This is a song about the exceeding beauty of Jesus. Though we cannot see Jesus, we know Him to be beautiful both by our knowledge of His character and works in Scripture, and by our experiential knowledge of Him. As we say today, He is a “beautiful person.” Why is He beautiful? Stennett reminds us in this hymn text that Jesus’ beauty was most clearly demonstrated to us at the cross. By referring to His brow Stennett juxtaposes both the images of a majestic coronation and the picture of the crown of thorns being placed upon Jesus’ head in jest. While on the cross Jesus’ lips overflowed with grace as He prayed for the very ones who crucified Him. Jesus demonstrated grace and love far beyond anything we can know or experience “among the sons of men.” And Philippians 2 shows us that Jesus’ humiliation and suffering serve to further glorify His great beauty: “although [Jesus] existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” As the last verse encourages us, let us not only enjoy “regarding the wonders of His grace” but tell others of His beauty that they might love Him and join our songs of praise.
Posts for the ‘Updated Hymns’ Category
Jesus called God’s command to “love the LORD [our] God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) the “greatest commandment” since all of the aspects of the law, including our duties to God and fellow man, stand or fall on the depth of our love to them. The depth of the love that God requires and deserves is staggering. The Pentateuch records the elaborate duties that God gave to His people that were to be an expression of their love for Him. And those rituals are indicative of an even more pervasive, all-of-life, kind of spiritual service that God requires of us. Horatius Bonar understood this love and desired to give all of himself, including His heart, to God. But he also realized that our hearts are naturally deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9) and incapable of loving God on our own. We naturally orient our lives around, find security and satisfaction in, and spend our time thinking about the things of this world. We were made to be satisfied in the only truly satisfying object of our love – God Himself. This song is plea, both with our hearts to leave the empty things of this world, and with God who alone has the power to draw out our affections to drink from His “fountain of delights.” (Psalm 36:8)
Paul exhorts Christians to remember our former way of life and the mercy that God has shown us in Ephesians 2:12-13: "Remember that you were [once] separate from Christ, ... having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." It is a healthy Christian discipline to meditate on the manner of our conversion and the kind of life that God saved us from. This will cultivate gratitude and humility as we remember that our sins were so vile as to demand Jesus’ suffering and death as payment. There is perhaps no one better at remembering God's amazing mercy than John Newton. The famous hymn-writer was saved from imminent death, according to his own testimony, fourteen times, yet through most of those deliverances remained unmoved at God's patience and mercy. Having learned the Christian faith as a boy, he lived a dark life throughout his teen years, pursuing his own pleasures and excluding God from his thoughts. But even while he lived "secure in sin, sporting on destruction's brink," God touched John's heart by the power of the Holy Spirit and awakened Him to His spiritual poverty and brokenness before the Lord. When he realized that Jesus' death could cover even the blackest of his sins, "joy and wonder, love and shame" filled his heart as he embraced the forgiveness Jesus offers. May we see our own conversion in the picture that John Newton has drawn for us and also be filled with joy and wonder at the amazing mercy and grace God has shown us.
The prophet Job, speaking of his hope in a future Redeemer who would save his body and soul from death, said “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25). The bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead is absolutely vital to the Christian faith. Paul addresses this when he says “if Christ has not been raised ... your faith is vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) It is vital not only because we look to Jesus’ resurrection as the guarantee that He has the power to raise us from the dead, but also because of His present ministry to us. This song reminds us of many facets of Jesus’ ministry, that is, what He is doing now with His resurrected life for us. Jesus lives to comfort, bless, and love us, plead for us, be our companion and friend, to prepare a place for us to be with Him, and ultimately to one day save us from our own death. How can we respond to such a gracious and glorious ministry towards us? “He lives, and while He lives I'll sing, ‘Jesus, my Prophet, Priest, and King!’”
We never move past the need to meditate deeply on the suffering that Jesus endured for our sins. Without reflecting often on the unjust suffering of our glorious friend and king we can easily slide further and further into complacency and be unaffected by the magnitude of what took place at Calvary. The spotless Lamb of God died for us - unworthy, helpless sinners entrenched in our rebellion, intent on slaying Him and usurping His authority over us. The song begins by inviting all to come and behold Jesus dying on the cross that they might find the endless and abiding love of God. The chorus answers this invitation, declaring that we will indeed come and remember that mercy moved God to satisfy the demands of righteousness by sending His own Son to bear the punishment for our sins. In the second verse we cry with hymn-writer John Newton that the cross might continue to pierce our hearts as we remember that it was for our sins that Jesus suffered and died.
