Before the Throne of God Above
w/m - Charitie Lees Bancroft
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect, spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God
These words were written in the 1800’s and contain so much good theology, not just for our understanding of God, but for living a life that trusts in His works. Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea. If the song ended there, this would be one of the most false statements I’ve ever read. Before the throne of the thrice Holy God, our unrighteousness cannot stand. Our pleas would be too late. Sin must be punished, and our deserving end would be eternal hell. However, the song continues… A great High Priest whose name is love, Who ever lives and pleads for me. Our sins separate us from God, but the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, that once for all pays for our sins, stands in the way of God’s wrath. He paid the debt He did not owe and intercedes in our behalf before the Father.
My name is graven on His hands. My name is written on His heart. I know that while in heaven He stands no tongue can bid me thence depart. The torture and death that Jesus bore on our behalf, having the nails driven in His hands and feet, not to mention the wrath of God being poured out on Him, was not for His own sins, but ours. He went to the cross, and was the sacrifice for us. The Good Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11). When He cried, “It is finished”, the work was done. It can’t be undone. Eternal life is… eternal. Jesus, our Prophet, Priest and King reigns from heaven. His Kingdom will know no end.
When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within. How many times have we looked at our past sin, and rather than being assured because of the work of Christ, we become distressed because we dwell on our failures. Yes, our failures are real, our transgressions against the Creator serious, and our disobedience to Christ traitorous, but “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). Upward I look and see Him there Who made an end of all my sin. If we confess our sin, God forgives us (1 John 1:9). God can do that, not because He turns a blind eye to sin. He would be a terrible judge, and justice would not be served if that were the case. Instead, God looks at us and sees the clean record, not of us, but of Christ. Christ put an end to our sin at the cross. It truly was finished. Sin was paid for. Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free, for God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.
Behold Him there, the risen Lamb, my perfect, spotless Righteousness. Our righteousness adds nothing to our salvation, for they are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). God views us as spotless because Christ was spotless. God looks at the Lamb who took our sin, and gave us His perfect life. The great unchangeable I AM, the King of glory and of grace. Yes, Jesus claimed several times to be God in the flesh, even referring to Himself as the “I Am”, a name reserved for the Creator God.
One with Himself, I cannot die. My soul is purchased by His blood. We have security, not in our own works or power, but because of Jesus’ works and power. We are His, He bought us, owns us, commands us, and will see us safely home. My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ my Savior and my God. What a blessed thought, that our eternity is guaranteed, eternal life, before the throne of God above.
He Will Hold Me Fast
Ada Habershon, Matthew Merker
When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path;
For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.
Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast.
He’ll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast.
For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast;
Justice has been satisfied; He will hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast
‘Till our faith is turned to sight when He comes at last!
He Will Hold Me Fast has become a favorite among the modern hymn movement. The first two verses of this song were written in the late 19th century by Ada Habershon. The third verse was added by Matt Merker in 2013. The song is a song of comfort and assurance that our Heavenly Father loves His children, not because we are always faithful, or always obey His will, but because of His sovereign choice to love us in spite of our failures. It builds on the truth in Jude 24 “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.” It is God’s preserving grace that keeps us, not our works, or our faithfulness. In fact, when we are faithless, He remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). This song has been an encouragement to our family in recent years as we have faced some hard challenges. It is the theological truths presented here that have been a firm anchor in the storms.
When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast; When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast. As disciples of Christ, we are called to mortify the flesh, but that doesn’t always happen. We are constantly tempted by the one who knows our greatest weaknesses. If we are honest, there are probably many times each day when we sin in our thoughts, motivations, words, and actions. We may, and should, strive for perfection, but we will always fall short. I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path; for my love is often cold; He must hold me fast. Jesus never fails to love and forgive when we come to Him in repentance. His faithfulness is perfect.
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast. For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast. This song is not about us, it is not about what we can do. It’s about what we can’t do, and what God always does.
Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast; precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast. The Good Shepherd loves His sheep. He knows them and they know His voice. He gives His life for the sheep, He protects them, He leads them by still waters; however, not everyone are His sheep. If it is natural to say that you love your own children more than a stranger’s, why do we expect that God would not have a special love for His children? While there is a general sense that God loves the whole world (John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, Romans 5:8), there is a special love reserved for those who have an intimate relationship with Him as Savior and Lord. John 14:21 says, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” God has a special relationship with those who are His.
He’ll not let my soul be lost; His promises shall last; bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast. This speaks to the doctrine of eternal security. If we truly are saved, our souls cannot be lost, not because we do good works and earn that right, but because Jesus paid that cost. Nothing can separate us from the love of God when we are saved (Romans 8:38-39). Jesus’ work on the cross does not fail.
For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast; justice has been satisfied; He will hold me fast. When Jesus bore the wrath of God on the cross, shedding His blood, and dying as our substitute, the demands of the righteous God were met. Legally, our debt was paid in full and justice had been served. Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast. ’Till our faith is turned to sight when He comes at last! When Jesus rose again on the third day, He was the first fruits of those who sleep (1 Corinthians 15:20). One day, we will be raised with Him. Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
It is that hope we have, that our present life is not worth comparing with the eternal life ahead. We can have rest in the here and now, knowing it is not our faithfulness that we rely on, but His, that holds us fast.
Bobby Strand, Christopher Allen Greely, Gabriel Wilson, Kalley Heiligenthal
Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold
Like a vow that is tested like a covenant of old
And Your love is enduring through the winter rain
And beyond the horizon with mercy for today
Faithful You have been and faithful you will be
You pledge yourself to me and it's why I sing
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips
You Father the orphan, Your kindness makes us whole
And you shoulder our weakness and your strength becomes our own
Now you're making me like you, clothing me in white
Bringing beauty from ashes for You will have Your bride
Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame
And known by her true name and it's why I sing
You will be praised, You will be praised
With angels and saints we sing worthy are You Lord
Your love is devoted like a ring of solid gold, like a vow that is tested like a covenant of old. God’s love is devoted in that it is promised. Sometimes, our devotion to something can wane, but God’s covenant with His people is everlasting (Hebrews 13:20). And Your love is enduring through the winter rain, and beyond the horizon with mercy for today. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” God’s mercy is best shown in His sacrifice of His Son in our place, but His mercy is also shown for us every day when we choose sin over obedience. Rather than striking us down every time we deserve it, God blesses us with continual days and years in His service. Even the lost feel the mercies of God as the rain falls on the just as well as the unjust. God often holds back His wrath when He has every right to exact perfect justice at the first transgression.
Faithful You have been and faithful you will be. You pledge yourself to me and it's why I sing Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips. Christ is called the Bridegroom and the church is the bride. Even when this bride is unfaithful, this groom is perfectly faithful. His mercy and love should be enough for us, like the spirit beings around the throne, to never cease to give praise to Him.
You Father the orphan, Your kindness makes us whole, and you shoulder our weakness and your strength becomes our own. 2 Corinthians 6:18 says, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.” John 1 says, “But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” And Paul says in Galatians, “When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” We have been placed as sons in the family of God, loved and disciplined as children, and blessed as joint heirs with Jesus.
Now you're making me like you, clothing me in white, bringing beauty from ashes for You will have Your bride. 1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” One day, we will be free even from the presence of sin in our lives. We will not be gods, but we will be like Christ. This process is called sanctification. It began on the day we were saved, continues throughout our lives, and will be finally realized when we leave this earthly shell of flesh and enter into His presence.
Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame, and known by her true name and it's why I sing. You will be praised, You will be praised. With angels and saints we sing worthy are You Lord. The bride of Christ, the church, while not always perfect in practice, will be presented without blemish. Ephesians 5 says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” That’s enough for the praise of our God to ever be on our lips.
No Longer Slaves
Jonathan David Helser / Brian Joel Case / Mark Johnson
You unravel me, with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance, from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone
I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God
From my mothers womb You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again, into a family
Your blood flows through my veins
You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me and I will stand and sing
I am the child of God
No Longer Slaves is a song by Bethel Music from Bethel Church in Redding California. It is important for us to be clear that we do not agree the doctrines of that church, and would not recommend them as a church, but they do put out an incredible amount of worship music that is very popular. This song is one that, with some explanation, is a very well written song, with a nice melody line, and an encouraging message that Christians can find reassuring.
