I love hymns. Get 100 loud singers together, add a triumphant piano player and turn them loose singing “Oh For A Thousand Tongues,” and you could rival the power of a 400 person congregation singing just about any modern worship song today. There’s such a majesty to hymns, and a rhythm – most of them sound like songs a platoon of soldiers could sing as they march; they’re marching songs. There’s a confidence of victory found in hymns that’s amazing – never a question – when you’re singing a hymn, you’re singing your victory. And content – talk about content; in times when the literacy rate was next to nothing, hymns served as the central source of Biblical knowledge and the means of teaching theology. In many third world countries, this same application continues to be valuable today.
The other amazing thing about hymns is the amount of history they span – decades, centuries, wars, continents, tragedies, discoveries, lifetimes. I started my day today by singing through about 13 old hymns from an “ancient” hymnbook I keep in my office. As I sang these (to me) familiar hymns I started noting the dates they were written:
Crown Him With Many Crowns – “Crown him the Son of God, before the worlds began, and ye, who tread where he hath trod -- crown him the Son of man; who every grief hath known, that wrings the human breast, and takes and bears them for his own, that all in him may rest.” – written by Matthew Bridges in 1852. O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing --“He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free, His love can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me.” – written by Charles Weseley in 1739. Praise To The Lord – “Praise to the Lord; over all things he gloriously reigneth. Borne as on eagle-wings, safely his saints he sustaineth. Hast thou not seen -- how all thou needest hath been granted in what he ordaineth?” – written by Joachim Neander in 1680.
Times may have changed, and so too our styles of worship, but it was amazing to journey back through that hymnal like a time machine and read again and again the words of those who loved Jesus, consistently hailed as faithful by our Christian predecessors, these “victors in the midst of strife” who have gone before us and on whose shoulders of faith we stand. Jesus isn’t just ours – He was theirs too. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:7). “Consider the outcome” of their faithful lives, because it’s our turn now to carry the baton of the Gospel into our time and spheres of influence – and it’s the same Jesus who’s leading the way!
Surrounded By Grace, Josh