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

Please follow this blog to keep notified of new entries.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

*OUR GREAT SAVIOR (Hallelujah! What a Savior)

The word “great” is an adjective used dozens of times in Scripture to describe the Lord.

For example, He is described as being great in glory; great in goodness; great in mercy; and great in power.  He is a great Creator; and a great King with a great heavenly army.  He is a great Shepherd; He has a great name or reputation.   He is great in His sovereignty over all; great in His faithfulness; and He does great deeds or works.

Two texts are particularly relevant to this hymn, OUR GREAT SAVIOR. One of them is in Titus 2:13 where Paul speaks of “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” And then Psalm 145:3, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.”

John Wilbur Chapman was a full-time evangelist who faithfully served God for years, preaching the Gospel with D. L. Moody and "Billy" Sunday.  By the age of 47, he had already experienced his share of heartaches.  His first two wives and an infant son had died in the space of 21 years, leaving this widower with four young children.

He wrote this hymn in 1910 at the age of 51.  Some have suggested that it might be autobiographical because the first four verses are allusions to great trials, disappointments, sorrows, and losses but then each verse resolves with joy and assurance in the One who can make all things right.  He is our Savior, our Strength, our Comfort, and our Guide.
While I was reading about John Chapman’s life, I was reminded of so many of our hymns that were written by Christians who have experienced great and terrible physical difficulties, personal losses, and tribulations. 

And yet, through them all, in their songs, they testify of their complete trust in their friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And I was also reminded of that very familiar verse, Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

God is not sovereign in our lives in just a passive or permissive sense.  He is the One who is actively and purposefully working “all things” in our lives.  And those things are not always comfortable or convenient or pleasant.  In fact, His purposes may be very uncomfortable, but they are always administered with His all-sufficient grace and they are deliberately orchestrated for our good and for His glory.  HALLELUJAH! WHAT A SAVIOR! 

1.    Jesus! what a friend for sinners!
Jesus! lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

2.    Jesus! what a strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him;
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my strength, my vict'ry wins.

3.     Jesus! what a help in sorrow!
While the billows o'er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my comfort, helps my soul.

4.     Jesus! what a guide and keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night o'ertakes me,
He, my pilot, hears my cry.

5.     Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find,
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great hymn. You can also sing it to the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus and Love Divine, All Love Excelling. Try it!