You unravel me, with a melody. You surround me with a song. Bands like Bethel, Elevation Worship, and Hillsong often write very poetic lyrics that need to be interpreted as such. The comparison of God’s work in our lives with a song is in view here. A literal song or melody does not save us, but God’s undeserving mercy in our lives can, like a song move us, affect us, and bless us. Of deliverance, from my enemies ‘till all my fears are gone. As Christians, our enemies are not the unsaved people in the world. They are the mission field. Our enemy is Satan and the sin that so easily besets us. When Jesus said, “It is Finished”, He, once for all, defeated sin and death on our behalf. We have no need to fear because we serve a God who is in control of every circumstance in our lives.
I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God. Let me first say, fear can be a good thing, in the right measure. It is fear that keeps us from walking out in the highway. It is fear that makes us slow down when a sharp curve is ahead. Yes, there may be a sign that changes the speed limit for the curve, but it is usually the force we feel when we hit that curve too quickly that makes us naturally hit the brakes. It is also fear that can be a predominant factor in restraining from sin. Fear of God and His wrath is a good thing, for God’s wrath is real against sin. As a child of God, we don’t need to fear His wrath, but we should still fear His discipline.
Now, there are plenty of other things in this world that can cause us to have a needless fear. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This is a command to not be anxious over things. You could read it, “Be anxious over No Thing." However, back in chapter 2 Paul says, “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” That word “Concerned” is the same word in chapter 4 that is translated “Anxious”. So, Paul was concerned over people, but not over things. Too many times, we let our fears consume us, and what that says to the world around us is that we don’t think our God is up to the task. It makes us poor ambassadors. We are children of God. We are children of the One who both created the universe, and sustains every molecule every second of every day. We’ve been saved and are kept in His care. We are no longer slaves to sin, no longer slaves to the flesh, no longer slaves to fear.
From my mothers womb You have chosen me. Love has called my name. Actually, the Bible clearly states that we are chosen from before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him in love.” It gives me great confidence in knowing that it is not by my works or righteousness that I was saved, but by the works done by Christ that have been imputed to my account. My sins are forgiven. Jesus is not only the propitiation (satisfying the demands of a righteous God), but my expiation (He carried away my sins like the Old Testament scapegoat). When I stand before God, the Father will choose to see only the perfect life of Christ. He called my name, and as Romans 8:30 clearly states, "those whom He called, He also justified; and those whom He justified, He also glorified.” My glorification is as sure as my calling and justification. Because of that, I’m not longer a slave to fear.
I’ve been born again, into a family. Your blood flows through my veins. Here, we need to be careful. The writers of this song moved from the poetic first couple of lines into a very literal rest of the song. However, this last line, they jump back to figurative language. God the Father has no blood. He is a spirit who does not have a body like us. Jesus does have a body and He did shed His blood, but Jesus’ blood is not in our veins. Most likely, He is a different blood type. There is nothing in scripture that tells us that we receive Jesus’ blood literally into our veins, so this clearly is a word picture saying that we are His family. Adoption is literally “Son-placing”. We are sons and daughters of God by adoption. We have a new family. It’s a family that is brought together for the purpose of building and edifying one another. We don’t need to fear, because we are a child of God, surrounded by a loving family.
The song then meanders around with some improvised lyrics, but I will skip right to the bridge: You split the sea so I could walk right through it. My fears were drowned in perfect love. You rescued me and I will stand and sing, I am the child of God. Clearly, this is a reference to Israel being rescued from their attackers through the Red Sea. In this analogy, our attackers can be our sin, the power of the flesh, the devil, and even the wrath of God Himself. They could also be some worries and fears our flesh brings up that we need to lay on the altar of God’s sovereignty. Remember, that sovereignty is defined as the fact that nothing happens that God does not either cause or allow. That alone should break the chains so we are no longer a slave to fear.
