This longish hymn was about the only productive thing I did yesterday, when I was taking a sick day off work. The full title is "Moses Hymn: Strength in Weakness." Not all the frailty depicted in this hymn is that of Moses, but it is still a rather odd example of the "heroes of the faith" type of hymn, focusing as it does on failure and weakness. The point, of course, is to glorify God. The tune, VOM HIMMEL KAM DER ENGEL SCHAR, dates from Gotha, 1715.
We praise You, Israel’s God and Lord,
Who mighty signs on Egypt poured
And, turning weakness into strength,
Your captive people freed at length.
While Moses, by his weakness stung,
Was slow of speech and dull of tongue—
A man of lips uncircumcised—
You made him God in Pharaoh’s eyes.
In spite of plagues and signs galore,
You hardened Pharaoh’s heart still more,
That Jacob’s children might be shown
Their freedom was of You alone.
By smoke and flame, through cloven sea,
You led them forth to liberty;
At Sinai’s knees, with glory fraught,
They once again Your name forgot.
Behold, how weakness pairs with pow’r!
At that most solemn, festive hour,
While Moses did Your face behold,
They made and praised a calf of gold.
His glowing face they bade him veil;
Their grumbling tried his patience frail.
Their fickle hearts held honor slight,
Still less of fear before Your might.
You gave them water from a rock;
You fed them bread from heaven’s stock;
You showed by signs Your word is true;
Yet Jacob’s sons resisted You.
While they Your anger would provoke,
Yet you to them through Moses spoke;
Through forty years of scrub and sand,
You brought them to the promised land.
When open signs brought little awe,
You gave Your word in Moses’ law;
So You Yourself, in letters veiled,
Preserved a line that never failed.
Who else Your undimmed glory saw
But Moses, giver of the Law,
Who never past the Jordan went,
But gazed on it and died content?
Who greater evidence imparts
To what pollutes our deeds and hearts?
Who better knew just what may slip
Twixt trusty cup and fickle lip?
Who else but Christ beheld Your face
And lived to speak Your word of grace?
What prophet shines on Christ more light
Than Moses’ sacrificial rite?
Who but that frail and humble man
Bore greater witness to Your plan,
Lord God, to give Your holy Son
For every sinner to atone?
Who is there, in whose weakness glow
Such deeds of pow’r, that we may know
Your will to work through humble means,
But he whose arm on Aaron leans?
Who else so richly testifies,
From Adam’s fall to Israel’s rise,
That You, who made all things, are One,
And of the wonders You have done?
In Moses’ strong prophetic voice
The frail yet faithful now rejoice;
Lord, in our weakness proven strong,
Help us Your worthy praise prolong!