God's "Symphony" Behind Great Songs
“Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts" (Ps.105:2). “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you--I whom you have delivered” (Ps. 71:23). “... Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19).
Last Sunday, our Praise Team sang hymns instead of the typical praise songs because we were lacking instruments. So, we decided to sing some of our favorites: “Victory in Jesus,” “How Great Thou Art,” and a new one to us, “In Christ There is no East or West.” I was raised on hymns and you know when we sing them it is beautiful to hear the congregation’s voices sing out loud. Don't get me wrong, I like praise music, but the hymns still stir up the soul. People of old wrote the hymns from their experiences. Here are some of those experiences that I gleaned from a book on James’ shelf titled 101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth W. Osbeck.
"It is Well with My Soul," written by Horatio Spafford as his ship was over the site where his daughters drowned at sea. Horatio had experienced financial loss and his son had died prior to this. He had wanted a rest for his wife and four daughters, so he planned a European trip for his family in 1873. He had to remain in Chicago due to business affairs, so he sent his wife and daughters on ahead. The ship was struck by an English vessel and sank in twelve minutes. His wife sent him a telegraph saying that she alone was saved. That one always brings tear to my eyes just knowing the story and how he still trusted God. The words, “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way when sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul …”.
"What a Friend We Have in Jesus," written by Joseph Scriven. Joseph’s fiancé drowned the night before their wedding. It is said that from that night on he gave freely of his possessions and even his own clothes. He went around helping only the poor widows and sick people. He wrote these words to comfort his mother who was ill, and he was not able to be with her. “Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in Prayer! Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, Take it to the Lord in prayer!”
"Just as I Am," written by Charlotte Elliott. Charlotte was an invalid woman who wrote these words out of intense feelings of uselessness and despair. “Just as I am, without one plea. But that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou biddst me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!”
"In Christ There is no East or West," written by John Oxenham. An interesting account is told of an incident during World War II in which there were two ships anchored together, one containing Japanese aliens and the other American aliens, waiting to be repatriated. For one day they lined the rails, glaring at each other. Suddenly, someone began to sing this song. Then another, on the opposite ship, joined in. Soon there was an extraordinary chorus of former enemies praising God together.
"How Great Thou Art," written by Stuart K. Hine--my personal favorite (I was baptized in the Jordan River and the choir sang this song for me). Anyway, it is said that Carl was visiting a beautiful country estate in Sweden. He was suddenly caught in a midday thunderstorm with awe-inspiring moments of flashing violence followed by a clear brilliant sun. Soon afterwards he heard the calm, sweet songs of the birds in nearby trees. The experience led him to fall to his knees in humble adoration of his mighty God. “And when I think that God, His son not sparing, Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin. Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; How great Thou art, How great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; How great Thou art, how great Thou art!”
Finally, "All the Way My Savior Leads Me" by Fanny Crosby. The hymn was the expression of gratitude to God after Fanny got a direct answer to prayer. One day Fanny desperately needed five dollars and did not know how she was going to get it. She prayed about it and within a few minutes, a stranger appeared at her door with exactly five dollars. She did not know how but wrote, “except to believe that God, in answer to my prayer, put it into the heart of this good man to bring the money.” So goes the song, “All the way my Savior leads me—What have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His tender mercy, who thru life has been my Guide? Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell! For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”
I can hear you all singing the stanzas as you read this. Beautiful songs from sincere hearts that loved our God and Savior.
In times like these, we need to be encouraged that God cares about us and if we have eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand, we will know that we are not alone and that God truly is still in control and we can trust Him.
May God give you a new song or an old hymn in your heart today!
Prayer: Lord Most High, grant that we would continue to sing songs together in your Church. Amen.
First Baptist Church