Sometimes I just don’t feel like singing. But first, let me explain…
I grew up in a family that sang often. We sang in church. We sang in the car. We sang outside. We sang around the piano. We sang at school. We all had just ordinary voices, but we sang anyway.
Then I grew up.
Life was hard.
It became harder to sing.
When my Dad got sick with a brain tumor we watched him put his violin aside, and soon his voice was gone too.
It didn’t seem right to sing without him.
After he died it took me a year before I could sing without crying.
Many years later, as my Mother lay dying, the only thing that would make her stop whimpering was if we sang to her. So I found a hymn book and sang softly until my own tears prevented me from continuing. When she would start whimpering again I would sing until she calmed down… until tears choked my voice.
Again and again the cycle repeated itself. Those were hard days, but my sisters and I were glad we could be with her.
There have been other hard days, when singing seemed impossible. Yet, singing should not be dependent on how we feel, but because we owe our God praise.
Below is a song I find myself singing when I don’t feel like singing.
Notice the words in the first verse...”He justly claims a song from me…”
We sing, not because our life is free from trouble. We sing, because we have a Great Redeemer who has rescued our souls from hell.
There will be trouble here. But this isn’t all there is. We have eternity to look forward to. This trouble will seem little when we are face to face with our Savior. In the meantime we remember His care of us in the here and now. We remember that He asks us to sing, to remember, to cling to this God who day by day covers us with His lovingkindness.
David wrote the following words when he had to flee to the wilderness of Judah, when his son, Absalom, took over the throne. (See II Samuel 15:23-30; 17:16)
“Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise Thee.
So I will bless Thee as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Thy name…
For Thou hast been my help, And in the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy.” Psalm 63:3,4 & 9
David wept when he was in trouble, but he also didn’t stop singing. Neither should we.
Samuel Medley 1738-1799
Awake, my soul in joyful lays, And sing thy great Redeemer’s praise; He justly claims a song from me, His lovingkindness, oh, how free! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how free!
He saw me ruined by the fall, Yet loved me not-with-standing all; He saved me from my lost estate, His lovingkindness, oh, how great! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how great!
Tho’ numerous hosts of mighty foes, Tho’ earth and hell my way oppose, He safely leads my soul along, His lovingkindness, oh, how strong! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how strong!
When trouble, like a gloomy cloud, Has gathered thick and thundered loud, He near my soul has always stood, His lovingkindness, oh, how good! Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, oh, how good!
Soon shall we mount and soar away to the bright realms of endless day, And sing, with rapture and surprise, His lovingkindness, in the skies. Lovingkindness, lovingkindness, His lovingkindness, in the skies.
William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) was born in 1731. He is considered one of England’s finest poets.
His life was filled with melancholy and sometimes despair, which may have had its roots in his mother’s death when he was only six. He was hospitalized on more than one occasion for “madness”. He wrote many hymns that were full of hope instead of the despair he was so familiar with. (God Moves in a Mysterious Way; There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.)
The following hymn is especially hopeful. The encouragement that comes from singing is in the first line. The original tune is one by Hayden – Petition 76.76D. The words also fit nicely with the tune – Sally Garden. I am unable to record anything this week, since I am out of town with a family emergency, but have included a link below of an unusually beautiful version of this hymn. You will notice some of the words have been changed from the original.
Sometimes a light surprises the child of God who sings; the light of one who rises with gentle, healing wings.
When comforts are declining, God grants the soul again A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.
In holy contemplation with joy we shall pursue the theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow we cheerfully can say, let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.
It can bring with it nothing but God will bear us through. Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe the people, too.
Beneath the spreading heavens no creature but is fed: the one who feeds the ravens will give the children bread
Though vine and fig tree neither their yearly fruit should bear, though all the fields should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there,
yet God, the same abiding, through praise shall tune my voice, for while in love confiding I cannot but rejoice.
For Further Study: “And he shall be as the light or the morning, like the rising of the sun, A morning without clouds; Whenfrom the sunshine, after rain, the green grass springeth after rain.” II Samuel 23:4
Joseph Hart was a prodigal. Born of Christian parents in 1712, he learned early to fear God and follow His laws. But the world attracted him and his focus shifted to baser things. The early training seems to have been wasted and his life took a decidedly anti-Christian turn. He didn’t just leave his faith, he aggressively attacked it through the things he published.
God still pursued him and Joseph wrestled with God for years. Eventually he turned again to the God who loved him. This time the struggle was between “Earning his salvation”, and “Assuming on God’s grace”. Neither extreme was Biblically sound and eventually he came to a saving knowledge of the one who saves us not because of our merit, but because of His grace. He also bids us to follow him, by leaving our old ways behind. But here I will let him tell you in his own words.
“He hath plucked me from the lowest Hell. He hath plucked me as a brand out of the fire! He hath proved himself stronger than I, and his goodness superior to all my unworthiness. He gives me to know…that without Him I can do nothing…Though an enemy, He calls me his friend; though a traitor a child; though a beggared prodigal, He clothes me with the best robe; and has put a ring of endless love and mercy on my hand,…He secretly shows me His bleeding wounds; and softly and powerfully, whispers to my soul: ‘I am thy great salvation.’ His free distinguishing grace is the bottom on which is fixed the rest of my poor weary tempted soul…When my dry empty barren soul is parched with thirst, He kindly bids me come to Him, and drink my fill at the fountain head. In a word He empowers me to say with experimental evidence, ‘where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ Amen and Amen.”
