encourages the worshiper to witness and then bear witness to the Maker because of all things created. Not only has God created all things, but in this “all things” are included our eyes which behold the things made, and our lips through which the testimony to this great Creator God flows.

I would note that the variations listed above would be evidence of the various hymn tunes used when singing this praise song. This would account for the changing of the word “creatures” to a repetition of the word “things”.  Also of note is the use of four lines (the first four in our Baptist hymnal and the “refrain” from the traditional hymn) as a refrain to be sung between each verse rather than the simple two-stanza song as recorded in the 1956 hymnal. A change in the wording “the Lord God” to “Our Father” is a stylistic one, most likely brought about as a hymn-collector would determine that the original was a bit archaic and austere whereas laying hold of the fatherhood of the Maker might seem a bit more accessible to the worshiper.

Finally, a word about the reason for the omission of the second verse in many hymnals (when referring to the traditional words): One would notice that all the other stanzas refer to Nature in creation and it is not pleasant to think that God had anything to do with who is rich and who is poor, who is of higher estate than another. To avoid this, but still offer God His due praise for creation, we leave out this troublesome verse and sing away.

*Hymn numbers for this series’ titles are from the Baptist Hymnal, 1956 edition, Nashville, Convention Press.

Many of you know that the Blushing Bride and I have entered into the arduous process called International Adoption. Each step brings us closer to bringing home a terrific special needs child who wants and needs a forever family to love him. One of the things we are discovering while we wade through the mountains of paperwork involved, is that money flows out of the pockets with every turn. So we’re asking for support. Here’s how you can help:

  1. Put our family (including the new one we will be able to introduce later) at the top of your prayer list–pray for patience, sanity, and wisdom as we continue down this road.
  2. Check out (and follow) our journey blog–posting is intermittent at best, but will take you through the steps with us.
  3. Jump over to our GoFundMe page and click the “Donate” button–it’s easy and painless.
  4. Join us for garage sales if your in the Mulberry Grove area.
  5. Buy some of my books that are up for sale. Many of the books will be collectors’ items which I’ve accumulated over the years. Some are signed by the author. Most will be from the mystery/suspense section of your favorite bookstore. I’m listing the first installment below. If you like mysteries, or know someone who does, contact me, we can work out almost any deal–just remember this is a fundraising effort, not a give-away.

First up is the eclectic but effervescent Kinky Friedman:

 

Greenwich Killing Time (1986, 1st) – $20.00

A Case of Lone Star (1987, signed 1st) – $50.00

When the Cat’s Away (1988, signed 1st) – $50.00

Frequent Flyer (1989, signed 1st) – $50.00

Musical Chairs (1991, 1st) – $40.00

Elvis, Jesus, & Coca-Cola (1993, 1st) – $20.00

Armadillos & Old Lace (1994, 1st) – $20.00

God Bless John Wayne (1995, 1st) – $15.00

The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover (1996, signed 1st – remainder mark on foot) – $25.00

Road Kill (1997, signed and inscribed) – $20.00

Blast from the Past (1998, signed and inscribed, 1st) – $25.00

Spanking Watson (1999, signed 1st) – $30.00

 

(I will pay shipping for you if you wish to take advantage of this fundraising effort, just leave a comment so we can get details worked out.)