If you are one of many Christians who, looking back, see God’s guidance and care at every stage of your life, the words of this hymn may help you express your praise. But if you have had major times, maybe even now, when you feel God is absent or has forgotten you, you might find more encouragement later in this reflection.
These verses proclaim: God’s mercies and faithfulness never changing; justice, shining with truth, love and grace; and the blessing of God as light, help and shield.
Verses 3 and 4 of this hymn, and even more-so the different verses 3-5 in the version sung by the Metropolitan Tabernacle, resonate with the early Christians’ trust that God’s covenant with David is fulfilled in his Son on the throne for ever as Lord and Saviour, and this faithful covenant extending to the Saviour’s people, his ‘race’.
Verses 38-48 of the Psalm express the opposite experience: “But now you have spurned and rejected him … you have renounced the covenant with your servant … he has become the scorn of his neighbours … you have exalted the right hand of his foes.” If that is how you feel, you may take comfort in the psalmist’s cry to God, “Lord where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?” (verse 49); and perhaps also in the confidence expressed by the end of verses 30-37.
The concluding verse 52, quoted in verse 9 of the hymn, reaffirms the positive, “Blessed be the Lord for ever. Amen and Amen.” Whether that came from the writer of this Psalm, or from the editor who ended each of the five books/sections of the Psalms with these words, such trust in God’s unfailing faithfulness has sustained the followers of the son, who was tortured, mocked and crucified, yet rose to life, commissioned us to mission, and reigns for ever more.
Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name,
may we be strengthened in our inner being with power through your Spirit, and may Christ dwell in our hearts through faith, as we are being rooted and grounded in love.
And to you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Based on Ephesians 3:14-17,21)
The Rev’d Bernie Collins, retired minister, member of Avenue St Andrew’s URC, Southampton