I Will Sing of My Redeemer
I will sing of my Redeemer
And his wondrous love to me
On the cruel cross he suffered
From the curse to set me free
Sing, O sing of my Redeemer
With his blood he purchased me
On the cross he sealed my pardon
Paid the debt, and made me free
I will tell the wondrous story
How my lost estate to save
In his boundless love and mercy
He the ransom freely gave
I will praise my dear Redeemer
His triumphant power I'll tell
How the victory he gives me
Over sin and death and hell
I will sing of my Redeemer
And his heavenly love for me
He from death to life has brought me
Son of God, with him to be
Psalm 96:2 says, “Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.” As Christians, we are always saved, so we can always sing. Our circumstances may change, but our standing with God never does. Our singing isn’t about us. If it was about us, there would be some times when we aren’t in the “right place” to sing, but our singing is about God, and God is always worthy to be praised. He never changes, His works are always good and glorious, and His attributes are always perfection. Wherever you are today in your walk, look to God and sing!
I will sing of my Redeemer and his wondrous love to me. On the cruel cross he suffered, from the curse to set me free. Forget the daily blessings of being in Christ for a moment. Just the fact that Jesus suffered on our behalf should be reason enough for ceaseless praise. We are no longer under the curse of sin, no longer under the power and penalty of sin, and one day will be free even from the presence of sin. He is our redeemer and that fact alone warrants praise.
Sing, O sing of my Redeemer. With his blood he purchased me. On the cross he sealed my pardon, paid the debt, and made me free. How embarrassed would you be if after unloading an entire basket of groceries on the belt at the supermarket, you realized that you had left your wallet at home. How grateful and elated would you be if the person behind you “Paid it forward” and bought your groceries for you! How many people would you tell that day, and for weeks and even years to come? You’d grab your phone and tweet or post on Facebook all about that remarkable tale of generosity. Jesus paid your eternal debt. Every sin, He bore on the cross for you so when you stand before the Almighty God, your sin debt is cancelled, paid in full. And yet, we rarely bring it up. Perhaps it is because we have grown used to it and aren’t reminded enough of that magnificent gift. That is why we sing of the works of our God every Sunday, to remind us of what it took to set us free.
I will tell the wondrous story, how my lost estate to save. In his boundless love and mercy, He the ransom freely gave. The word “estate” has its origin in Latin and means standing or condition. Our condition was lost and it took the boundless act of love and mercy to reverse that condition and make us whole.
I will praise my dear Redeemer, His triumphant power I'll tell. How the victory he gives me over sin and death and hell. God is powerful… that’s an understatement. God is all-powerful. God doesn’t stress over things. God doesn’t wear Himself out accomplishing all He does. It is not an effort to hold the universe together. This is the God who spoke and creation happened, "Ex Nihilo", out of nothing. His power is overwhelming. He speaks and life happens. It isn’t a struggle between God and Satan and our fingers are crossed to see who will win. Satan is a pawn in God’s plan and his “power” is only what God allows him to have. That is the God we serve. That is why we can have complete confidence that Jesus has absolute victory over death and hell.
I will sing of my Redeemer and his heavenly love for me. He from death to life has brought me, Son of God, with him to be. The Bible contains over 400 references to singing and 50 direct commands to sing. We shouldn’t need to be commanded to sing when our eyes are fixed on the One who redeemed us, but too many times our eyes are elsewhere, and so we are commanded. Remember, it’s a commandment, not a suggestion!
Keith & Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend
By faith we see the hand of God
In the light of creation’s grand design
In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness
Who walk by faith and not by sight
By faith our fathers roamed the earth
With the power of His promise in their hearts
Of a holy city built by God’s own hand
A place where peace and justice reign
We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight
By faith the prophets saw a day
When the longed-for Messiah would appear
With the power to break the chains of sin and death
And rise triumphant from the grave
By faith the church was called to go
In the power of the Spirit to the lost
To deliver captives and to preach good news
In every corner of the earth
By faith this mountain shall be moved
And the power of the gospel shall prevail
For we know in Christ all things are possible
For all who call upon His name
“One generation will commend Your works to another; they will tell of Your mighty acts. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures through all generations. The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving towards all He has made. My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.” Psalm 145:4, 13, 21
This verse is quoted on the Getty’s website as an inspiration behind the writing of this song. If the current generation is not telling of God’s mighty acts, we can’t expect the next generation to do so. If the current generation is not singing on Sunday, we shouldn’t expect the next to sing. If the current generation does not value the authority of the Word of God, we should expect the next generation to seek answers elsewhere. We have a responsibility to the next generation to walk by faith and not by sight, so that the next generation will trust, even when they don’t have our life experience and have yet to see God’s faithfulness through many years.
