Soft as the voice of an angel
Breathing a lesson unheard
Hope with a gentle persuasion
Whispers a comforting word.
Wait, till the darkness is over
Wait, till the tempest is done
Hope, for the sunshine tomorrow
After the darkness is gone.
Oh how welcome Thy voice
Making my heart
Any sorrow rejoice.
If in the dusk of the twilight
Dimmed be the region afar
Will not the deepening darkness
Brightin’ the glittering star.
Then when the night is upon us
Why should the heart sink away
When the dark midnight is over
Watch for the breaking of day.
Oh how welcome Thy voice
Making my heart
Any sorrow rejoice…
The writer of this hymn has a great name: Septimus Winner .Though many hymnals today credit “Whispering Hope” to Alice Hawthorne, it was actually written by Septimus Winner (1827-1902). Born in 1827, Winner was a seventh child, hence a name derived from the Latin word for “seven.” Through his career, he frequently employed “Alice Hawthorne” (his mother’s maiden name: used for songs he felt were sentimental) as a pseudonym.
Septimus also used many other pseudonyms – Percy Guyer, Apsley Street, Mark Mason and Paul Stenton. He was a self-taught musician including piano, guitar and violin. He owned his own music store where he offered lessons on both instruments and wrote 200+ music volumes for 20+ instruments.
Whispering hope is his only hymn. Friends say he had not intended it to be a hymn and was surprised by its quick popularity in churches and this was the last song of his to gain widespread popularity.
Jim Reeves, Anne Murray and WIllie Nelson gave “Whispering Hope” an entrance into fame. After that, not much is known about the song, other than it was written in 1868. What we do know is that the reference to an anchor in the third verse is a correlation to a Bible passage from Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.” That anchor is the “whispering hope” that keeps the soul steadfast – even when it may seem that the boat may be slipping away from its mooring.
Winner’s best-remembered songs today, other than “Whispering Hope,” are actually nursery rhymes. He wrote “Ten Little Indians” and “Der Deitcher’s Dog” (“Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone / oh where, oh where could he be”).
Couple of Comments About the Hymn
“Whispering hope” – the words themselves seem strange. Whispering is an adjective describing hope. So how can hope be described as speaking softly? The word “whisper” when used in relationship to the Bible always reminds me of one story. The story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19.
The situation – 1 Kings 17 – Elijah rebukes Ahab for sin and 3 ½ years of drought follow. Then Ahab tries to hunt Elijah down, kills many prophets. In 1 Kings 18 – Elijah challenges prophets of Baal to a contest. The prophets of Baal lose and are executed. The people turn to the Lord and rain returns to Israel. This was a time of great triumph for God. It should have been a great moment for Elijah, but . . .
1 Kings 19:1-10; Jezebel, the queen, promises to kill Elijah in the next 24 hours; Elijah believes the threat and starts running. Elijah runs first to Beersheba in Judah. There he prays that he might die. An angel twice appears and tells him to eat. Then he makes a 40 day journey to Mt Horeb through a desert surviving only upon the food God had fed him those 2 times. Then God asks Elijah why he had come. Elijah says he has done all that he could, but the Israelites aren’t going to change and he is alone and they want to kill him.
1 Kings 19:11-13 – God has Elijah stand outside. God causes a strong wind (tornado?), God causes an earthquake and God sends down fire (lightning?). Unfortunately, God was not “in” any of those things. He used those spectacular and fearsome things, but Elijah was not to confuse the spectacular things God does with God Himself. Instead God speaks to Elijah in “a still small voice” (lit. “a sound of soft stillness” or “the tone of a gentle blowing”).
1 Kings 19:11-13 – Elijah recognizes the presence of God and covers his face. God ask Elijah again why he had come. Elijah gives the same answer and God assures Elijah that his work was not done and he was not alone. God’s word was still active in people’s hearts and lives. Elijah had expected the spectacular events on Mt Carmel to change the nation. When they didn’t, he lost hope. And with a whisper God restored his hope, reminding him the word of God was working.
Soft as the voice of an angel, Breathing a lesson unheard,
Hope with a gentle persuasion Whispers her comforting word:
Wait till the darkness is over, Wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, After the shower is gone.
Hope is what brings us through the darkest times. We know during the storm, that it will end and there will be sunny days ahead. Hope is a lesson we understand sometimes without realizing it is being taught (like Elijah). What is the comforting word hope brings us? Rom 5:1-5. God loves us, have faith, there is a reward.
If, in the dusk of the twilight, Dim be the region afar,
Will not the deepening darkness Brighten the glimmering star?
Then when the night is upon us, Why should the heart sink away? When the dark midnight is over, Watch for the breaking of day.
The worst time to look into the distance is at dusk – things are unclear. But as it gets even darker, you can see even farther, all the way into space. And you shouldn’t be scared of the darkness because you know it will be followed by day.
Rom 8:22-25: As we live here on earth with its sorrows and temptations, sometimes it seems that heaven is far away. But rather than despair, we should let the disappointments of earth make us see much more clearly that hope of heaven. Luke 1:76-79. And we know no matter how dark the earth may seem, soon a new day will dawn for the saved. 2 Pet 1:16-21.
Hope, as an anchor so steadfast, Rends the dark veil for the soul,
Whither the Master has entered, Robbing the grave of its goal.
Come then, O come, glad fruition, Come to my sad weary heart;
Come, O Thou blest hope of glory, Never, O never depart.
Based on Heb 6:13-20; God gave His word and swore an oath to fulfill that word so that we might have hope. That hope extends “through the veil” into the presence of God and it is an anchor. That is, it is firm, unchangeable. Christ has gone there beyond the veil (overcoming death and making it powerless). So there again we have the certainty of our hope for eternal life.
The hymn writer says -“glad fruition”. This means . . . “the enjoyable attainment of something desired”. A desire to have eternal life (Rev 22:20). The hope Septimus Winner had was the sure and certain hope of being with Jesus Christ, the One He claimed as his Master. The writer to the Bible book written to the Hebrews describes this hope as a sure and steadfast hope, one which enters in through the veil (right into the throne room of God). This hope was made accessible when Jesus Christ rose from the dead and went back to heaven. The Bible describes Him as Prince and Saviour, able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him.
Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.
When we are facing sorrows, there is nothing better than to turn to God’s word and listen for His words of hope whispered to us from the pages. Turning our sorrow to rejoicing (Rom 12:12).
When things look their darkest and you feel like Elijah that you can’t go on. Find the words of hope offered by God, knowing that He will keep His promises (an anchor on which we can depend). Like Abraham in Rom 4:18 “who contrary to hope, in hope believed” when God said he’d be the father of many nations when he was without a child. God has promised us a better tomorrow, let that hope whisper to your soul