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, February 26, 2017


“If Socrates should enter the room, we would all rise and do him honor.  But if Jesus Christ came into the room, we would all fall down and worship Him.” 

That quote, from Napoleon Bonaparte, kind of puts worship in its proper perspective.  We can show our respect, and admiration for famous, noteworthy, and powerful people in different ways; we can wave, applaud, cheer, and even sing.  But I think, when we suddenly find ourselves face to face with the Living God, it will be stunningly different.

Christian educator and author, Bruce Lockerbie, expressed it like this:

"I would like to see a re-emphasis of awe and reverence in worship and a disappearance of 'feel-good religion.’

"People who arrive in heaven in their blue jeans and short shorts are going to be struck suddenly by the necessity to fall down prostrate before the throne.  We dress up for our employers from Monday to Friday but come Sunday morning, it's only the Lord of the Universe, so anything goes.   It's not so much (a matter of) formality (in the way we dress), but a recognition of our place before God.  I recognize that the prodigal son didn't put on a tuxedo to come back home.  But once back, he bathed, shaved, and shed his "pig sty" appearance.

"It seems to me that meshing rigorous, biblical exposition is increasingly hard with a ‘feel good’ mood in the congregation. The preacher is at a disadvantage when everything else, including the nature of the music and the frivolity, connotes a club meeting rather than entering into the sacred presence of a thrice-holy God who is a consuming fire."

O WORSHIP THE KING was written in 1833 by Sir Robert Grant.    He was a man of many academic, military, legal, and political credentials and accomplishments.   His short life was laudable; he served as a member of the British Parliament and he was appointed the governor of Bombay where a medical college bears his name.
But more importantly, he was a devout evangelical Christian with a strong interest in the missionary outreach of the church. 
We can learn more of the man in the writing of his songs than we can from his biographical resume; it is evident that he was a humble man with a great appreciation for the Supreme authority of God.

This hymn was inspired by Psalm 104 and has often been described as “The Model Hymn for Worship.”  When it comes to expressive lyrics that exalt our Almighty God, there are very few equals.
One after another, God’s attributes are proclaimed.  He is our King, our Shield, and our Defender.  He is the Ancient of Days, our Maker, our Redeemer, and our Friend.   He is the God of great power, might, grace, beauty, and care.  And He is also the God of wrath and judgment.  He is to be feared, He is to be reverenced, and He is to be Worshiped.
There were seven stanzas in Grant’s original composition (It should be noted that verse 5 in our hymnbook, was not written by Grant).  His final verse summarizes God’s Majesty and ends in this great song of praise:

O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
Whom angels delight to worship above!
Your ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
In true adoration, shall sing to Your praise!

1 comment:

  1. I found seven verses.