By faith we see the hand of God in the light of creation’s grand design, in the lives of those who prove His faithfulness who walk by faith and not by sight. For those of us who have walked with Christ for a number of years, we can see God’s hand and faithfulness to us, not only in the sustaining of the world around us, but in the sustaining of our hearts in the midst of life’s circumstances. We need to be a walking testimony of God’s presence, grace, and peace in the midst of trial. If the world sees the we have no faith in our God, why would they want to serve Him as Lord?
By faith our fathers roamed the earth with the power of His promise in their hearts, of a holy city built by God’s own hand, a place where peace and justice reign. The Bible is a collection of books, written over thousands of years, but still has one narrative, one main focus, and that is God’s plan of redemption through the work of Jesus Christ. As you read through the Old and New Testaments, you will immediately be impressed by the sovereignty and providence of God in the lives of His people throughout history. God has always had His people, from Adam to Noah to Abraham and his descendants to the New Testament church. He has always been building His Kingdom throughout different dispensations, and one day, His plan will be completed and He will reign forever with His people from throughout the ages.
We will stand as children of the promise. We will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward. Till the race is finished and the work is done, we’ll walk by faith and not by sight. If we are in Christ, His promises should impact how we live our lives, how we interact as a family, how we reach out to others with the good news, how we respond to trials and tribulation, etc. Knowing that God’s eternal Kingdom is being built, and that much of what draws our attention is fleeting, should change our priorities. 1 Corinthians 13 says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” We run the race, and even though we can’t see the finish line, we run as though we know it’s there.
By faith the prophets saw a day when the longed-for Messiah would appear with the power to break the chains of sin and death and rise triumphant from the grave. The Old Testament saints had comparatively little revelation, but knew that “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” They knew that “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” They knew a Messiah was to come and many were faithful to the end. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? We have the gospels, we have the detailed story of Jesus, we have the testimony of the apostles. We have so much more, so much more will be required for us to walk by faith because we have so much more “sight”.
By faith the church was called to go in the power of the Spirit to the lost to deliver captives and to preach good news in every corner of the earth. Since the beginning of the church, there have been a “great cloud of witnesses” who have given up their lives to defend the truth. Persecution has always been the fertile soil of church growth and the spread of the gospel. God has always had a plan and purpose and is working it out every day. Seeing the gospel spread around the world should spur us on to be a part of that work and embolden our faith.
By faith this mountain shall be moved and the power of the gospel shall prevail, for we know in Christ all things are possible for all who call upon His name. We see God’s faithfulness in His sustaining creation, in the lives of the Old Testament saints, and in the spread of the gospel to the world by the church. All of those testimonies should change our lives and increase our faith. We have not seen all we will see, but we see enough everyday to build an unshakable faith in our Sovereign Lord.
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
Joel Houston, Matt Crocker, Salomon Ligthelm
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sov'reign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior
Oceans is a song that was really big in 2013 and the few years following. I personally doubt it will be sung much 30 years from now, as it seems to be losing steam quickly. The problem with radio worship songs is that they are hugely popular for a year or so, then are so overplayed that people grow tired of them. Still, this is a song that many churches are still singing, and we have on occasion, so I’ll take this 40th Exegeting the Hymns and look back at a song that swept the nation (pun intended).
My biggest problem with this song initially was the repetition. These words could be spoken in 30 seconds, but the song was over nine minutes. The excessive, almost comical repetition turned many off to some good lyrics without giving them a chance. When we sing it at our church, it lasts about 3 minutes, enough to make the point, teach the truth, and then move on.
