One of the benefits of setting up the PowerPoint for worship on Sunday is you often have to type the words to the songs into the computer. I have often found a profound sermon hidden in the words of a hymn we will sing (often more profound than the sermon I was going to preach). This Sunday we sang Lord We Come Before Thee Now, written by William Hammond in 1745. It was originally inspired by the words of Psalm 27: 7 – 9
7 Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior.
The language of the hymn is awkward and unclear (being over 250 years old) and the punctuation in the hymnbook sometimes obscures the meaning but the message behind the words is wonderful. While I am no poet, here is my modern day translation of William Hammond’s words:
Lord, we come and humbly bow before you now.
Please don’t reject our request, will we seek you in vain?
Lord, our souls depend on you. Descend on us in compassion, fill our hearts with your rich grace and tune our lips to sing your praise.
We seek you now in the way you asked us to; we never want to leave.
We don’t know how to go on until we receive a blessing from you.
Allow everyone who seeks you to find you gracious and kind.
Heal the sick and set the captives free. Let us rejoice in you and what you have done.
We come before God at his pleasure: in other words, He doesn’t owe us a hearing. In His grace He hears us.
God descends on us in compassion and with His grace makes us able to sing His praise.
Once our hearts have been changed we never want to leave.
God’s mission of healing sick people, social structures, relationships and restoring freedom to those in bondage becomes our mission. We can’t do it but God does it through us.
21st century hymns are words with hands and feet.