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, January 1, 2017

*FAIREST LORD JESUS (Beautiful Savior)

For over forty years, from the late 1930s, the Breck Shampoo Co. enjoyed the longest running and most successful campaign in advertising history.   The centerpieces of the ads were the romanticized pastel portraits, of over 300 girls and young ladies, which idealized the perfect, wholesome look of the American woman for several generations.

The iconic pictures of the Breck Girls blended feminine beauty with purity. They were all delicately portrayed with a subdued focus, soft haloes of light, and warm colors.  The artists did then, with oil pastels, what photographers do today with Photoshop.  They portrayed their subjects with unblemished skin, smiles accented with bright, perfect teeth, and they all had beautiful, radiant hair.   In short, the portraits were stunning; they seemed to leap off the pages of the magazines to command the attention of casual browsers.  Everyone immediately recognized, and paused to gaze at, the Breck Girl.

Throughout the last 20 centuries, artists have portrayed Jesus in similar ways: the soft warm glow of a pleasant countenance, the halos, perfect features, blue eyes, a commanding stature, and that long, beautiful, glorious hair.  In most illustrations and movie clips, whenever He is portrayed in a crowd, unlike Waldo, His image is immediately discerned; Everyone recognizes Him.  He stands taller, His robe is whiter, and His hair is longer. They have tried to portray Jesus as a Breck Girl.   But no matter how skillful the artists, their best efforts produce nothing more than imaginary caricatures.  

We don’t know anything about His physical appearance.  In God’s wisdom, He didn’t give us a description.  But there are some things we can presume from what we read in scripture.

We know that Jesus was a Middle Eastern man; not a blue-eyed, Northern European white man.  And He didn’t have beautiful, long, soft hair; it was probably coarse, wiry, short, and dark.  If we could obtain a real picture of Him, we would not recognize Him at all.

If there is anything we can learn from Scripture, it is that His physical appearance was unremarkable and unimportant.  He was probably an average-looking Galilean Jew.  He blended into the crowds.  In fact, Judas had to point Him out to the soldiers who came to arrest Him.  He didn’t have any unusual physical attractiveness.  Isaiah prophesied that "He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him and no beauty that we should desire Him."

“No beauty that we should desire Him.”  And yet, in this hymn, "FAIREST LORD JESUS," He is described as the most beautiful of all who have ever lived.  So how can that be?

Well, Peter gave us a clue as to what is real, godly beauty, when he told us not to be overly concerned about our own outward attractiveness, but rather to "let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."

Did you catch that?  According to God, that inner beauty is very precious.

The word “fair,” occurs many times in the Old Testament and it means beautiful.  It was used to describe both women and men. One of those references occurs in the Song of Solomon, The bridegroom says of his beloved: “You are all fair…there is no spot in you.”

Christ’s beauty was not in His physical appearance; it is in His holy character.  This hymn is a devotional text focused on the “fairness” (or the beauty) of Jesus Christ as something of great value to be carefully treasured.  He is more precious, more beautiful, and more glorious than anything else in the world.   Jesus Christ is above everything.  And regarding that kind of precious value, the Apostle Paul said, “I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”

"Jesus is more precious than silver; more costly than gold; more beautiful than diamonds, and nothing we desire compares with Him." 
(adapted from, "More Precious Than Silver")  

1 comment:

  1. Amen! Thank you for all your inspiring post, Ive been discovering hymns for the first time after 15 years a Christian and I can't believe what I have missed out on, your blog title says it all! I Can't wait to find and listen to this hymn. May God Bless you and your family in this new year!