You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown where feet may fail. This is clearly alluding to Jesus calling Peter out onto the waters in Matthew 14. The disciples were out on the boat heading to the other shore. Jesus met them out on the water, walking on top of it, and Peter initiated the idea of walking on the water by saying, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replied, “Come”. This was a good object lesson of trusting and looking to Jesus in the midst of scary circumstances in our lives. There are unknown things we face, namely the future. God knows everything, but we do not. We must trust Him in faith daily. And there I find You in the mystery, in oceans deep my faith will stand. God has not revealed every detail of the future to us and we should be thankful for that. It is a mystery to our minds.
And I will call upon Your name, and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am Yours and You are mine. The faith and the power to trust in Christ everyday, comes from Christ Himself. It is because of His power that we are safe, because of His arms around us that we are secure. There is no need for a believer to be overwhelmed by life’s circumstances. Not only is it a poor testimony to the world, but it is unnecessary because we can look to a sovereign Lord.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters. Your sovereign hand will be my guide. Too often, we forget that God is sovereign, or don’t have a complete understanding of His sovereignty. God knows everything, past, present, future. God has a plan that will be accomplished from eternity to eternity. There is not a random molecule in this universe outside of His control (not even a sparrow falls to the ground without Him). Nothing happens that God does not either cause to happen, or allow to happen. When we understand that there are no accidents, luck, or karma, only providence, we can have true rest and true peace, regardless of the circumstances around us.
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You’ve never failed and You won't start now. Jesus promised never to leave us nor forsake us. God promised to work all things together for our good. We see all over scripture that God is not only in control, but is faithful to His promises. This should eliminate fear, even from the most frightful of circumstances.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters. Note here that Peter asked Jesus to “tell me to come to you on the water.” Then he stepped out, only after Jesus said, “Come”. Our trust does have, and should have borders only in that we are bound by what God has told us to do. One can’t do something contrary to God’s commands and trust that God will keep us from harm. We must first know what borders God has given us, and work within them. However, as long as the Holy Spirit is leading us, we will stay within His borders. The point of this line is not to let our fear construct borders short of where God is calling us to go.
Wherever You would call me, take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. In our own power, we can do nothing (John 15:5), but we can do all things God calls us to do in His power (Phil. 4:13).
How Sweet and Aweful is the Place
Isaac Watts, Bill & Karen Itzel
How sweet and aweful is the place
With Christ within the doors
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores
While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast
Each of us cry with thankful tongues
“Lord, why was I a guest?”
Lord, why was I a guest?
Partaker in Your rest?
Lord, nothing from me would suggest
A worthy soul to bless
“Why was I made to hear Thy voice
And enter while there's room
When thousands make a wretched choice
And rather starve than come?”
’Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in
Else we had still refused to taste
And perished in our sin
Pity the nations, O our God
Constrain the earth to come
Send Thy victorious Word abroad
And bring the strangers home
We long to see Thy churches full
That all the chosen race
May with one voice and heart and soul
Sing Thy redeeming grace
Lord why was I a guest?
Partaker in Your rest?
Lord, nothing in me to impress
Or call me as a guest
But You called me as a guest
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) is one of the best known hymn writers in all of Christendom. He is credited with over 750 hymns such as “Joy to the World”, “Come Ye that Love the Lord”, “O God Our Help in Ages Past”, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God”, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”, and “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed”. This year, as I read a biography of Watts, I was impressed by one song in particular that I had never heard before.
“How Sweet and Aweful is the Place” is the kind of hymn name that one in this day and age would easily skip over, but one would also miss out on a great song with great truths. The line that grabbed me was “Lord, why was I a guest?” I couldn’t get it out of my head, so Karen and I eventually wrote a chorus for the song and plan on recording it on our next CD. Therefore, at this point there are no YouTube link for the complete song with chorus, but here is is the link to the original hymn so you can hear the beautiful melody. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkE8Ou8iw-A
How sweet and aweful is the place with Christ within the doors. First, don’t let the word aweful throw you. “Aweful” means full of awe; it doesn’t mean “Awful” as in terrible. Any place where Christ is, is not only sweet because of His presence, but aweful because of His presence. This sets up a picture of the King (in this case, the King of kings) having a feast and calling undeserving people off the street to be His guests. While everlasting love displays the choicest of her stores. God’s amazing love is greater than anything we can ever find anywhere else.
