Hymn of the Week: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?
Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.
Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.
Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.
Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.
Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.
Although this hymn has a great deal of archaic language, it is well worth learning! There is a balance between “putting the hay where the horses can get it” and dumbing down our language. In our house, we read the Word of God in as accurate a word for word translation as we can find that is as close to our heart language as possible. For us, that’s the New King James version. Others may certainly make other choices, in fact, we have international readers who ought to be reading the Word of God in their own heart language. That’s part of what the Reformation was about.
On the other hand, sometimes harder, more unusual words are more precise and carry a complexity of meaning that an easier word might not. This is a great hymn to teach your children some of these words. Consider the word assuaging (ah sway zhing) in the fifth verse. We might use a word like quieting or calming, but assuage means so much more than that! It carries the sense of ” to lessen the intensity of (something that pains or distresses)” or “to pacify or ease”, according to Merriam-Webster. Doesn’t that have so much more depth of meaning than to merely calm or quiet? This helps us to understand that the Lord relieves our pain and distress in trials that swirl around us like a storm.
There are so many excellent words in this hymn that have rich, deep meanings. Take the time to look up vouchsafe, confound, prosper, abounding and adoration. You’ll be glad you did!
Similarly, the archaic language of person address teaches us, as well. In older English forms, the words “thee and thou” were used for the second person singular. That is the familiar form of address, compared to the more formal “you.” That has been turned around in modern language, mainly due to folks thinking that because thee and thou were used in their Bibles, they must be the more respectful, formal form of address. This is not true! Thee and thou, at the time of the translation of the King James Version, would have been used within the family circle and among very close friends indeed. A father would address his son or his wife as thee or thou, but a customer or the major as you.
Hal tells of a friend of his who corresponded with a German friend for ten years before it was thought appropriate to address each other in the 2nd person singular! So, when we hear thee or thou in old translations or hymns or prayers, we should think of it as a child addressing his beloved father, not as a stranger approaching a King’s throne. What a privilege to be called the sons of God!
This precious hymn was written by Joachim Neander, and published in 1680. Neander’s name, appropriately, means “new man” and he was so known for his rambles and gatherings in the secluded Dussel River valley, that the valley came to be named after him, the Neanderthal. The fossils later found in the valley are thought to belong to fully human men.
The tune that we sing this to is Lobe den Herren, first published in the Ander Theil des Erneuerten Gesangbuch, second edition in 1665.
Enjoy singing this hymn with your family, just as believers have done for over 300 years. And check out this picture of what it means to shelter in the shadow of his wings – a swan with cygnets aboard.
The gorgeous azaleas are by Muffet.