Monday, June 10, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Story behind From All That Dwell Below the Skies

From All That Dwell below the Skies is Isaac Watt's paraphrase of Psalm 117.
O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.

The Psalms were originally written to be sung. Many of them include musical notations. While the music has long since been lost, the words, as all of the Lord's words, have endured.

Watts believed that King David was divinely inspired to write many of the Psalms but also argued that David didn't fully understand the truths about which he wrote. We now, after Christ, can see the Psalms in all of the fullness of their meanings. He believed that the Psalms should be "imitated in the language of the New Testament." (from his 1719 metrical psalter).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Story behind When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Isaac Watts, one of the best-loved hymn composers, began his prolific career at an early age. He complained to his father that the staid Psalms sung at that time in churches were not inspirational enough. His father challenged him to write his own church music, which he did.

Isaac penned this hymn in 1707 in preparation for a communion service. In its day, it was controversial - the first hymn to use a personal pronoun and to involve a personal religious experience. Such hymns were known as "hymns of human composure".
The hymn was first published under the title "Crucifixion to the World by the Cross of Christ", as titles at that time summarized the theme of the hymn. There is also a fourth stanza that was so gory in its nature for its time that Watts said it could be deleted if need be. Thus, most of us have never sung it.  
His dying crimson, like a robe, 
Spreads o'er His body on the tree: 
Then am I dead to all the globe, 
And all the globe is dead to me.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rejoice, Again I Say Rejoice

Charles Wesley was no stranger to persecution. As the founder of the Methodists along with his brother John, he endured much ridicule for, what was at the time, his unusual ways of worship. Many of his fellow believers experienced persecution. Is it curious, then, that he chose to write a hymn calling on Christians to rejoice?

Not so. Paul wrote the book of Philippians, especially chapter 4:4 which this hymn is based on, while in prison in Rome. He himself had been beaten, stoned and had his life threatened numerous times.

But this rejoicing isn't a call to throw a party. This is a rejoicing in the Lord. A deep, abiding, hopeful trust in his care for us. Philippians 4:4-7 says this:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Our rejoicing comes from a life of prayer and trust. We come to the Lord with thanksgiving for all he has done for us and with our petitions. We lay aside all anxiety and, in doing so, Christ fills us with peace. For this, we rejoice. We have a sovereign God who is in control of every aspect of our life - good or bad.

There is no better reason to rejoice than that.
Rejoice, the Lord is King! 
 Your Lord and King adore; 
 mortals, give thanks and sing, 
 and triumph evermore. 
 Lift up your heart, 
 lift up your voice; rejoice; 
 again I say, rejoice. 

2. Jesus the Savior reigns, 
 the God of truth and love; 
 when he had purged our stains, 
 he took his seat above. 
 Lift up your heart, 
 lift up your voice; rejoice, 
 again I say, rejoice. 

3. His kingdom cannot fail; 
 he rules o'er earth and heaven; 
 the keys of earth and hell 
 are to our Jesus given. 
 Lift up your heart, 
 lift up your voice; rejoice, 
 again I say, rejoice. 

4. Rejoice in glorious hope! 
 Jesus the Judge shall come, 
 and take his servants up 
 to their eternal home. 
 We soon shall hear 
 th'archangel's voice; the trump of God 
 shall sound, rejoice!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Story behind Rejoice, the Lord Is King

The text for this majestic hymn by Charles Wesley first appeared in his brother John's book Moral and Sacred Poems in 1744. In 1746, Charles published it as one of 16 selections in Hymns for Our Lord's Resurrection. It originally had six verses.

The hymn is based on Philippians 4:4. "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice." The early Methodists experienced much persecution and hardship and Charles wrote this hymn, based on Paul's words penned while to prison, to encourage them.

The composer of the tune most associated with the hymn, John Darwall, first published the tune with the words of Psalm 148 in 1770. G.F. Handel wrote a tune specifically for this hymn in 1750 and published in 1826 by Samuel Wesley, Charles' son.