While all our hearts and all our songs join to admire the feast, each of us cry with thankful tongues, “Lord, why was I a guest?” We are the homeless, lost, poor, needy whom the King calls in. Watts describes a rightful feeling of confusion as to why we are there? We are not worthy, but the King has brought us in to dine with Him. I wanted to expand this impression of unworthiness in the chorus: Lord, why was I a guest? Partaker in Your rest? Lord, nothing from me would suggest a worthy soul to bless. As Jesus calls us into His place of rest, we are constantly reminded that we are unworthy and unfit to be there.
“Why was I made to hear Thy voice and enter while there's room when thousands make a wretched choice and rather starve than come?” This is a question that I can’t fathom an answer. I see so many around me who willingly choose to pay for their own sins for eternity in the lake of fire, even though they have been warned of their impending doom, and yet God has saved me, of all people. Again, “Lord, why was I a guest?” ’Twas the same love that spread the feast that sweetly drew us in. Else we had still refused to taste and perished in our sin. We are so blessed that God showed His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
After viewing the personal salvific work of God, Watts evangelistically turns to a longing for the salvation of the people of the world. Pity the nations, O our God. Constrain the earth to come. Send Thy victorious Word abroad and bring the strangers home. We should have a burning desire for the lost to be saved. It would be very selfish for us to eat at the table, casually gaze at those freezing out in the cold, and not want to compel them to come in. We long to see Thy churches full that all the chosen race may with one voice and heart and soul sing Thy redeeming grace. We have the great blessing and responsibility to preach the gospel and make disciples. What a loss it will be for us if we shirk our duty to call those dying in their sin, to come and dine.
Lord why was I a guest? Partaker in Your rest? Lord, nothing in me to impress or call me as a guest, but You called me as a guest. There is nothing in us, no deeds we have done, no amount of good in our souls that would trigger God to draw us in. It was His love and mercy and goodness that called us as a guest. Praise God every day and call others to join in the goodness of our Lord and King.
May the Peoples Praise You
w/m Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, David Zimmer, Stuart Townend, Ed Cash
You have called us out of darkest night into Your glorious light
That we may sing the wonders of the risen Christ
May our every breath retell the grace that broke into our strife
With boundless love and deepest joy with endless life
May the peoples praise You. Let the nations be glad
All Your blessing comes that we may praise
May praise the Name of Jesus
All the earth is Yours and all within. Each harvest is Your own
And from Your hand we give to You to make Christ known
May the seeds of mercy grow in us for those who have not heard
May songs of praise build lives of grace to spread Your Word
This our holy privilege to declare Your praises and Your name
To every nation, tribe and tongue, Your church proclaims
Holy, holy is the Lord Almighty
Worthy, worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Holy, holy is the Lord Almighty
All creation praise Your glorious Name
According to the writers, this song was “Inspired by Psalm 67, this hymn is a call to worship and mission”. Psalm 67 says, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!”
This psalm and this song are a call for God to receive all the blessing and honor and glory and majesty the He receives in heaven, from those of us here on earth. We know from Revelation 4–5 that the angelic beings, elders, and heavenly creatures praise God ceaselessly around the throne. May our praise, here on earth, join theirs in an unending chorus of praise.
You have called us out of darkest night into Your glorious light that we may sing the wonders of the risen Christ. We were saved, not because God owed us anything, nor because He needed us, nor because we were desirable, but because God receives glory from saving us. He makes us alive so that we will bring Him honor, and we should forever praise Him for His love toward us. God can never receive too much glory, and through His creation, God will receive ultimate glory in both His justice and His mercy. May our every breath retell the grace that broke into our strife with boundless love and deepest joy with endless life.
May the peoples praise You. Let the nations be glad. All Your blessing comes that we may praise, may praise the Name of Jesus. We know that one day every knee will bow, and our prayer should be that all men bring praise to Him here on earth, before they are forced to bow in judgment. God’s graciousness has been a blessing to all of the nations. We should count those blessings as an opportunity to praise the Giver of those blessings.
