Jan 22 2014

Discovering a New Song

Winter Grand Canyon 2 (h) crThis past Sunday the opening hymn we sang was one I did not know.  As the introduction was played I noticed that it was written by Isaac Watts.  That is a name I have long been familiar with.  He has been referred to as the “Father of English Hymnody” and is thought to have penned approximately 750 hymns.  Watts died in 1748 but many of his hymns continue to be used on a regular basis in churches around the world.  A few of his best known ones include “Joy to the World!,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

_DSC0400The hymn we sang on Sunday is called “We Sing Your Mighty Power, O God.”  I was not familiar with the tune so I found it hard to sing but I immediately fell in love with the words.  “We sing your mighty power, O God, that made the mountains rise, that spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.  We sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule by day.  The moon shines full at your command, and all the stars obey.  We sing your goodness, sovereign God, who filled the earth with food; you formed the creatures with your word, and then pronounced them good.  Oh! How your wonders are displayed, whereever we turn our eyes; if we survey the ground we tread, or gaze upon the skies.  There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes your glories known; and clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from your throne.  While all that borrows life from you is ever in your care, and everywhere that we can be, you, God, are present there.”

mountain laurelDoing some research on this particular hymn I discovered that it first appeared in Watts’ hymnal, Divine and Moral Songs for Children, around 1715.  I’m not sure how appealing this song is to children almost three hundred years later but the message of this hymn certainly needs to be conveyed to them (and the rest of us too).  Surely using Genesis 1 as his inspiration Watts stresses the power, wisdom and goodness of God found in Creation.  He makes sure to emphasize that God’s glory is revealed through the Creation, making specific reference to plants and flowers, clouds and tempests.   Watts also shows that God is the Source of all life and that all remains under His care.  Furthermore, he closes with the wonderful truth that “everywhere that we can be, you, God, are present there.”

Entire books have been written by theologians on each of these truths, not to mention a number of shorter blogs.  How delightful that a hymn writer three centuries ago could combine them all in a simple song that even children can sing!

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Grand Canyon National Park in AZ, the middle one in Henderson County, KY, and the bottom one at Pine Mountain State Park in KY.)