He struggled with assurance of salvation until one Easter he was confronted again by the God who loved him. After being overwhelmed by the suffering Christ he wrote the following hymn. For God uses even our wanderings to Honor Him. He became a preacher in London about 1760. Think of Joseph Hart as you read the words. They are a powerful testimony.
(The chorus was added later by an unknown author. The original tune was also replaced.)
(Joseph Hart 1712-1768)
Come, ye sinners, poor and needy weak and wounded, sick and sore,
Jesus ready stands to save you, full of pity love and power.
Chorus:I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms.
In the arms of my dear Savior, Oh, there are ten thousand charms.
Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify
True belief and true repentance every grace that brings you nigh.
Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth is to feel your need of him.
Come, ye weary, heavy laden lost and ruined by the fall.
If you tarry till you’re better, you will never come at all.
I will rise and go to Jesus! He will save me from my sin.
By the riches of his merit, there is joy and life in him.
View Him prostrate in the garden on the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him sinner will not this suffice?
Lo the incarnate God ascended pleads the merit of His blood
Venture on Him, venture wholly. Let no other trust intrude.
For further study: C. H. Spurgeon often quoted from Hart in his sermons. The above hymn being his favorite. He applied it to Hebrews 7:25 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
(Above information taken from “The Story of the Hymns and Tunes” by Theron Brown and Hezekiah Butterworth – copyright 1906 – American Tract Society. and “www.biblicalstudies.org.uk” – Joseph Hart and his hymns by Peter C. Rae Cowdenbeath. His source was “Hart’s hymns” – Palmer’s edition of 1863.)
Paul Gerhardt’s life was not an easy one. He was a preacher without a parish, tossed from place to place, (Mittenwalde & Berlin) Four of his children died, and at some point his wife also. He had been dismissed from his last church because of disagreements with the Elector Fredrick. He wandered from place to place for two years.
The following hymn was written while he was staying at a wayside inn, homeless and discouraged. After completing it he was finally offered a parish in Lubben where he stayed until his death.
He wrote 123 hymns and was a favorite hymn-writer of the German-speaking people.
Hymn of Trust – (Give to the Winds Thy Fears)
Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676)/William H. Walter
Give to the winds thy fears, hope and be undismayed;
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears; God shall lift up thy head.
Through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way;
Wait thou His time, so shall this night soon end in joyous day.
Who points the clouds their course, whom wind and seas obey;
He shall direct thy wandering feet, He shall prepare thy way.
Leave to His sov’reign sway to choose and to command,
So shalt thou wond’ring own His way, how wise, how strong His hand!
Thou seest our weakness, Lord, our hearts are known to Thee;
O lift Thou up the sinking heart, confirm the feeble knee.
Commit thou all thy griefs and ways into His hands;
To His sure trust and tender care Who earth and heaven commands.
Let us in life, in death, Thy steadfast truth declare,
And publish with our latest breath Thy love and guardian care.
For further study: I Peter 5:6-7; Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 125:1; Psalm 37
This Latin hymn was written by Theodulph of Orleans in A.D. 820. It was translated into English by John Mason Neale in the 1800s. The tune was written by Melchior Teschner about 1613. The tune is called St. Theodulph.
Theodulph was born in Spain. He was part of Charlemagne’s court and became a trusted theological adviser. When Charlemagne’s son, Louis the I, became King he became suspicious that Theodulph was sympathetic with his Spanish relative, Bernard. Fearing there was a conspiracy he had Theodulph imprisoned in a monastery in Angers in 818. Theodulph wrote this hymn while in prison. He died there in 821.
Please sing this with me. (I prefer not to sing alone.)
All glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King
To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring.
Thou art the King of Israel, Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s name comest, The King and Blessed One.
The company of angels are praising Thee on high,
And mortal men and all things Created make reply.
The people of the Hebrews with palms before Thee went;
Our praise and prayer and anthems before Thee we present.
To Thee, before Thy passion, They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted, Our melody we raise.
Thou didst accept their praises; accept the praise we bring.
Who in all good delightest, Thou good and gracious King.
For further study:
Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders. Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad. Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually. Psalm 105:1-4
And as He was approaching…, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” And He answered and said, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” Luke 19:37-40
My granddaughter, Arianna and I have a habit of watching an episode of “Andy Griffith” every night before bed. Last night Sheriff Andy was humming a song as he sat on his porch in the evening. Recognizing the tune as “How Firm a Foundation”, I found the words and started recording.
Every source I looked at said the author was unknown. It first appeared in 1787 simply labeled with the letter K. Somehow, I don’t think the original author would mind. Anyone who wrote words like the ones below was looking to glorify God, not himself.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
For Further study:
Luke 21:33 – “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
Isaiah 41:10 – “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Deuteronomy 31:6, 8 – “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” “And the LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed.”