The doctrines of grace are sometimes affectionately referred to as a “family secret.” Many of us who now cherish God’s sovereignty in our salvation were not aware of these precious truths when we came to know the Lord. While they are certainly not to be kept secret, a person does not need a firm grasp of them in order to surrender their life to Jesus and trust in His saving work on the cross to pay for their sins and reconcile them to God. That is what this song is about. The original anonymous 19th century author says “I sought the Lord and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.” We hear the gospel invitation that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13) and respond in faith, only to look back with a biblically informed perspective and realize that it was really God who gave us our faith and Him who was really seeking us. The Bible says that before we were saved we were “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) and that we did not seek for God (Romans 3:11) But God stepped into our self-absorbed lives and promised that there would be people who would seek Him. Listen to how Jesus puts it in John 6:37: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Acts 10-11 recounts the story of Cornelius and his household trusting in Jesus and in 11:18 it says “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” Praise God for the gift of repentance and faith that enables us to seek Him! May we now stand in that same grace that irresistibly drew us!
A Christian is one who loves Jesus (John 8:42). Even though the Bible defines love in terms of obedience and character in such places as John 14:23 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, love must also contain affection. It is far too easy to make the Christian life about growing in knowledge and performance rather than growing in affection for and adoration and worship of our precious Lord Jesus. Consider Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” When a person finds the kingdom of God manifested in the person of Jesus, he will recognize it as so supremely valuable that he is willing to trade everything in His life of any worth to obtain it. There is a preciousness, an unfathomable worth to Jesus that drives the believer to cherish Him and long to be with Him. Perhaps this was one of the verses that motivated Johann Franck to write this hymn in the 17th century. May this arrangement and the chorus written in response to the original lyrics help us keep our love for Jesus warm as we express to Him how worthy He is of all of our affection!
This song is intended to be used as a congregational plea for the Holy Spirit to bring His divine light to three areas: our personal spiritual growth, our ministry to the poor and needy, and our evangelism and missions work. Too often songs calling for the Spirit’s presence and power stop at the first area, our personal affections and holiness. While that is certainly an important work of the Spirit, without which we would be left to our own cold-heartedness and indifference to spiritual things, the Spirit must also empower our outreach as well. Acts 1:8 says “you [disciples] will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” We see that the purpose of the Spirit’s power in this instance was given in order to send them out to the mission field and make their gospel labors effective. May the church today cry out for the Spirit’s presence and power to animate and enliven every aspect of her ministry!
The Bible makes it clear that Christians will experience suffering, both as loving chastisement from our wise Father meant to grow us in holiness and as the result of living in a fallen and decaying world where sickness and death have still not been completely vanquished. In each case God designs our sufferings for our good (Romans 8:28) and for His glory but if we are honest, all of us have doubted God’s goodness and even His existence especially in times of suffering. But believer, be encouraged for suffering is a means to “know Him and the power of His resurrection.” (Philippians 3:10) In our weakness we can cry out to God like the man in the gospel of Mark (9:24) “I do believe; help my unbelief.” This song is filled with encouraging reminders that even though our way may be compared to a dark storm or a bitter illness, our Savior does not leave us and stays ever near us. He will soon appear for our relief, whether on the other side of glory or through deliverance and healing in this life.
This is a song designed to help the believer confess and repent of sin especially in the public assembly. Even though God commands that we confess our sins to Him and seek forgiveness throughout our lives and not just at conversion (1 John 1:9), we often fail to acknowledge specific circumstances, thoughts, or acts that were sinful. It is far more comfortable to admit that we are sinners in a general sense and to confess to God that we have sinned without divulging (or even remembering) the details. But God requires more and has commanded that we “acknowledge our sin to [Him] and not hide our iniquity” so that He might “forgive the guilt of our sin.” (Psalm 32:5) We need the Spirit’s work in us to help us be aware of and to prick our hearts for things like worldly thinking, a lack of awe over God’s power, thoughts that glorify ourselves, not cherishing the gospel, and not seeking God’s presence with warmth and enthusiasm. May this song help us to corporately sing (and pray) what Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12)