Friday, February 26, 2016

196. Joshua Hymn

The full title of this number is "Joshua Hymn: For a Devout Heart." The tune I had in mind for it is O GOTT, DU FROMMER GOTT from Braunschweig, 1648. This particular "heroes of the faith"-type hymn is mainly drawn from one place in the Book of Joshua, his speech to the children of Israel in Joshua 24. I thought it was due for a little rescuing from the "Choose whom you will serve!" type of ditty that calls on the listener to make a decision for Christ. I can't help noticing, reading the text, that the only "choice" Joshua offers the children of Israel is to follow the false gods of Babylon and Canaan. In contrast to that, he actually tells them, "You cannot serve the Lord!"
Hark, children, at the word
Of Joshua’s exhorting;
Recall what you have heard
God’s messengers reporting!
Now, as in time of old,
He set at liberty
The people of His fold;
He brought us victory.

Behold, how rich a grace
To us has been extended!
What reason can we trace
For being thus befriended?
We did not sow the soil
Whereby our needs are met;
And yet, without our toil,
All good thereby we get.

With strong, extended arm
God worked all things to save us;
He held us free of harm,
Our trespasses forgave us;
A house, not built by hands,
He gave, that we may dwell
In richly fruited lands,
Made safe from sin and hell.

Now, Joshua so clear
A testimony hands us:
To serve the Lord with fear
He urgently commands us.
But if our hearts be loath
To heed his faithful voice,
We cannot serve them both—
True God and our own choice.

Forbid, O gracious Lord,
That we, false masters choosing,
May tumble by the board,
Your lovingkindness losing!
But let us rather say,
Like Joshua before:
You we will serve today,
Lifelong, and evermore!

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