Friday, January 29, 2016

182. Elisha Hymn

Among the final stages in the development of my little book of hymns, I am devoting a section to hymns on "heroes of the faith." The trick is managing always to point to Christ without crassly allegorizing the Bible stories connected with each saint. In some instances, I plan on focusing on one key event in the saint's life that can be used as a lens to focus on Christ. In this case, however, I kind of recap just about everything the Scriptures tell us about the guy from the time he takes up Elijah's mantle (2 Kings 2) to his death (2 Kings 13). I left out a few things, like the she-bears mauling 42 youths (here illustrated by Gustave DorĂ©), the floating axe-head and Gehazi being cursed with leprosy, not only because they didn't contribute to my theme but simply to keep the hymn from becoming too tediously long. Tune: ICH RUF ZU DIR, from J. Klug’s Geistliche Lieder, Wittenberg, 1535.
O God, at work in words and signs
Beyond all comprehending,
Your wisdom seldom brighter shines
Than in Elisha’s sending.
By him You made foul water pure,
And deadly food made sweeter,
That the eater
Might of his life be sure;
Mere salt and flour conveyed the cure.

Moved by a harpist’s soothing tone,
He gave three kings instruction
To dig canals; which, being done,
Brought Moab to destruction.
A widow’s oil from one jar poured
At his word, many filling.
You were willing
Such wonders to record,
That we might fear and trust You, Lord.

He promised childbirth to a wife
Who warned against deceiving;
He then restored the dead child’s life,
That she might learn believing.
With only twenty cakes of bread
A hundred people feeding,
Only needing
God’s promise to be said,
He showed a Greater lay ahead.

He showed his lad the hidden host
That round them stood, protecting;
A foe was routed, blind and lost,
Then saved at his directing.
By his word siege and famine broke,
And God repaid for error
Death and terror;
For what Elisha spoke
You laid on with Elijah’s cloak.

While dying, he a king amazed
With signs in bow and arrows;
Indeed, his bones a dead man raised
Who fell into his barrow.
By whom but Naaman the unclean,
Despite his answer scathing
Healed by bathing,
Is it more clearly seen
Just what baptismal faith must mean?

If we learn aught from him at all,
Lord, not Elisha’s merit
But faithfulness let us recall
That, tasting of his spirit,
We may regard the means You chose
As You Yourself in action!
What reaction
Our reason may oppose,
Treat gently, like his blinded foes!

Yes, Lord! And further, give us eyes
Of faith, to Christ directed,
In whom alone, we realize,
Elisha stands perfected!
Far more does Christ give ample bread;
His death, though He is living,
Is life-giving;
Whatever foes we dread,
Far more His hosts are round us spread.

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