Hymns and songs can have so many different uses in worship, from gathering a congregation together to sending them out into the world with the light of Christ, and everything inbetween. One of the most important uses of congregational song is to proclaim Scripture, and there are some wonderful hymns that do a very good job at this.
“Faith, while trees are still in blossom” is a great example of a hymn proclaiming and supporting Scripture. This hymn, with the original Swedish title “Tron sig sträcker efter frukten när i bloming rädet gär,” was written in 1960 by Anders Frostenson (1906 – 2006), a Lutheran Priest at the Lövö Assembly of the Swedish Lutheran Church. Frostenson was known as a theologian deeply dedicated to hymnody, and was highly involved in the development of various hymnals for the Swedish Lutheran Church. He had a passion for translating poetry and hymns into Swedish, and he was also a hymnist in his own right. Unusual among contemporary hymn writers, his own hymn texts were frequently based on biblical texts from the Old Testament (rather than the New) and this can be found especially in this hymn.
Here’s the text, beautiful in its own right:
Faith, while trees are still in blossom,
plans the picking of the fruit;
faith can feel the thrill of harvest
when the buds begin to sprout.
Long before the dawn is breaking,
faith anticipates the sun.
Faith is eager for the daylight,
for the work that must be done.
Long before the rains were coming,
Noah went and built an ark.
Abraham, the lonely migrant,
saw the light beyond the dark.
Faith, uplifted, tamed the water
of the undivided sea,
and the people of the Hebrews
found the path that made them free.
Faith believes that God is faithful:
God will be what God will be!
Faith accepts the call, responding,
“I am willing, Lord, send me.”
Let’s explore the scripture that served as Frostenson’s inspiration for this text.
The imagery of stanza 1 comes from Isaiah 27:6:
In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots, and fill the whole world with fruit.
The first lines of stanza 3 about God’s covenant with Noah come from Genesis 6:18:
But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.
The second half of stanza 3, about Abraham’s faith in God through the night, comes from Genesis 12:1-2:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
The first part of stanza 5, “God will be what God will be!” comes from Exodus 3:14:
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”
The second half of stanza 5, “Faith accepts the call, responding, ‘I am willing, Lord, send me,'” comes from Isaiah 6:8:
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”
Stanzas 3, 4, and 5, along with the general theme of the hymn, can be found in Hebrews 11, which begins with the well-known verses:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
In the same chapter, v. 4-7 gives the example of the faith of Abel, Enoch, and Noah (found in stanza 3 of the hymn), in v. 8-22 the faith of Abraham, (found in stanza 3, 5), in v. 23-28 the faith of Moses (found in stanza 4, “the undivided sea” that becomes “the path that made them free”), and in v. 29-40 the faith of the other Israelites (also stanza 4, “the people of the Hebrews,” and in stanza 5.)
This hymn stands wonderfully on its own, but studying the scripture that served as inspiration can enhance our engagement with both the hymn and the scripture. Singing the scriptures helps us engage with the scriptures, with our faith, and with our relationship with God, on a deeper level. And using scripture in our hymns and songs gives us something of worth to sing about, bringing a deeper meaning to our congregational singing, and uniting the church in songs of faith.
Protip: If a text comes directly from a specific scripture passage, you can often find it cited at the bottom of your hymnal page after the author’s name and dates. This, for example, is the information at the bottom of the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy!” found at UMH #64. The text, as you can see, comes from Revelations:
For more information than this, you can search the hymn at hymnary.org and find a list of referenced scriptures. This is helpful if the hymn comes from more than one passage that they didn’t have room to list in the hymnal, or if scriptures are alluded to in the hymn text but not directly cited.