Thursday, April 9, 2020

Hopeful Hymns in Uncertain Times (Part 2)

During these uncertain times, it is important to hear from God's word and from godly counsel. One of the resources that provides us with good Christian teaching is good Christian music. Hymns, both new and old, are a treasure for the church as we seek to sing spiritual songs that remind us of great truths. My hope is that these little devotionals will encourage Christians in days of trial. 

"I Sing the Mighty Power of God"
Isaac Watts

Fewer songwriters of antiquity are more well-known than Isaac Watts. The English Congregational minister was born in 1674 and is estimated to have written over 700 hymns in his lifetime. His efforts toward congregational hymn-singing helped shape a new era of English-speaking corporate worship and his influence has lasted for centuries.

In addition to penning songs such as "Joy to the World," "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," and "Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed," Watts authored a book on logic and several other theological works. The great podcast 5 Minutes in Church History has a great excerpt on Watts and includes an acrostic of his name that Watts himself composed at a young age. Check it out!

I sing the mighty power of God 
that made the mountains rise, 
that spread the flowing seas abroad 
and built the lofty skies. 
I sing the Wisdom that ordained 
the sun to rule the day; 
the moon shines full at His command, 
and all the stars obey. 

There's much by which we can be struck in this first stanza. Perhaps the most stunning element in the opening of this song is the position in which the participating singer is placed. The first two words, "I sing," cause the worshiper to be confident in what follows -- and for good reason. God's power, seen particularly in creation as He has full ownership and control over it, is worth proclaiming in song. Job 38 (and the chapters that follow) come to mind.

I sing the goodness of the Lord 
that filled the earth with food; 
He formed the creatures with His word 
and then pronounced them good. 
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, 
where'er I turn my eye, 
if I survey the ground I tread 
or gaze upon the sky. 

Not only is God sovereign, but God is good. This combination of attributes is wonderfully comforting and especially glorious. The Lord created good things, including food for His creatures, and as we look around we cannot help but see His wonders. Psalm 19 had to be on Watts' mind!

There's not a plant or flow'r below 
but makes Thy glories known, 
and clouds arise and tempests blow 
by order from Thy throne; 
while all that borrows life from Thee 
is ever in Thy care, 
and everywhere that man can be, 
Thou, God, art present there. 

Due to the centrality of God's sovereignty and goodness in this universe, all of creation makes His glories known. What a thought! Watts leads our minds into the not-so-cheery aspects of this fact as well, stating that the gloomy moments are brought about by the Lord's good will and power. In the dark and scary times of life (even during a pandemic), God is working all things together and is ever-present with those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

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