Children of God


It was supposed to be a game. The two opponents would face each other and grab hands interlocking the fingers. Then they would begin to push on each other trying desperately to bend the fingers of their opponent back to near breaking point, until one or the other would cry out, “Mercy!” The game was called “Mercy” and I do NOT recommend it as a form of pastime or entertainment. I also do not see it as a means to learn about mercy.

What I know of mercy I learned from my father. He walked a life that was courageous, contagious, and filled with the love of God for his fellow man. Perhaps the best example of this attribute was based on an image that I had built up within my own mind. Dad was strict, and he had a way of indicating how things should be—his way. So, when I knew that God was directing my path to study at an institution in another state rather than the college where he wanted, expected, and knew I should attend, I didn’t know how to approach him. When I finally drug up the courage to tell him that I was transferring from his choice to mine, I expected a long, drawn-out argument in which I would have to defend my choice. The lesson in mercy came in Dad’s response, “If it’s what you’ve got to do, Son, it’s what you’ve got to do.”

Our Heavenly Father is much more succinct in showing His mercy. He gives it every day. When we breathe in and out, His mercy lets us live. When we say “yes” to faith and obedience to His Son, His mercy grants us everlasting life. In this He gives us what we do not deserve, what we have not earned: an on-going relationship with Him. What unwarranted gift have we given someone today?

“I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”  —God to Moses as recorded in Romans 9:15

My son is easily distracted. He is distracted when eating—by everything on the table, everyone in the room, and every sound that happens within earshot. Even more, he is a distracted walker. I often find myself holding more tightly to his hand and reminding him to watch where he is going when a school bus, or a friend, or a stranger happens by. More often than not he is looking to the side or behind him instead of paying attention with his eyes on his destination. The big problem with not looking where one is going is that it may cause the person in motion to run into another person, or perhaps a tree or pole that is in the path, or even step into a hole or obstacle that is in the way perhaps even suffering injury because of inattention.

Driving is also an example of the need to look ahead. Looking away from the road—to read, text, do your makeup, (you fill in the blank)—for even one second can have tragic results. So much disaster has been caused by distracted driving prompting many states to create motor vehicle laws to cover it—some general mentioning the sweeping category of “distracted driving”; while others are specifically dealing with our nation’s addiction to handheld electronic devices that we just can’t seem to put down.

Living the Christian life is just so. There are numerous things to distract the believer, a whole mountain of events, people, and places to get us off-track. Even so, it is important for the follower of Christ to, well, follow Christ. In order to do this we must face forward, pay attention to our Leader, and watch where we are going.

“One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”  —Paul, Philippians 3:13b-14

Harriet B. Stowe (1812-1896)

Also found in Inspiring Hymns, Zondervan, Grand Rapids (1968 ed.) © 1951, #7; Favorite Hymns of Praise, Tabernacle, Chicago (1969 ed.) © 1967, #11.

The Hymn

  1. +^Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
    When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
    Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
    Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.
  2. +^Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
    The solemn hush of nature newly born;
    Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
    In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.
  3. As in the dawning o’er the waveless ocean
    The image of the morning star doth rest,
    So in the stillness Thou beholdest only
    Thine image in the waters of my breast.
  4. +Still, still with Thee, as to each newborn morning,
    A fresh and solemn splendor still is given,
    So does this blessèd consciousness, awaking,
    Breathe each day nearness unto Thee and Heaven.
  5. +^When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
    Its closing eye looks up to Thee in prayer;
    Sweet the repose beneath the wings o’ershading,
    But sweeter still to wake and find Thee there.
  6. +^So shall it be at last, in that bright morning,
    When the soul waketh and life’s shadows flee;
    O in that hour, fairer than daylight dawning,
    Shall rise the glorious thought, I am with Thee.

(Hymn words accessed at CyberHymnal) Stanzas included in our study hymnal are indicated with bold print. +Inspiring Hymns, ^Favorite Hymns.

Scriptural Connection

Psalm 139 is a song about God’s ever-presence with His children. In today’s hymn, we have a more recent telling of that same assurance.

What does it mean?

From the same pen that gave us the anti-slavery treatise Uncle Tom’s Cabin, we find this hymn of God’s presence. This is a hymn of comfort to the troubled soul. Stowe reminds us that those who know God will find Him with them from the early morning as the birds awaken with the dawn until the last rays touch the earth at the close of day.

The imagery used teaches us that the comforting presence of Almighty is felt until the shadows of our life close in around us. She includes language that holds the assurance of a new day that follows for those who are with God.

This is a lovely hymn that is designed to bring comfort to the disheartened, peace to the troubled, and joy to the sad of heart. Worshipers are reminded that the source of that comfort is the ever-noticeable presence of the Almighty God. From moment to moment, He says, “I am with Thee.”

