Isaac Watts


[Having taken a couple of weeks off for the holidays, we will take up where we left off, with number 19.]

Words by Isaac Watts (1674 -1748)

The Hymn

  1. Now to the Lord a noble song!
    Awake, my soul; awake, my tongue;
    Hosanna to th’eternal Name,
    And all His boundless love proclaim.
  2. See where it shines in Jesus’ face,
    The brightest image of His grace;
    God, in the person of His Son,
    Has all His mightiest works outdone.
  3. The spacious earth and spreading flood
    Proclaim the wise and powerful God;
    And thy rich glories from afar
    Sparkle in every rolling star.
  4. But in His looks a glory stands,
    The noblest labor of thine hands;
    The pleasing luster of His eyes
    Outshines the wonders of the skies.
  5. Grace! ‘tis a sweet, a charming theme;
    My thoughts rejoice at Jesus’ Name:
    Ye angels, dwell upon the sound!
    Ye heav’ns, reflect it to the ground!
  6. O may I live to reach the place [O may I reach the happy place]
    Where he unveils His lovely face!
    Where all His beauties you behold,
    And sing His Name to harps of gold!

(Hymn words accessed at CyberHymnal) Stanzas in bold are those used in our sample hymnal. [Bracketed words are from the 1956 Baptist Hymnal]

Scriptural Connection

An excellent connection to make for this hymn because of the desire to direct praise to God the Son is found in Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always, I say again, ‘Rejoice!’”

What does it mean?

With yet another hymn calling worshipers to the act of praise is found here. This time we are called to awake from our sleepy state to offer praise to, specifically, God the Son. We are reminded that Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s love (see John 3:16), and the epitome of all that God has planned.

The love of God shines from Christ. The grace of God proceeds from Christ. The wealth of God is found in Christ. Therefore as we lift a noble song to the Lord, we discover that Christ is that noble song that we sing.

May we forever keep singing it.

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

Advertisements

Words by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Personal note: of the hymnals that I have on the shelf, this hymn is unique to the 1956 edition of the Baptist Hymnal. This does not diminish the power of a hymn; it just illustrates the struggle that editors encounter when choosing which worship songs to include when dealing with a limited number of pages. One thing that will attest to the strength of this hymn is the author—Isaac Watts wrote a number of hymns and a cursory glance at the “Author/Composer” index included in many (not all) hymnals shows that the writer is not neglected by any means among the great songs of faith written over the years.

The Hymn

  1. Let all on earth their voices raise,
    To sing the great Jehovah’s praise,
    And bless His holy name:
    His glory let the people know,
    His wonders to the nations show,
    His saving grace proclaim.
  2. He framed the globe; He built the sky;
    He made the shining worlds on high,
    And reigns in glory there:
    His beams are majesty and light;
    His beauties, how divinely bright!
    His dwelling place, how fair!
  3. Come, the great day, the glorious hour,
    When earth shall feel His saving power,
    All nations fear His name;
    Then shall the race of men confess
    The beauty of His holiness,
    His saving grace proclaim.

(In our study hymnal, each stanza includes a repetition of the last line—most likely a musical adjustment for tune adaptation when singing. I have accessed the lyrics above from the on-line SDA Hymnal.)

Here is another variation I found on-line (note the variety in the lyric as well as the extra verse—I am not sure which is the more accurate rendering of Watts’ original lyric.

  1. Let all the earth their voices raise
    To sing the choicest psalm of praise,
    To sing and bless Jehovah’s Name:
    His glory let the heathens know,
    His wonders to the nations show,
    And all His saving works proclaim.
  2. The heathens know Thy glory, Lord,
    The wond’ring nations read Thy Word,
    In Britain is Jehovah known:
    Our worship shall no more be paid
    To gods which mortal hands have made;
    Our Maker is our God alone.
  3. He framed the globe, He built the sky,
    He made the shining worlds on high,
    And reigns complete in glory there:
    His beams are majesty and light;
    His beauties, how divinely bright!
    His temple, how divinely fair!
  4. Come the great day, the glorious hour,
    When earth shall feel His saving power,
    And barb’rous nations fear His Name;
    Then shall the race of man confess
    The beauty of His holiness,
    And in His courts His grace proclaim. (this version accessed at Any Lyrics.)

Scriptural Connection

One on-line hymn site suggests Psalm 96 as a scriptural connection and I would concur that the Psalmist’s desire to call all of creation into praise of God fits nicely with Watts’ goal in this hymn.

What does it mean?

Part of the great beauty of this hymn is the inversion of word order. Phrases like “His glory let the people know” may sound a bit different to the ear, but the emphasis moved from the people to the glory is evident here.

The writer makes a point to include as many of God’s attributes that deserve our adoration—the beams that shine out from Him are majesty and light (He is the embodiment of royalty and light) and the beauty of God is not just bright, but divinely so.

The language may sound archaic, but the call to worship echoes over the centuries—Let us all (all of the earth—mankind, the animal kingdom, and all of Nature itself) lift our voices in praise to the Almighty God.

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