All the earth is Yours and all within. Each harvest is Your own, and from Your hand we give to You to make Christ known. As believers, we have been promised every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies (Ephesians 1), but God also blesses us with so many physical blessings, our “daily bread”. May the seeds of mercy grow in us for those who have not heard. May songs of praise build lives of grace to spread Your Word. Too often, we receive the blessings of God and just sit back and enjoy, when instead, we should let those blessings spur us on to share the goodness of our God with others. Yes, in physical ways, but more importantly, in the life altering message of the gospel.
This our holy privilege to declare Your praises and Your name to every nation, tribe and tongue, Your church proclaims. Evangelism is not only a duty, but a privilege. We are messengers, ambassadors for the King, and we have the greatest message ever to tell. What part are we playing in our role as evangelists? Do we live, speak, think, act, spend, worship, trust, and obey as though we serve the King of kings and Lord of lords? We have a duty to go into the world, wherever that leads us and be more than just spiritual gluttons who increase in knowledge, but never let that knowledge fuel us to action. This is an area I know I need to make a concerted effort to grow in.
I want my friends, neighbors, everyone I come into contact with to sing with me… Holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. Worthy, worthy is the Lamb Who was slain. Holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. All creation praise Your glorious Name.
w/m Ross King – (Luke 15:14, Philippians 4:19)
In need of grace
In need of love
In need of mercy raining down
From high above
In need of strength
In need of peace
In need of things
That only You can give to me
In need of Christ the perfect Lamb
My refuge strong, the Great I Am
This is my song my humble plea
I am Your child I am in need
One of the dangers that worship leaders fall into is a lack of balance. For a worship leader like me who searches for profound theological teaching songs, I need to remember that sometimes, we need a refrain. We need to balance the deep levels of input with a simple chorus of output. That is why so many hymns and songs are written with verses and choruses, or refrains built into them. Some songs/choruses however, are written to be just for that purpose.
This song is just such a song. It is one verse and one chorus, but the thing I love about it is, while it can be sung as a simple heartfelt melody, if one takes the time to say… exegete the song, you’ll find a lot of good truth in it too.
In need of grace. In need of love. In need of mercy raining down from high above. Very simple, but there’s so much in that. One only needs to read Romans 1–3 to see the state of depravity into which we are all born. All have sinned, there are none righteous, we are all under the wrath of God, there are none that understand, none that seek after God. We are without excuse, unable to save ourselves. Without grace and mercy and love, we are justly bound for an eternity in the lake of fire. We need grace. We need love. We need mercy, but not just grace, love and mercy from anywhere. The answer cannot be found from within (although that is a popular false teaching today), nor can it be found in this world. It must be found from up above, from the one who judges, from the one we have offended.
In need of strength. In need of peace. In need of things that only You can give to me. While the first half of the verse speaks of our need in salvation, the second speaks of the needs we have after our conversion. We need strength. God promised Israel in Isaiah 58, “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun–scorched land and will strengthen your frame.” Isaiah 40 says, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.” In looking at the ones God chose, He says, “Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”
We are in need of strength. We also need peace. In John 14, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.” While we are made new in Christ, we still have needs because we live in fallen flesh in a fallen world. That world tries to fulfill those needs, but only God can truly meet them. “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
In need of Christ the perfect Lamb. My refuge strong, the Great I Am. Our reliance on God cannot be overstated. We depend on Him for everything, and as a good Master, He supplies our needs and loves us unconditionally. He also is our refuge and safety in the storms of life. This is my song my humble plea. I am Your child I am in need. Ross King gives us some insight into this last line of the chorus by letting us know he drew from Luke 15:14 in the parable of the prodigal son. The son who ran away from his father who loved and provided for him came back humbled. The father, who represents our Heavenly Father loved that son as a child. Our Father has made us to be sons and joint heirs with Jesus Christ and is preparing a seat at the table, a place in heaven, and is providing for our every need.
Bill Itzel has been a worship leader and singer/songwriter for almost 30 years and is based in Westminster, MD. His family tours and leads worship, not only in their home church (Mt. Airy Bible Church), but around the country. This is a blog about congregational worship and the latest news in the The Itzel's ministry.