New tune: Lord, I have made your word my choice
I spotted another classic hymn (557 in Praise!) and decided another new tune was in order. This time I had an assistant to sing with me:
No sheet music yet, I’m afraid. Email me if you want it and that will hurry me along.
1 Lord, I have made your word my choice, my lasting heritage; here shall my heart and mind rejoice upon my pilgrimage. 2 I’ll read the histories of your love and keep your laws in sight, while through the promises I move with ever fresh delight. 3 In this broad land of wealth unknown where springs of life arise, seeds of immortal joy are sown and hidden glory lies. 4 The best relief that mourners have, it makes our sorrows blessed; our fairest hope beyond the grave and our eternal rest.
Isaac Watts 1874-1748
Not just a silly sentimental song
We’re used to people singing nonsense or sentimental platitudes, whether in pop songs or religious songs, but this is more than just unrealistic theory or sentimentality. Very few people really take God’s talk seriously too and many who claim to are nutcases, or appear so for the wider world. So is it really a good idea to hold onto sentiments like this and let God’s words really touch and direct our actual real thinking and living?
Yes, I think it is, but only when we take it properly seriously and keep on checking that we’re not just looking in a mental mirror and twisting it to suit our own imaginings.
God’s words have come to us from many people over many thousands of years and in their varied ways bear testimony to God’s character and his kindness and requirements and agenda for a messed up world. There is a whole variety of different religious and irreligious opinion and knowledge and guidance we can choose from, but God’s message is the best choice. (For the avoidance of doubt we’re talking about the Hebrew Bible and Greek New Testament – the law of Moses, the Prophets, the Writings and the Good News of Jesus.) The writings don’t all always suit us. They’re sometimes puzzling. They’re dangerous in the wrong hands. As the some says, these words are worth holding onto — a good heritage for us to receive, live by and hand on faithfully to others.
We read the histories of God’s love (many people are involved, but God is the enduring character), and we need to keep God’s laws in sight to conform ourselves to his character. And the laws are mixed with promises based on God’s character and his requirements. They do bring us delight.
Most particularly God promises eternal life. We live in a world of wealth of different kinds all given by God, even if we feel ourselves poor and don’t recognise the value of what God has given us. This very Sunday in our church in Jos we were reading Colossians 3 where Paul explains that Christians have died with Christ and our ongoing real life is effectively buried (kept safely hidden away) with Jesus who will rise and be shown in glory on day and we’ll be safe with him.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.NIV
Εἰ οὖν συνηγέρθητε τῷ χριστῷ, τὰ ἄνω ζητεῖτε, οὗ ὁ χριστός ἐστιν ἐν δεξιᾷ τοῦ θεοῦ καθήμενος· τὰ ἄνω φρονεῖτε μὴ τὰ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. ἀπεθάνετε γὰρ καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν κέκρυπται σὺν τῷ χριστῷ ἐν τῷ θεῷ· ὅταν ὁ χριστὸς φανερωθῇ, ἡ ζωὴ ὑμῶν, τότε καὶ ὑμεῖς σὺν αὐτῷ φανερωθήσεσθε ἐν δόξῃ.THGNT
And so in a world of grief (hasn’t Covid-19 made that unavoidable and undeniable – as much as Westerners hate to admit it?) this is the best relief for mourners. This is real hope, and more than just a hope of oxygen, a hope of a vaccine, a hope of healthcare to keep us going a little longer. This is an eternal assurance for those who are integrated with the crucified and resurrected King Jesus.
So all in all I think this is a song worth singing, and God’s words are worth heeding. Let’s encourage each other to do that. Lay into me in the comments below if you like.