I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Monday, March 21, 2016


I selected this song for our Sunday worship because my Pastor's sermon was about how we (Christians) are to be prepared for persecution and suffering because our Lord suffered persecution.

In this hymn, the writer, Charles Gabriel, refers to the Lord as “Jesus the Nazarene” which references a statement in Matthew’s Gospel:
“He [the Lord Jesus] came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’.”

When Philip referred to the Lord as “Jesus of Nazareth”, Nathanael’s derogatory response was, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”

What does that mean?  To be blunt, Nazareth had a lousy reputation; it was the “lowlife neighborhood on the other side of the tracks.”  Nazarenes were despised by most people including the people of Galilee.

Later, followers of Christ (who were associated with Paul), before they were known as Christians, were called, “the sect of the Nazarenes” which was intended to be an insult and a put-down.  (And, by the way, the world STILL hates us because the world hates Christ.)

This kind of scornful contempt for the Son of God was prophesied:

(Ps. 22:6-7) “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.  All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;”

(Ps. 69:20-21) “Reproaches have broken my heart so that I am in despair.  I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.  They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst, they gave me sour wine to drink.”

For Jesus to be called a “Nazarene” might allude back to Isaiah’s prophecy; “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him and no beauty that we should desire Him.

“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hide their faces.  He was despised, and we esteemed him not.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

So all of this is to be expected.  We are all familiar with the first few verses in the second chapter of Philippians-- the “Humiliation of Christ.”  It details a remarkable description of how the Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, the Holy and Just One, would stoop so low and take on the form of a man and suffer and die for His creation.  Certainly, this humiliation would include rejection, persecution, grief, beatings, scorn, and maltreatment.

The hymn writer’s personal sense of “amazement” is that this One, so despised by humans, would love him enough to die for his sins.


I stand amazed in the presence,
Of Jesus, the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.

He took my sins and my sorrows;
He made them His very own;
He bore the burden to Calvary
And suffered and died alone.

When with the ransomed in glory,
His face I, at last, shall see,
’Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me.

How marvelous, how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous, how wonderful
Is my Savior’s love for me!

And that is the message of the gospel of grace, the Good News that the Son of God set aside His glory and humbled Himself to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

He suffered and died a terrible death, under the wrath of God, as our substitute, so that we, through faith in Him, might be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life.  How marvelous, how wonderful is MY SAVIOR'S LOVE for me.

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