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

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.

[For those who are keeping score, I did miss last Monday–it was Labor Day (one of our holidays here in the  USA) so I took a breather. Now we’re back with the latest hymn-sing post.]

Words by George W. Frazier (1830-1896) [stanza 3, Alfred S. Loizeaux (1877-1962)]

(Also included in Baptist Hymnal – 1975 ed. #3; 1991 ed. #248; 2008 ed. #337; The Celebration Hymnal, Word/Integrity, Waco, 1997 – #93; The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration, Word, Waco, 1986 – #268)

This old hymn has been included in numerous volumes of hymnals. As you can see from the list of my personal collection (I don’t think Heber’s hymn was excluded from any hymnal I own), this is a favorite song of praise. It remains a favorite for many Christians today.

The Hymn

  1. God, our Father, we adore Thee!
    We, Thy children, bless Thy name!
    Chosen in the Christ before Thee,
    We are “holy without blame.”
    We adore Thee! we adore Thee!
    Abba’s praises we proclaim!
    We adore Thee! we adore Thee!
    Abba’s praises we proclaim!
  2. Son Eternal, we adore Thee!
    Lamb upon the throne on high!
    Lamb of God, we bow before Thee,
    Thou hast bro’t Thy people nigh!
    We adore Thee! we adore Thee!
    Son of God, who came to die!
    We adore Thee! we adore Thee!
    Son of God who came to die!
  3. Holy Spirit, we adore Thee!
    Paraclete and heavenly guest!
    Sent from God and from the Savior,
    Thou hast led us into rest.
    We adore Thee! we adore Thee!
    By Thy grace forever blest;
    We adore Thee! we adore Thee!
    By Thy grace forever blest!
  4. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
    Three in One! we give Thee praise!
    For the riches we inherit,
    Heart and voice to Thee we raise!
    We adore Thee! we adore Thee!
    Thee we bless thro’ endless days!
    We adore Thee! we adore Thee!
    Thee we bless through endless days!

Scriptural Connection

To find a Scriptural connection, hymnal editors over the years have focused either on the worship/adoration theme of the music or on the address of the Father by His children (looking for references to children of God as their basis). In the latter case, one could turn to Romans 8:16 for the assertion that we (as Christians) are children of God.

Personally, I believe that when looking for a Scriptural connection of a hymn one is better served to look for passages that speak to the message of the song rather than the details. So I would more likely choose a worship passage such as John 4:23, where the evangelist teaches us that we are to worship in spirit and in truth.

What does it mean?

This hymn is a hymn of praise to God. Each stanza focuses on a separate person of the Trinity to be the recipient of the praise of God’s people. Taking each verse individually we see some excellent teaching about God, Salvation, and the Holy Spirit.

In stanza one, we address God the Father. We see how and why we can be known as His children—it is through Christ, and in Him that we can be seen as blameless. Frazer also takes advantage of the Father-child relationship by including the affectionate term “Abba” as a reference to God. What is so spectacular about this part of the hymn is that instead of the more formal title “Father,” Christians, because of Christ, can have that intimate relationship in which (as in the Aramaic “Abba”) we can refer to God as Papa or Daddy . . . even as we sing His praises.

Stanza two focuses on the Son. We see His attributes—He is “Eternal”—as well as His responsibilities—He came to earth to die. In so doing He is the Lamb (bringing to mind the picture of a sacrificial lamb) who was offered in sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.

Verse three was a later addition to this hymn which was originally included in a hymnal of the Plymouth Brethren who were opposed strongly to ascribing praise to the Holy Spirit. Their idea was that while He is a person of the Godhead, there is no Scriptural foundation for addressing praise to the Spirit. The author of the third verse was part of the publishing family who printed the original hymnal but he had no conviction about not praising the Spirit. So when another hymn editor asked about a verse addressed to the Spirit, Loizeaux, wrote several options one of which was chosen to include in the new hymnal. Loizeaux also suggested that he felt that adding in this verse made the thought more complete—after all it was also a hymn confirming the Trinity. One difficult word in this verse is the archaic word “Paraclete” which is a transliteration of a Greek term for the Holy Spirit—the Comforter which will be sent after Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection. He is the person of the Trinity who lives (or dwells) within the heart of the believer as an honored guest and guide.

The last stanza brings everything together, and I must agree with Loizeaux that without the third verse addressing the Holy Spirit, this final stanza would seem a little out of place. Instead we have a full and complete thought. Like the Godhead is complete in the Trinity, our praise is complete only as we praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in His entirety for an eternity.

For those who would like to sing along, the tune normally used for this hymn is BEECHER by John Zundel (1815-1882) which is you might remember from singing “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”

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