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Stories of the Hymns - 8/13/2017

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Stories of the Hymns
Sunday August 13, 2017
Page numbers reference the blue Presbyterian Hymnal

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
The last psalm in the Bible, Psalm 150, ends with this invitation: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.” German composer Joachim Neander (1650-1680) gave us words to do just that when he wrote his most well-known hymn, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” Hymnologist John Julian declares this to be “a magnificent hymn of praise to God, perhaps the finest production of its author, and of the first rank in its class” (Dictionary of Hymnology). And indeed, this is a hymn that has stood the test of time (over 400 years) to remain one of the most beloved praise hymns in the Church. Each stanza addresses a different aspect of the nature of God: creator,sovereign, defender and befriender, refuge, and protector. The tune LOBE DEN HERREN (Praise to the Lord) was first published in the Ander Theil des Emeurten Gesangbunch, Part II (1665). Neander altered the tune in 1680 to fit his text, and this is the tune associated with his text ever since.

Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah 
William Williams (1717-1781) has been called the “Sweet Singer of Wales” and the "Watts of Wales.” The son of a prosperous farmer, he originally studied medicine, but abandoned it for theology. He was ordained in the Church of England, but attached himself to the Calvinistic Methodists. For half a century he travelled nearly 100,00 miles drawing crowds of 10,000 people who came to hear his preaching and sing his hymns. Once after appearing to a crowd of 80,000 he wrote in his journal: “God strengthened me to speak so loud that most could hear.” Williams wrote more than eight hundred hymns during his lifetime.  "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" is one of the few that has been translated into English. It is said that for many years, Welsh crowds at rugby matches or other public gatherings would sing this hymn, much as we in the U.S. start games with the playing of the National Anthem, and also that many Welsh people were inspired to learn to read just so they could read the words to Williams' hymns. The tune is RHONDDA written in 1907 by Welshman John Hughes (1873-1932). This hymn was sung at the funeral of England’s Princess Diana.

How Firm a Foundation
The author is listed simply as K. most commonly thought to be Richard Keen, tho biographical information on his is scarce.  “How Firm a Foundation”, 1787, is a hymn that for over two centuries has assured believers of the faithfulness of God’s Word. The first verse acts as an introduction causing us to stop and ponder the Word of assurance that God has given us, described in greater detail in the next four verses. In the words of this hymn, we carry with us the Word from God, and the call to trust in that Word. But God’s Word is expansive and not limited to letters on a page - the fifth verse moves us to a trust in the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ. Thus we are assured by the words we sing, the Word we are given, and the Word made flesh, of the steadfastness of God and His unfailing love. The tune FOUNDATION is an American folk melody found in Funk’s Genuine Church Music, 1832


Partial Bibliography for these Hymn Stories: primarily from http://www.hymnary.org,

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