One of the followers on Hymns Alive Facebook page recently asked me why I love hymns. Today instead of writing about a hymn, I thought I could shed a little light about why I love hymns. It is not only me that love hymns, but my wife as well. Both of us find hymns inspiring and we get to sing hymns together a lot. Hymn singing has been an essential part of our personal and family devotions. The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord. Hymns are a valuable aid to worship because they help to focus our attention on the goodness and glory of the Lord. The hymn “How Great Thou Art,” for example, reminds us of God’s majesty revealed in creation, His perfect sacrifice on the cross, and His coming return for His own—all matters of praise.
The singing of hymns is one of the best ways to put ourselves in tune with the Spirit of the Lord. I wonder if we are making enough use of this heaven-sent resource in our meetings, in our classes, and in our homes.
I have gone through a lot in my life and so has Enid. Both of us have found hymn singing instrumental in shaping who we are today. Enid can remember some of the oldest tunes around and makes them feel new. Our home finally became known for singing hymns. We even started a blog on hymns and their stories (austinbhebe.wordpress.com), and started a Hymns Alive Facebook page. But what is a hymn?
Well, A hymn is a song of praise. In ancient Greek culture, a hymnos was musical praise directed to the gods or heroes of the day. In Christianity, hymns are directed to the one true God, of course.
So, here are a few reasons why I love hymns:
- Theological Depth:
Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns. Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end.
I love the fact that you can learn theology from these ancient hymns. For example, Before the Throne of God Above by Charitie Bancroft teach Christ as our great High Priest, echoing the author of Hebrews:
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
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.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
The song also address is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to His children, propitiation, etc.
The classic hymns of Martin Luther, Isaac Watts, Fanny Crosby, Charles Wesley, and many others have blessed millions of Christians through the centuries. Modern hymn writers such as Twila Paris, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Graham Kendrick, and Stuart Townend continue to put biblical truth in poetic form and turn our attention to the Lord who is great and “most worthy of praise” (Psalm 96:4). Many hymn writers, like William Cowper, were poets. Cowper wrote the hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way. This hymn, praising God for His sovereignty over personal trials, reveals Cowper’s skill:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm
and verse 5:
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower
- The Anticipation of Glory:
I never noticed it until recently that a large number of the most popular hymns end with a verse anticipating eternity with Christ. A few include, It is Well, How Marvelous, How Great Thou Art, Raise Up the Crown, The Solid Rock, Amazing Grace, Blessed Assurance, etc.
This desire seems to be lacking in much of the new music of the church. If we dig deeper we may find that the reason is because we are far too concerned with the things of this world.
- The Stories:
Many hymns have been birthed out of incredible stories of God’s work in the lives of individuals. Amazing Grace was written by former slave ship captain John Newton. Horatio Spafford wrote It is Well after he lost all four of his daughter to the Atlantic ocean.
God Moves in a Mysterious Way was a deeply personal hymn to William Cowper. The story goes:
Cowper often struggled with depression and doubt. One night he decided to commit suicide by drowning himself. He called a cab and told the driver to take him to the Thames River. However, thick fog came down and prevented them from finding the river (another version of the story has the driver getting lost deliberately). After driving around lost for a while, the cabby finally stopped and let Cowper out. To Cowper’s surprise, he found himself on his own doorstep: God had sent the fog to keep him from killing himself. Even in our blackest moments, God watches over us.
These are only a few reason’s why I love hymns. Do you love hymns? why or why not?
God’s people have sung hymns in honor of the Almighty since the time of Moses and before (Exodus 15:1). David sang the “new song” God gave him and taught others to sing “a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3). Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn together at the Last Supper (Mark 14:26). The early church sang hymns as part of their regular gatherings (1 Corinthians 14:26). Paul and Silas, with their feet in stocks in a Philippian jail, were “praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25).
Ephesians 5:18–19 says there is a direct connection between being filled with the Spirit and singing: “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” A Spirit-filled Christian is a singing Christian. Music is the natural overflow of a heart in fellowship with the Lord. The songs the church sings are not to be simply a musical exercise; they must be in the heart and not just in the mouth. The hymns the Spirit prompts are a means by which believers edify, encourage, and teach each other (see also Colossians 3:16).