Saturday, October 4, 2008

Our Refuge and Hope

Sometimes it's easy to become discouraged when times are difficult. Economic troubles fill the news. The Presidential Campaign can be a source of anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. Hurricanes and other natural disasters give evidence that "the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." (Romans 8:22) Death & illness of loved ones cause heartache & pain.

A beautiful hymn written almost 300 years ago has been playing through my mind these past few days. In spite of its age, it is as relevant as the morning headlines. And interestingly enough, it was written in an effort to give the church more contemporary music to sing in its day!
Isaac Watts is often known as the "father of the English hymn." The church had been only singing slow & ponderous metrical versions of the Psalms. It was considered an insult to use any words other than direct scripture in praise to God. Isaac Watts was troubled by the condition of the congregational singing. He said "The singing of God's praise is the part of worship nearest heaven, but its performance among us is the worst on earth." Challenged to write something better, he began paraphrasing the Psalms in the language & style of the New Testament, and at the age of twenty-five he published a hymnbook titled The Psalms of David in the Language of the New Testament.

Additionally, those days were a time of great unrest. In 1714, England's Queen Anne was dying and she had no children to succeed her on the throne. Although her reign had brought new freedom and tolerance (Isaac's father had been imprisoned under the previous ruler but had been freed by Queen Anne), there was much anxiety and concern regarding who the new ruler would be and what that new regime would bring forth.

Isaac Watts wrote this hymn based on Psalm 90. God is not limited by time and earthly events and He will be our refuge.

1. A Song for All Seasons: 25 Hymn Stories Honoring God, Home, and Country
by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel Publications 2003
2. Amazing Grace: 365 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions by Kenneth W. Osbeck, Kregel, 2002
3. The Complete Book of Hymns: Inspiring Stories about 600 Hymns and Praise Songs by William J. Petersen & Ardythe Petersen, Tyndale, 2006

What a timely message for today! As you listen to this hymn, really ponder the beautiful words below.


Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

WORDS: Isaac Watts, 1719 (John Wesley changed the first lines from "Our God" to "O God" in 1738.)
MUSIC: William Croft, 1708

Be sure to visit Amy's for more songs for your Saturday!


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Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

I love it that this was the answer for contemporary music of the time! I've often argued with my brother (who is even more conservative than I am about contemporary worship music), that at some point even hymns were considered "up and coming" and new. If not, we would still be singing Gregorian chants in church!

Beautiful song....


Sita said...

Linda, what a timely reminder to us in shaky times--I actually wrote a post this week on "Shaky Times...Unshakeable God"..
The history behind this song adds so much depth to the understanding of his words...He be..our only Hope..thank you for sharing this...

Cathy said...

A beautiful post and hymn, Linda ~
I may want to post a link to it. :o)

Debra said...


I let the words wash over me like the water in the song washing over the rocks. How beautiful.

Blessings to you today.

Peggy said...

Blessings Linda~as usual, the perfect hymn for such a time as this. You describe the times now & we see the times then, and of this we can be sure:OUR GOD is OUR REFUGE, OUR ROCK:
"Our help in ages past, Our Hope for years to come" the same today, yesterday & forever! Knowing the background of these precious hymns just gives them so much more meaning!
I pray that your van is getting fixed & your heart & spirit can grieve & move forward inspite of the pain & loss! May your songs in your heart, the books you've reviewed, & the final scrabble victory games gain you the strength & covering of HIS Healing! Enjoy TSMSS and hang on to that HOPE!

Michele Williams said...

Wonderful post and hymn. Thank you for the reminder.

Chatty Kelly said...

What a beautiful hymn. I've heard in many times...but not in years. We have attended Contemporary worship for 10 yrs. Thanks for the wonderful memory, as well as the reminder in this time of economic trouble.

Carol said...

I've heard so many old hymns this week on TSMS. Hymn are my favorite! I love this one! Thanks for sharing.

Lisa Ann said...

This is a beautiful video. Love the song to.
(BTW I made some adjustments on my playlist to make it easier to find. Thanks for pointing it out.)

Laurie Ann said...

Awesome post and hymn. I love how you share the history. That means so much to me!