Monday, June 20, 2011

I wrote this hymn, today, after reading about psalms of thanksgiving that we often find in the book of Psalms. These psalms were based on the thanksgiving sacrifice given by ordinary Israelites at the temple. The worshipper would bring his sacrifice of thanks to the temple and while it was on the altar, he would give thanks. The worshipper, in essence, would give a testimony of God's goodness and grace given to him.

Psalms of thanksgiving have a number of parts:
  1. Opening declaration: "I will give thanks to the Lord."
  2. The reason for the praise: for example, God is faithful.
  3. A report of the problem: for example, I was surrounded by enemies.
  4. The Lord's deliverance: "he delivered me."
  5. A fuller declaration of praise: for example, God is faithful to those who love him.
  6. A word of encouragement/exhortation to others: for example, Seek the Lord.
In this hymn, I think most of these elements are present. In verse 1, the basic dilemma is that we cannot know who God is unless He reveals himself to us. God reveals himself in two ways: through the universe he created, which reveals his glory; and, through his Word which alone reveals his salvation in his Son.

In verse 2, I point out that God's Word points us to His Son, and in Jesus we have a perfect picture of what God is like. But even the Word of God remains closed to us apart from the Spirit's illumination.

In verse 3, there is a continuation of thanks for the Spirit, for the Spirit's role is to communicate Jesus and his life to us. Faith and love flow from Christ, for every spiritual blessing is found in him (Eph. 1:3). If our faith is weak, we seek to strengthen it by looking to him. If our love is weak, we seek to be joined closer to our Lord in heaven so that his love becomes our love. Only the Spirit can join us to Christ like this, who dwells bodily in heaven. If we love Christ, then we also must love his people, for love is a mark of our union with Christ.

Verse 4 speaks of a truth that is not understood well enough by Christians. Christians live with Christ by faith in heaven right now. Our union is with Jesus Christ in both his natures: divine and human, and his human nature is in heaven where we worship him and receive his divine life through his crucified body and poured out blood. This is a mystery. But the gospel calls us to live with him above, not just in the future after our deaths, but right now by faith.

We Give You Thanks, O Gracious Lord

To the tune: BETHLEHEM (FINK) How Vast the Benefits Divine. Words: William Weber, 2011.

v. 1
We give You thanks, O gracious Lord,
Your name You have revealed,
for showing us Your character,
Your good and holy will.
Without Your Word we could not know
the glory of Your grace,
and know salvation planned for us,
the sinful human race.

v. 2
We give You thanks, our Father, great,
for sending us Your Son.
You showed us what You’re truly like
in Christ Your Holy One.
The Word You gave it points to Him,
who’s precious in Your sight.
You send the Spirit of Your Son,
our darkness turn to light.

v. 3
We give You thanks for joining us
to Jesus Christ above.
The Spirit who indwells our hearts,
within works faith and love.
A faith toward Jesus Christ our Lord,
who for us died and rose.
A love, O Father, for Your Son,
and all the saints You chose.

v. 4
We give You thanks our gracious God
for giving us Your Son.
A gift that’s more than wonderful,
our blessing He has won.
For we were mired in sin and death,
condemned before Your law.
But Jesus lifts us up with Him,
receive His gospel call.

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