How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Hands-down, one of my favorites right here. Yes, I know I say that about every hymn….
Hymnologists have not been able to identify the author of this hymn: it was first published in a 1787 hymnal in London by John Rippon, with the only identifier as “K”. In subsequent editions, it was attributed to “Kn,” “Keen,” and “Kirkham.” Now, Rippon had a close friend named Robert Keen(e) who served as a song leader for him from 1776-1793, but other hymns ascribed to him were attributed “R. Keene,” and had this one been penned by him as well, one would think the attribution would have been similar.
Regardless of the authorship, we can be sure this hymn was written by a Christian who was very knowledgeable of the promises of God found in Scripture, who had most likely called upon those promises for strength in times of tribulation. And because the text of this hymn comes directly from scripture, we can find the same solace as we sing it over 200 years later.
The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning;
It’s time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me:
Let me be singing when the evening comes
Matt Redman wrote 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) in 2011 with a Swedish friend of his, Jonas Myrin. We’ve talked before about hymns that are based closely on scripture; here we have a band-drive “contemporary” worship song that was inspired by and based on scripture. In Redman’s account:
We generally have thematic worship at Middletown United Methodist, which means that we have a focusing theme around which the entire service is centered. As in many other congregations, we usually preach by sermon series, which allows us to be responsive to the needs of the church. Planning series also lets us be deliberate about having some Sundays throughout the course of the year that are teaching sermons, some that call the church to mission, some that are practical how-this-scripture-changes-my-daily-life sermons, some that inspire the church to hope or compassion, etc.
For an example of a recent series, in the 4 weeks leading up to the 15th anniversary of September 11th, 2001, we had a series titled “The Decline and Fall of Israel.” This was a primarily a teaching series. We learned about the time recounted in the Old Testament when God’s people demanded to be led by a king, to be a monarchy rather than a theocracy, and in the Sundays that followed we saw the parallels between the people of Israel and the people of God today, exploring what we could learn from their story. Next Sunday, we’re beginning a 3-week series titled “I’d Rather Not Talk About It,” where we’ll address mental health issues including addiction, anxiety, depression, and suicide. We’ll be talking about the roots of these issues– and why the answer is not, “well if you just had more faith, you wouldn’t be depressed.” We’ll look at what scripture says to us, and what the church can do to support those with mental health struggles.
The story behind the hymn How Great Thou Art is one that speaks directly to the heart of the optimist, the silver-lining, bright-side-of-life crowd. This hymn teaches us to recognize God’s beauty wherever we are, whatever may come– and that’s exactly what the author of the original text was doing when he wrote it.