Category Archives: Worship – Hymns

Jesus lives, and so shall I

Here’s some encouragement for Monday morning. We sang this yesterday, and I really enjoy singing it to Johann Cruger’s great old German tune Jesus, meine Zuversicht. How could you have Monday morning blues after singing these words.

Jesus lives, and so shall I.
Death! thy sting is gone forever!
He who deigned for me to die,
Lives, the bands of death to sever.
He shall raise me from the dust:
Jesus is my Hope and Trust.

Jesus lives, and reigns supreme,
And, his kingdom still remaining,
I shall also be with him,
Ever living, ever reigning.
God has promised: be it must:
Jesus is my Hope and Trust.

Jesus lives, and by his grace,
Vict’ry o’er my passions giving,
I will cleanse my heart and ways,
Ever to his glory living.
Me he raises from the dust.
Jesus is my Hope and Trust.

Jesus lives, I know full well
Nought from him my heart can sever,
Life nor death nor powers of hell,
Joy nor grief, hence forth forever.
None of all his saints is lost;
Jesus is my Hope and Trust.

Jesus lives, and death is now
But my entrance into glory.
Courage, then, my soul, for thou
Hast a crown of life before thee;
Thou shalt find thy hopes were just;
Jesus is the Christian’s Trust.

Christian Fürchtegott Gellert, 1715-69
Text taken from Trinity Hymnal (blue book 596)

Dead Hymns Society

Mark Dever comments on the decline in hymns about the grave and the afterlife in current hymn books:

Our reluctance to sing about the grave in church on Sunday only reveals how much our hopes have been entrusted to this life–and we do not wish to conceive of them being lost. Our treasures have been put too much in this world.
Completely Unavoidable Optimism, Together for the Gospel blog, 22 Feb 2007

I’ve previously pondered the decline in singing about death. This is certainly another important factor in the decline. It’s a very long time since I heard the hymn

This world is not my home
I’m just a’passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue

It may not be the best example of Christian hymnody, but it’s certainly not as popular today as it was in my youth. Perhaps the reason lies not so much in changes in musical taste but in changes of hope.

Singing about death

In today’s service from Tenth Presbyterian, Philadelphia we sang the hymn “I greet thee, who my sure Redeemer art” (no I didn’t commute between services in our own church in Belfast—we participated via the Internet). As we sang, I thought how unusual a hymn of praise it was, compared to many modern praise songs. And yet, it is not unusual as a hymn, compared to the great old (and some newer) hymns of the faith. What stood out was:

O comfort us in death’s approaching hour,
Strong-hearted then to face it by thy power.

How many modern songs let us sing about death? Just as modern western society is sanitised, and has eliminated references to death wherever possible, so too has our praise. It may be acceptable to sing about Jesus’ death (though even that is under threat). That is at the heart of the Gospel, so we dare not neglect to sing about that (unless we no longer believe the Gospel).

Bus as we have been delivered from the fear of death to which everyone is enslaved (Heb 2:14-15), it is appropriate to sing about our own death. Singing about it helps us face its reality. It is an inevitability, no matter how much our culture proclaims our immortality. But such contemplation is not morbid, for the stanza that brings us face to face with our own mortality starts by reminding us of the source of our life:

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;

Death is inevitable, but this is not fatalism. The strength we receive in life from God is the same strength with which we may face death, A hymn such as this forces us to confront our death long before we stare death in the face.

Such songs in and of themselves will never provide the strong-heartedness with which the Christian believer may face death, but they must surely help us prepare to face our own death well. And in so doing we may face life well, so that we may sing the final stanza of Philip Ryken’s hymn “Now I make my good confession” truthfully:

Here’s my life–Lord, take and use it,
use my gifts to spread your fame;
I will go where Jesus calls me,
live and die for His great name.

If we have not taken time to contemplate life and death when we are in health and strength, it is doubtful we will face death strong-heartedly. For us Philippians 1:21 will be merely a Bible verse, unlike Paul for whom it was reality:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

I’m sure Paul sang those Psalms that led him to contemplate death in the light of God. May we follow in his footsteps, and not shy away from contemplating and singing about death, that we may be strong-hearted then to face it by God’s power.

He knows the way he taketh

I’ve been reading Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s book The All-Sufficient God: Sermons on Isaiah 40 (reviewed by Richard John under the title A Spiritual Mars Bar!; definitely well worth reading). In the final chapter he mentions Anna L Waring‘s hymn.

I’ve often sung this hymn and thought it said or meant that God knew my way. But, of course, that was me putting myself at the centre of the universe, and making God merely my minder. Not that that’s not true. It’s just not what the hymn is saying. God knows his own way! And while both ideas are true and biblical, Anna Waring’s idea is the more glorious and comforting.

It’s certainly comforting to know God has his eye on me 24/7/365. It’s also good to know God’s leading and guiding in life. But sometimes even the guide can become unsure or uncertain of the path.

I remember taking a group of teenage boys on a hike in the mountains one weekend. Things were fine when we started. We had food, maps, compasses, torches/flashlights, wet weather gear, boots, etc. But just as we approached the final summit, the clouds descended and we became thoroughly disoriented. I’d been along those tracks before and since, but somehow I thought we were further along the trail than we were. So, thinking it more prudent to descend than continue, I started down what I thought was the path. It certainly looked like it when we started, but it was a valley too soon, and rapidly became treacherous. We were able to descend safely, but I was a guide who no longer knew the path he took.

What a blessing and a comfort that God is not that sort of guide. He knows the way he taketh.