(Photo courtesy of the morgueFile.)
I AM YOUR HYMN BOOK
Next to the Bible, I should be your most
Hold me in your hand on Sunday when you
prepare to sing.
Let your heart listen to what has been
enshrined within me.
Hear the songs and the triumphant words
of the martyrs dying for a faith the same as yours.
Give heed to the prayers of devout men who
have found the heart of God.
Follow the missionaries of the Cross on their
way to the ends of the earth.
Listen to the great minds of the Church as
they share with you the deep mysteries
of the plan and purpose of the eternal God.
Sit at the feet of the musicians and poets, of
the saints and the redeemed in all lands
and times, of all those who have seen the
hunger in the heart unsatisfied except through song.
All these I have treasured…for you.
I am your hymn book.
I love that. Though I have to admit there are times when I’m singing the familiar words while my mind is elsewhere, overall hymns have been a great blessing in my life.
My former pastor, now with the Lord, Jesse Boyd, used to say that hymns can be even more instructive than sermons because we read, sing, and hear them at the same time, providing a triple reinforcement (and that was one reason why he corrected hymns that were doctrinally askew: he didn’t want the wrong message being reinforced as we sang.) In Jim Berg’s book Changed Into His Image, he advocates using a hymnbook as part of your devotional time, to read or sing through the words. Elisabeth Elliot shared in “The Song of the Animals” from her book On Asking God Why:
When I stumble out of bed in the morning, put on a robe, and go into my study, words do not spring spontaneously to my lips–other than words like, “Lord, here I am again to talk to you. It’s cold. I’m not feeling terribly spiritual….” Who can go on and on like that morning after morning, and who can bear to listen to it day after day?
I need help in order to worship God. Nothing helps me more than the Psalms. Here we find human cries–of praise, adoration, anguish, complaint, petition. There is an immediacy, an authenticity, about those cries. They speak for me to God–that is, they say what I often want to say, but for which I cannot find words…
[The Psalmist] found expression for praise far beyond my poor powers, so I use his and am lifted out of myself, up into heights of adoration, even though I’m still the same ordinary woman alone in the same little room.
Another source of assistance for me has been the great hymns of the Church, such as “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven,” “New Every Morning Is the Love,” “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” and ”O Worship the King.” The third stanza of that last one delights me. It must delight God when I sing it to him:
Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
That’s praise. By putting into words things on earth for which we thank him, we are training ourselves to be ever more aware of such things as we live our lives. It is easy otherwise to be oblivious of the thousand evidences of his care. Have you thought of thanking God for light and air, because in them his care breathes and shines?
Hymns often combine praise and petition, which are appropriate for that time alone with God. The beautiful morning hymn “Awake, My Soul, and With the Sun” has these stanzas:
All praise to Thee, who safe hast kept,
And hast refreshed me while I slept.
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake,
I may of endless light partake.
Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say;
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.
Hymns that express Scriptural doctrine and both the cries and praises of the heart have ministered to me greatly, next to Scripture itself, and not only in church but on the radio at home or in the car or even the ones that comes to mind as I go about my daily duties. In times of nervousness or distress, it has calmed me to think through the words of a hymn. And some hymns full of praise to God instruct me and inspire me as well in my praise to Him. “None Like You,” for instance, is one that almost instantly stops my in my tracks and melts my heart in praise.
So today, I am thankful for the gift of hymns.
And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Ephesians 5:18-19.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16.