The lyrics to this stout old hymn leave me in awe each time that I hear them. It is an awe for Christ, and an awe for the artfulness of this hymn. This hymn is a work of God-honoring art.
How can a hymn be a work of art? And, why is it that a good number of contemporary “praise” songs will never be seen as one?
Let’s see why:
- This hymn is doctrinal broccoli–high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It’s the kind of stuff that you need, and can grow on, but will likely pass over for bacon. The modern day musical diet of many Christians is high on theological bacon that is loaded with flavor and fat, but low on the stuff that matters.
- The hymn writer knew his role and place in God’s Kingdom. He saw things rightly –God is the deal, we are not. The request to “tune my heart to sing Thy praise” says so. Selah. Pause and chew on that broccoli…God please align and tune my heart (because it is severely out of alignment and tune) to sing Your praise (instead of my own which I enjoy and am habitually tuned to sing). ‘Nuff said.
- In this hymn the strong cords of sound theology are over-woven with silken threads of poetic language. What a shame that Christians ape the lingo of today’s culture rather than using the grand gift of language to offer to God words of praise that are carefully chosen and fitly spoken, or sung, or prayed, or sighed.
This list could go on, but, brevity is the soul of wit. Let’s keep both soulful wit and wit-ful soul in tact by summarizing. What is present in this hymn, and many of its siblings, is good theology, mindful movement in thought, beautiful words and composition, and humility. This is what most contemporary songs lack, and are unfamiliar with. Other things are missing too, but Who is counting?
If my children gathered around me and said, “Dad, you are good because you are good to us, and do good things for us, and for loving us, loving us, loving us (x4).” I would wonder who was being honored, or if any honor was present at all. If they sang the chorus of this ditty four more times, and swayed with their eyes closed and hands folded, I would flee the room.
It’s a pointed point.
If my children said, “Dad, you are a good dad, because you are a good man, and your kindness and actions prove your character,” then I would be moved. Then, my heart would sing. But, Who is counting?