Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea. (Heb 4:15-16)
A great High Priest whose Name is Love (Heb 4:14)
Who ever lives and pleads for me. (Heb 7:25)
My name is graven on His hands, (Isa 49:16)
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart. (Rom 8:34)
When Satan tempts me to despair (Luke 22:31-32)
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there (Acts 7:55-56)
Who made an end of all my sin. (Col 2:13-14)
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me. (Rom 3:24-26)
Behold Him there the risen Lamb, (Rev 5:6)
My perfect spotless righteousness, (1 Cor 1:30; 1 Peter 1:18-19)
The great unchangeable I AM, (Heb 13:8; John 8:58)
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood, (Acts 20:28)
My life is hid with Christ on high, (Col 3:3)
With Christ my Savior and my God! (Tit 2:13)
This hymn draws heavily from Scripture for its pictures and language. It is a hymn which finds its theme in the perfect security which believers find in Christ, Who intercedes for them “before the throne of God above.”
Enid and I have turned into hymnologists by default. We both love the truths that are so well arranged in these hymns. As a result we have written about histories behind several hymns on the Hymns Alive and Timeless Hymns Facebook pages including the Hymns Alive blog. Recently one of the readers asked us why we love hymns. Well, this is what we have to say about our love of hymns as a couple.
The best hymns whether they are ancient or modern are a coming together of theological truth and artistic beauty. They also are very uplifting for congregational singing. For us, we want to leave church with the truths that we just proclaimed in song to still be ringing in our hearts and spilling over our lips throughout the week. That is sometimes hard to do with some modern praise songs that are more performance driven. We also find that hymns also connect us to our rich Christian heritage and help to fight what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” (believing that whatever is newest is best). “A Mighty Fortress” was written in 1527 by Martin Luther. The Church has been singing this hymn for almost 500 years and unless Christ returns will sing it for 500 more at least!
One of the most exciting developments in recent years is the movement of not only reviving these classic hymns but of Christian artist writing new ones. Today we want to share some background information about one modern hymn. The hymn is “Before The Throne of God Above”. The text was written by Charitie Lees Bancroft and the tune by Vikki Cook. In the past one week, this has emerged as favorite for us. The hymn reflects a deep-hearted trust in Jesus as our Righteousness and only, yet sure, Hope of Heaven! Every time our church sings this hymn, we are filled both with joyful confidence in Christ as well as a humble recognition of our unworthiness and sin. This hymn points the soul to Christ with such clarity and force that few songs truly compare with it, in our opinion. What greater reason do we need to fully treasure and cling to Christ than the glorious truths contained in this song?
The Story Behind this Hymn
The hymn was originally written by Charitie Lees Smith Bancroft in 1863. But the hymn has recently been publicized by Vikki Cook, who wrote an alternate melody for it. Vikki’s husband was Sovereign Grace Ministries’ producer and director of music publishing, Steve Cook.
The author, Charitie Lees Smith, was born in 1841 in the vicinity of Dublin, Ireland (so the Gettys are not the first writers of great Irish hymns!) . She was the daughter of a minister of the Church of Ireland. Not much is known about her life, but it appears that she was widowed twice: although she married Arthur Bancroft in 1869, she died under the name Charitie de Cheney in California in 1923. Charitie published her poetry in leaflet form as early as 1860, and a number of her collected works were eventually published as Within the Veil in 1867. “Before the Throne” was written in 1863 under the title “The Advocate.” So if you look closely at the text to this hymn, you realize that it powerfully reminds us that Jesus is our advocate before the Father. That makes sense as to why the original title was advocate. The text includes a multitude of scriptural allusions and images that assure us of the ministry of our “great high priest whose name is love.”
A couple of comments about the text of the hymn.
There are many strong teachings from this hymn, however, the opening phrases to the second stanza is most striking. Who among us has not felt the accusatory voice of Satan when we are aware of our sin? While the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit would lead us to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness, the accuser’s voice desires only to discourage us and lead us into a paralyzing sense of hopelessness. We desperately need the reminder that God really does “look on Him and pardon me.”
And that would seem to be the theme of the entire text–that we have an advocate who not only pleads our case, but also accepts the penalty for our crime. The truths are so timeless, and the tune so singable. We are confident that over time, as we continue to sing this powerful hymn, the assurance it provides will be woven into the fabric of their faith as it has been in ours.
