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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