One of the great hymn writers of all time was P.P. Bliss. Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876), was a well known teacher, evangelist and soloist. He wrote many hymns. Bliss and his wife, Lucy, traveled extensively, spreading the Gospel in song. While ministering at the meeting, Bliss spoke these words to the congregation: I may not pass this way again, after which he sang, I’m Going Home Tomorrow. His words and song would prove to be prophetic.
The hymn “I Will Sing of My Redeemer,” was found in a piece of baggage rescued from a fiery train accident on the day of December 20, 1876. After receiving a request by telegram from D.L. Moody, the author, 38 year old Philip P. Bliss then and his wife Lucy left their two children with grandparents and traveled by train to attend an evangelistic meeting in Chicago to help in the D. L. Moody Tabernacle service. The winter snow and ice made the journey dangerous to take. As their train crossed over a river in Ashtabula, Ohio, the bridge gave way and all the carriages fell into the freezing waters below. Bliss escaped through a window, only to find that his wife had somehow been left behind in the burning wreckage. Although he was advised against it, Bliss headed back into the fire, saying: “If I cannot save her, I will perish with her.” The young couple did not survive. This hymn is a very simple expression of the truth of the Gospel.
Among Bliss’ belongings were the lyrics to I Will Sing of My Redeemer. In 1877, the hymn was set to music by composer and evangelist James McGranahan (1840 -1907). That same year, singer and musician George Cole Stebbins (1846-1945), made a recording of I Will Sing of My Redeemer – one of the first songs ever to be recorded on Thomas Edison’s new invention, the phonograph.
Among the personal effects of Bliss were a set of words entitled, “My Redeemer.” They were later set to music and have become one of the Church’s most cherished hymns.
I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His wondrous love to me;
On the cruel cross He suffered,
From the curse to set me free.
Sing, oh, sing of my Redeemer,
With His blood He purchased me,
On the cross He sealed my pardon,
Paid the debt, and made me free.
I will tell the wondrous story,
How my lost estate to save,
In His boundless love and mercy,
He the ransom freely gave.
I will praise my dear Redeemer,
His triumphant pow’r I’ll tell,
How the victory He giveth
Over sin, and death, and hell.
I will sing of my Redeemer,
And His heav’nly love to me;
He from death to life hath brought me,
Son of God with Him to be.
In Ruth 3:9-4:12 is a wonderful illustration of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus, and how He paid the debt and made us free. It is the story of how Boaz, as a kinsman-redeemer, redeemed Ruth. Here we notice the only example of a kinsman-redeemer in the Bible.
A few years ago I got a job that took me to work in the East African country of Tanzania. I have fond memories of that country. One remarkable time that sticks was when I had to visit two historical sites. A town north of the capital Dar –es –salaam called Bagamoyo and the famous Island of Zanzibar. Zanzibar is renowned for its Slave trading market during the slave trading era. It was one of the sites I had always wanted to visit to connect the dots of history. There I understood a lot about slavery and the slave trade then.
My understanding of slavery and freedom has helped me understand and appreciate the scriptural term of redemption.
The word redeem implies the idea of a slave standing on the trader’s auction block being offered to the highest bidder. At last the price is paid by a compassionate new owner, who then gives the slave his unconditional freedom of release. The slave once the price is paid is free to go anywhere he wants without anyone bothering him. But the free slave, out of gratitude to his new owner offers himself as a loving bond servant for life to his redeemer.
The one who pays the price for the slave to be free is called a redeemer. The money paid is a ransom. Similarly, man has been separated from God by sin and has become a slave to Satan. But man has been redeemed when Jesus paid the price of sin on the cross. Christ paid the ransom we owed to divine justice. We have been freed from the shackles of sin’s bondage and God’s eternal wrath. Out of gratitude his deliverance, we cling to our new master the Lord Jesus Christ and lovingly determine to serve Him forever.
A realization of redemption causes the ransomed to sing repeatedly, I will sing of my redeemer and His wondrous love to me; On the cruel cross He suffered, From the curse to set me free. With His blood He purchased me, On the cross He sealed my pardon, Paid the debt, and made me free.
Archibald Alexander once wrote – All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass – Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.