Saturday, March 26, 2016

198. David Hymn

The subtitle of this brand-new hymn is "For the Gift of Repentance." Again, it's an odd variant on the sub-genre of "heroes of the faith" hymns in that, apart from allusions to a couple other episodes, it ignores most of the biblical stories about David and focuses almost solely on one. Besides, the story I chose to focus on is the one some people find most disturbing: a hero of faith cut down to size by his own sin. But this is precisely where I find David to be a "useful" example, worthy of being remembered in Christian hymnody - apart from paraphrases of his psalms, that is. Maybe some other time there will be a "David Hymn II" that addresses such interesting concepts as being chosen by grace, etc. The original tune, titled DAVID, I wrote in a big rush right in the middle of composing Stanza 2 of the text. I think it was partly inspired by the tune Robert Potterton wrote for my "Seven Churches of the Apocalypse" hymn, which I had just harmonized a few days earlier. I admit it's another instance of "casting against type," sort of like that minor-key tune I wrote for Jubilate Sunday, but I'm OK with that.
For Your word’s sake, according to Your heart,
Lord God, you raised up David as a king;
Your gracious covenant set him apart,
Through His offspring to do a mighty thing.
Therefore, because Your promises are true,
Help us through David’s Son to come to You!

That warrior, that prophetic psalmist-king,
That favored man, that champion of grace—
The same, stung by temptation’s deadly sting,
Bowed to his lust, turned from Your holy face;
If such a man gave way to flesh and blood,
What hope have we, who are not half so good?

He who slew giants with a single stone
Did murder, his adultery to hide;
Can one so lost for such a crime atone?
Could he restore the wife, raise him who died?
Far better had the youthful David’s sling
Felled him who slung it, ere he did this thing!

Yet, Lord, abiding by Your faithful plan,
You sent the prophet Nathan to the king,
To fling the piercing word, “You are the man.”
So now to us, Your law’s indictment bring!
Send messengers with timely, stern reproof,
Lest we from Your forgiveness stand aloof!

As David his iniquity confessed
And turned to seek Your conscience-cleansing grace,
Now let us, by Your Holy Spirit blessed,
Again like David, bow before Your face:
In us the gift of penitence instill;
Our empty hands with your forgiveness fill!

And though our sins’ effects may plague us here,
As David bore the death of his dear son,
Lift up our hearts with humble, patient cheer
Through David’s later Seed, the Holy One,
Till, flashing through our night so long and grim,
He will both come to us, and we to Him!
I never, never, never have writers' block... yet I stared for WEEKS at the space on the page where this hymn was meant to go, knowing exactly what I wanted to say, and couldn't make a start. The trouble was, I had picked an existing tune for the yet-unwritten hymn (Lindeman's lovely GUD SKAL ALTING MAGE) and it just wasn't the right tune. As soon as I deleted it, the words started to flow. Then, about halfway through Stanza 2, I started hearing music...

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