O God Our Help In Ages Past


O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home.

Under the shadow of thy throne,
still may we dwell secure;
sufficient is thine arm alone,
and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
from everlasting, thou art God,
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages, in thy sight,
are like an evening gone;
short as the watch that ends the night,
before the rising sun.

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come;
be thou our guide while life shall last,
and our eternal home.

Written by Isaac Watts several hundred years ago, this particular hymn is based upon the first couple of verses of Psalm 90 – A Psalm of Moses. Although I recognize it is not a literal translation, I really liked how the Message paraphrased this passage. It reads “God, it seems you’ve been our home forever; long before the mountains were born, Long before you brought earth itself to birth, from “once upon a time” to “kingdom come”—you are God.

If we have been a Christian any length of time, we should have a testimony of God being our help. Whether it was helping us out of a dire financial situation, or helping us from the pit of sin, God has helped each one of us. I love to remind myself of the verses in the Bible that tell us how God is our helper.

Psalm 54:4 “Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.”
Psalm 40:17 “But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.”
Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
Psalm 146:5 “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:”

Couple of comments on the lyrics:
Shelter from the stormy blast – I was listening to a sermon recently and heard a quote that really provided a great mental picture for me. The preacher quoted a famous Scottish minister, Samuel Rutherford, in regards to Christian suffering. Here’s what Mr. Rutherford wrote in a letter to a lady in his congregation that had recently been widowed. These are the words that he shared with her.

“I’m now expecting to see, and that with joy and comfort, that you defy trouble and that your soul is a castle that may be besieged but cannot be taken. And to make it sure that we know that it cannot be taken, let’s not pretend that it can’t be besieged.”

I think this is a wonderful picture that this hymn reinforces. The idea that stormy blasts will come into our lives. But we are like strong, fortified castles through the power of the Holy Spirit. Strong enough in the Lord to endure the blast, but not naive enough to think the blasts will not inevitably come because we recognize we live in a fallen world.

Sufficient is thine arm alone – More often than not, we read or sing about the mighty hands of God. How God stretched forth His Hand, or how Jesus touched people with His Hands and they were healed. I really like this thought too. God’s arm is truly sufficient to provide all the shelter, protection, and strength we will ever need. He doesn’t need any help. He is not a God whose resources run out, or who gets tired and needs to take a break. His Arms are sufficient. And His Grace is sufficient.

Unfortunately in the world that we live in right now, unemployment seems to dominate the business news and even sometimes the front page news. In our current economy, there unfortunately are not enough “Help Wanted” signs. But could the same be true in our Christian lives? Could God be standing there waiting and wanting to help, but are we too busy working out our problems on our end to ask Him for help? I tend to try and figure out all my problems on my own through human ingenuity. God stands there with sufficient arms and hands, and says “I am willing to help you. Why don’t you just ask?”

So, do you have a “Help Wanted” sign hanging in the window of your heart? No, not the kind that is hung up one day, and taken down the next when you get some “temporary” help. No, I am talking about a permanent “Help Wanted” sign. One that testifies that He has been our help in ages past. That recognizes He will be our help today. And that speaks with faith and confidence that He will be our help for years to come.

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