Words by James Montgomery (1771-1854)

(Also included in the Baptist Hymnal, 1975 ed., Convention Press, Nashville, #26; 1991 ed., Convention Press, Nashville, #30; 2008, ed., LifeWay, Nashville, #137; The Celebration Hymnal, 1997, Word/Integrity, Waco – #65; The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, 1986, Word, Waco – #21.)

This old hymn seems to arrive in the hymn collections from two distinctive backgrounds. The lyrics are relatively unchanged from hymnal to hymnal, but the tune used in the decidedly Southern Baptist hymnals is one adapted from the 1551 Genevan Psalter tune called “Old 134th”, setting the words to a much older tune. In hymnals that are no less evangelical in their bent, but perhaps more interdenominational in their focus collectors have opted for a tune penned by composer Aaron Williams (1731-1776) and entitled “St. Thomas”.

The Hymn

  1. Stand up and bless the Lord
    Ye people of His choice;
    Stand up and bless the Lord your God
    With heart and soul and voice.
  2. Though high above all praise,
    Above all blessing high,
    Who would not fear His holy name,
    And laud and magnify?
  3. O for the living flame
    From His own altar brought,
    To touch our lips, our minds inspire,
    And wing to heaven our thought!
  4. There, with benign regard,
    Our hymns He deigns to hear;
    Though unrevealed to mortal sense,
    Our spirits feel Him near.
  5. God is our strength and song,
    And His salvation ours;
    Then be His love in Christ proclaimed
    With all our ransomed powers.
  6. Stand up and bless the Lord;
    The Lord your God adore;
    Stand up and bless His glorious name;
    Henceforth forevermore.

(Hymn words accessed at HymnTime) Stanzas in bold are those used in our sample hymnal.

Scriptural Connection

Hymn editors are fond of applying Nehemiah 9:5 as a Scriptural foundation for this hymn. The verse (in part) quotes the Levites/leaders of Israelite worship proclaiming, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God for ever and ever.” There is no denying that the quote can be extracted from this verse and that both the verse and the hymn are calls to worship for God’s people.

I also find a connection with the call of Isaiah found in chapter 6 of the book named for the prophet. It is there that Isaiah is called to be a spokesman for God and it is there that the idea of one’s lips being cleansed for the task of lifting up the word of God with fire is so vividly (see Isaiah 6:5-7 and hymn stanza 3).

What does it mean?

This hymn is, as stated above, a call to worship. It urges all of God’s people to make known their praise for God without shame. This is not a call for all of creation as many of our other adoration hymns have been. Rather, it is for “the people of His choice” or His chosen people. Those who have reason to lift up their voices in blessing to God are those who have become part of His people.

It is also interesting to note (along with the no less than 4 tunes which have been used over the years to sing this song) that most hymn collections (all of the ones that I have access to) omit the fourth stanza above (including only 5 of the 6). As best I can determine, this omission can be attributed to the lesser impact of the stanza when included with the other 5 more powerful verses in calling the worshiper to praise. [One other quick note: the original poem (written for a Sunday school anniversary in the early 19th century) read “Ye children of His choice” in line 2, but was changed by the author before the hymn was published in a collection.]

We are called upon to bless (or worship) Him with every fiber of our being (“heart and soul and voice”). We have reason to do so because of the cleansing (see stanza 3) and because of the salvation He has provided (see stanza 5 above—4 in our hymnal). As the hymn-writer closes his poem, he gives us the very idea of the extent of our praise—from now and until eternity (“Henceforth and evermore”).

So, believers (Christians, Christ followers, choose your favorite name for yourself as one who has accepted the chosen-ness in Christ), Stand Up! (be seen, make yourself known) and Bless God—with all of your being!

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