20. O God, Our Help In Ages Past.

20OGodOurHelp

Listen to this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsHIwXTjAOU

Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life. Friedrich Richter

We now come to Isaac Watts’ second of three hymns included in our blog series on the 30 Great Hymns of Faith.

Many consider today’s classic, O God, Our Help In Ages Past, to be one of Watt’s finest works by far. One scholar calls this “the grandest (hymn) in the whole realm of English Hymnody.” Set to William Croft’s stately tune, St. Anne (1708), O God, Our Help In Ages Past was sung at the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965. And most Brits, even to this day, still consider this grand hymn to be England’s second national anthem. Not bad for one godly lyricist who composed the text to over eight hundred hymns in his lifetime, don’t you think?

First published in his 1719 collection of hymns entitled The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, Isaac Watts originally penned nine stanzas for this great hymn in 1714 as his paraphrase of Psalm 90. In Watt’s collection, the hymn was first called Man Frail And God Eternal. As we discussed earlier in this blog series, Watts was one of the first modern hymn writers to take church congregants from muddling through dull, life-less chants set to Latin text to singing fresh, paraphrased lyrics written in the English language so that everyone could freely offer their praises to God.

In 1737, John Wesley, in his hymnal, Psalms and Hymns, included this classic Watt’s hymn but changed the first line of the original text from “Our God” to “O God.” Both Watts’ wording and Wesley’s rewording remain in current use today. For your reading pleasure, here’s Isaac Watts’ original nine stanzas. Might I suggest that you pull out Psalm 90 and see how Watt’s brilliantly paraphrased the original text:

Our  God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Your saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men:”
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in Thy sight,
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its’ sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream,
Dies at the opening day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand,
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand,
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

My prayer: O God, our Help in ages past; Our Hope for years to come, Your timeless faithfulness stands firm as the Rock of Ages in times of trouble. May my generation never forget to proudly proclaim these amazing truths that have stood the test of time. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: In what ways might we paraphrase the Scriptures for this current generation, so that there can be an easy and accessible way for common people today to sing of the timeless truths about God, the Eternal One?

So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together 30 Great Hymns of Faith?

Between now and Easter 2016, we will be sharing with you this blog series we call Thirty Great Hymns of Faith. In order to keep all 34 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Thirty Great Hymns of Faith home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others! Click here to go on to the next blog in our series.

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