Monday, February 15, 2016

Hymns over a Sick Weekend

This past weekend I was miserably ill. I pretty much spent every hour that I could spare from necessary errands in bed. Nevertheless, I got up long enough to write the following two hymns, bringing me still closer to my target of 200 "useful hymns."

193. Abraham Hymn: For Justifying Faith
This "heroes of the faith" hymn only hits a few highlights of the career of the father of all the Hebrews, handed down in the book of Genesis. It is really focused on one key point: justification by faith. The tune is the 16th-century German chorale DURCH ADAMS FALL.
Lord, Abram’s Shield and great Reward
Ere Abraham You named him,
Behold! What grace on him You poured
When Your strong purpose claimed him!
You said, “Like stars your seed shall be.”
Then he, Your word believing,
Was counted righteous instantly,
Eternal life receiving.

Though, prey to Satan’s wily craft,
At times in doubt he stumbled;
And though at times his reason laughed,
Or in false schemes he bumbled,
You reckoned it as righteousness
That he, on hope subsisting,
In spite of age and childlessness,
Was yet in faith persisting.

You reckoned it as righteousness
When he, your mercy craving,
Pled for the vale of wickedness,
A righteous handful saving.
You tested him on mountain’s height,
His only son requiring,
And then foreshowed the paschal night,
A substitute desiring.

For Abraham, our father’s, sake,
Dear Lord, we now implore You:
Our faith, though weak, as justice take,
That we may stand before You
Clothed in the blood of Abram’s seed,
With righteousness imputed;
And help us trust in every need
Your strength, in mercy rooted!

194. Jacob Hymn: Wrestling with God
Again, the focus of this "hero of the faith" hymn is only one of many stories Genesis tells us about Jacob, also known as Israel. It is precisely this story that I hope will make Jacob a useful example for today's Christians. It goes to the tune ACH WIE NICHTIG, sourced to Gotha, 1715; though I'm afraid the structure of the tune doesn't quite gel with the rhyme scheme of the text. Oh, well!
Father, with Your children playing,
Jacob saw Your face and lived
When, by lonely night waylaying,
You tried him in tireless grappling
Till dawn’s rays the sky were dappling.

He refused to cease from wrestling,
Though his hip shrank out of joint,
Till he had from You a blessing.
Since he had with God contended,
His persistence You commended.

Give us, Lord, what You have given
Jacob, now called Israel:
After we with You have striven
Through dark, lonely hours of wrestling,
Lay on us Your mark of blessing!

Name us as Your mercy pleases,
In baptismal grace reborn!
Hide our flesh’s faults in Jesus;
Overlook our proud behavior;
Give us faith to grasp our Savior!

All our pains and worries treating,
Hear our troubled, anxious prayer!
In strange forms Your presence meeting,
Let us touch Your body living,
Taste Your blood, our sins forgiving!

Your true name at last revealing,
Jesus Christ, now hold us fast
Till, our heritage unsealing,
You lift us from dusty slumber
With the saved in mighty number!

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