Finally in our research about this hymn, we found the words of Paul Washer befitting as a summary. This is what Paul Washer had to say about the song:
“I’ve heard this song many times. How can you sing that song? Look at it. “Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea” If it weren’t for Christ you would have no plea at all. You would have no word at all. There would be no good word spoken for you. The only one that would stand there would be the accuser, and the charge would be guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty – and you would have no defense whatsoever, you would have no defense! But look what this says, “Before the throne of God”, not before the throne of some inferior prince or some little mayor of a small town, but before the very throne of Almighty God who rules the universe: “I have a strong and perfect plea” – and who is that? “A great high priest”! But not a great high priest like a cold administrator or a CEO. No! I have a great high priest whose name is Love who suffered everything I have suffered, who has walked my way except without sin, someone who understands everything that has ever happened to me, everything that has ever been wrong with me.
And yet he stands there. Why? Because the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13 that love endures. When there is absolutely no reason to hope in me, when there is absolutely no reason to believe me, when I failed so many times I cannot even begin to count, it says, “Love remains”. When every other characteristic and virtue walks out the door, love stands there, and that is who He is. “A great high priest whose name is Love who ever lives and pleads for me”. There are people who are on this earth who would not have one good word to speak about me. But here, the very Son of God, thrice Holy: Holy, Holy, Holy, He stands and pleads for me. There is a real sense in which, for example, sometimes when I am praying and I ask God to save a man, I can’t say “O God look at that man and save him for his own merit and worth”, because he has none! When I prayed for you, I cannot stand up here before the throne of God and say, “O God, save these people because they are so deserving”, because there is not one who is deserving. And I can’t even say, “O God, do it for me!”, because who am I? But I can say, “O God, look to your right hand, and look in the face of the one who never did anything but give you pleasure, and do it for him. Do it for him”. Next he says, “a great high priest whose name is love who ever lives and pleads for me. My name is graven on His hands. My name is written on His heart.” Carved into His hands, not with a scalpel that causes pain, scalpels are sharp because the sharper the knife, the less the pain. They are carved into His hands with nails. My name is written there. My name. It is not just that he has the name of the people of God there. It is not just a name of a multitude elect there. It is the name of each one of us. That is what is so wonderful.
You know, so many of you, like myself, you would have to say that there are many circles I don’t run in, and there are many circles I can’t run in. I simply cannot run in those circles. It’s impossible. I’m shut out. I’m not smart enough, I’m not rich enough, I’m just not good enough. I’ll never be written on their banisters. My picture will never be hung from their walls. There are so many places where I cannot go in. But here I stand. And the person of Christ before the very throne of God, and my name is not simply written in a book of life, it is carved into the hands of the One whose name is life. There is a tremendous difference.
You see, you don’t have a principle vouching for you. You don’t have a certain amount of brownies points before the throne of God that will enable you to just about get in. But you have the perfect life of the risen son of God standing there on your behalf. If God be for us, who can be against us? It always makes me so angry sometimes when I hear the way that verse is preached. You know, we say, “the devil is coming against us” or “people are against us” or “circumstances” or “health problems” and “if God be for us, who can be against us”, well that applies there, but that is just the very beginning.
That’s the foothills of the Himalayas of the meaning of that text. My dear friend, if Christ be for us, then we can stand fully accepted before the throne of God, fully accepted. And then look what it says: “My name is graven on His hands. My name is written on His heart”.
You know some people say the great sign that you have faith is if you can raise the dead. But I would like to say that the greatest sign of faith for us when we stand in front of the mirror of God’s Word, and we see our failures, and we see our wrongs and we see our blemishes and we see our spots and we see our leprosy, and what requires the greatest faith is believing that God loves us exactly the way he says He does. That’s the greatest sign of faith.
Why? Because you have never and will never ever see love like that. Not in any place is there an example of the love of God towards you, if you are in Christ Jesus. There is no example. God cannot in his omnipotence look outside of himself and point to a mother’s love, or a fathers love or the love of a person for another person and say, “behold! This love is like my love”. It is not even the beginning of His love. And so, our names are not only written on His hands externally, but our names are written on His heart. Upon His heart. Ooh how we wish that we could sing this song every night. It is the most precious word to us. Everything that is wrong with us becomes right through the truth that is in that hymn.
/// Taken from Sermon, “What is Your Ambition in Life?” by Paul Washer
Finally, this verse hits it home:
“These are they which follow the Lamb… they are without fault before the throne of God.” Revelation 14:4-6
Here are some links to a few different versions of the song: