Today’s hymn is an example of one that’s based very closely on the scriptures, but it’s unusual to many of our tried-and-true beloved hymns because it’s based on Old Testament scriptures. “O Day of God, Draw Nigh” was written in 1937 by Robert Scott, an Old Testament scholar and minister of the United Church of Canada. Many of the hymns that come from the Great Awakening and the American Revival movement focus on the Good News of the New Testament, to the exclusion of what can be learned from the Old. This hymn, having been written in the early 20th century, is a Christian hymn with a significant influence of the Old Testament, possibly as it was written during a rediscovery of the Jewish roots of the Christian church, and a resurgence of biblically-centered worship.
As fitting a hymn written by an Old Testament scholar, the text comes from the Old Testament prophets, including Isaiah, Joel, Amos, and Zephaniah. Though it talks about the second coming of Christ, in the spirit of those prophets the hymn also petitions God for “justice in our land” and “to our world of strife [a] word of peace.” This is a song that calls us to radical justice, which is the basis of true hope and freedom. In this manner, the hymn is eminently suitable for today’s church.
The hymn was written for the Fellowship for a Christian Social Order, and was first included in Hymns for Worship, 1939. It first entered Methodist hymnals in 1966.
O day of God, draw nigh in beauty and in power;
come with thy timeless judgement now to match our present hour.
Bring to our troubled minds, uncertain and afraid,
the quiet of a steadfast faith, calm of a call obeyed.
Bring justice to our land, that all may dwell secure,
and finely build for days to come foundations that endure.
Bring to our world of strife thy sovereign word of peace,
that war may haunt the earth no more, and desolation cease.
O day of God, draw nigh as at creation’s birth;
let there be light again, and set thy judgments on the earth.