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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Sunday, January 22, 2017


In our service this morning, 
I wanted to do something a little differently; 
I prepared the script for today’s hymn to speak
directly to the children in our congregation.

 This morning I want to talk to you, young people.  I want to tell you about a boy who was born in England about 350 years ago.  He was the oldest of nine children and his name was Isaac.

He was a precocious boy.  Do you know what precocious means? Well, I know that some of you are precocious.  A precocious child is one who is extremely smart, or gifted, or talented.   

And Isaac was precocious.  Not only did he learn to read and write English at a very young age, he also learned four other languages; He learned Latin at the age of five, Greek at nine, French at eleven, and he learned Hebrew at the age of thirteen years.

Sometimes, though, precocious kids can be very annoying, and Isaac was.  His mother taught him to write poetry and he liked it so much that he irritated everyone with his verses.  Whenever anyone spoke to him, he tried to answer with rhymes.

One day, during his family's prayer time, he had his eyes open.  His dad scolded him and asked why he was looking around.

Isaac answered,  "A little mouse, for want of stairs,
                  Ran up a rope to say its prayers."

His dad wasn't very amused.  He said, "Izzy!"  (I don't know if his dad really called him Izzy, but it sounds good.) "Izzy!" he said, "I've had enough of your rhymes.  If you don't stop rhyming everything, you are really going to be sorry."

Now, what do you think Isaac said back to his dad?

He said,   "Oh father, do some pity take,  
         And I will no more verses make."

(Kids, I really don't think you should try that at home.)

Isaac was raised in a Christian home by godly parents.  He loved the Church and the Bible, and he studied all the teachings of the Christian faith.  But there was one thing he really didn’t like – he hated the music. (In those days, most churches only sang the Psalms, and the music was dull and boring, and not very easy to sing).  Every week, after church, Isaac complained about the music.  One day his dad stopped his complaining and said, “Well if you don’t like it, why don’t you write something better?”

And so, that's what Isaac did.  He began with some of the Psalms.  He rearranged them into verses And he wrote some really good hymns.  They were meaningful and easy to sing. And they rhymed!

Okay, so maybe his nickname wasn’t really Izzy, but history has given him another nickname; He has been called, “The Father of English-language hymns.” Altogether, he wrote more than 600 hymns. And most of the hymn books, that were used in the churches in New England during the time of the American Revolution, were filled with his songs.

You might already know a few of them because we sing them here in our own church; songs like “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” "At the Cross," “O God Our Help in Ages Past,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and, of course, you ALL know, “Joy to the World.”

The Bible tells us that we should “teach each other with Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs.” (Col. 3:16)  Isaac knew that one of the easiest ways for people to learn is with songs.  Most of you learned the alphabet by memorizing a song.  And maybe you memorized the names of all our presidents, with a song.  And I know that some of you learned the Ten Commandments with a song.

One of Isaac’s favorite projects was a collection of songs that he wrote and put them all together in a hymnbook just for kids.  He wanted children, like you, to have something to think about and sing about when you’re alone.  He wanted your thoughts to be about God.  And, mostly, he wanted you to have a godly direction in your life whenever you’re tempted to do things that are wrong.
So, he wrote the collection to help children memorize biblical truths.  And you’re NOT gonna believe what he named his book! 

He could have called it, "A Children's Collection of Hymns," or "Sunday School Songs for Kids," or some other clever, catchy title.   But NO!  (Remember, Isaac was annoying and precocious) He named his book, “Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language, for the Use of Children.” (It kinda makes you want to run right out to the Christian Book Store and pick up a copy.)

“I SING THE MIGHTY POWER OF GOD,” is one of the great hymns of our faith but, what you don’t know is that it was the most famous of all Isaac's children’s hymns

He wrote this song for children just like you and so, if you don’t know it, maybe you can ask your parents to help you learn it at home.  I hope you do because this really is a good hymn.  

And, if you learn it, you will learn great truths about God; You will learn that God is in control of everything.  You will learn that He sees and knows everything.  And nothing ever happens that He doesn’t cause.  And you will learn that, no matter what happens, you can always trust Him.  God loves His people and so He will provide for you, everything you need.

A great God like that deserves your obedience and your praise and your worship.  So, let’s SING THE MIGHTY POWER OF GOD together, Okay? 

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