Hymn of the Month

January, 2019


O God, Our Help In Ages Past

(Click Title to Listen)

By Isaac Watts (based on Psalm 90)


 

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

O God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Our shelter from the stormy blast,

And our eternal home.

 

Under the shadow of Thy throne

Thy saints have dwelt secure;

Sufficient is Thine arm alone,

And our defense is sure.

 

Before the hills in order stood,

Or earth received her frame,

From everlasting Thou art God,

To endless years the same.

 

A thousand ages in Thy sight

Are like an evening gone;

Short as the watch that ends the night

Before the rising sun.

 

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

Bears all its sons away;

They fly forgotten, as a dream

Dies at the opening day.

 

O God, our help in ages past,

Our hope for years to come,

Be Thou our guard while life shall last,

And our eternal home.


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Isaiah 41:9-10 says, “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”


No matter our situation, no matter our struggles and fears, no matter doubts, we are told to have courage, for the Lord is our God. And as Isaac Watts writes so powerfully in this hymn, our God is everlasting, and will be our help through all of our years.


The first verse gives us every assurance we need: God is our help, our hope, and our home. This does not blithely dismiss our fears and troubles. They are, and always will be, very real. But it does assure us that even if we cannot feel the immediate comfort, or even when all we can do is lament, we have a God that withstands the storms of the life and the tests of time, and who protects us and hears our cries.


O God, Our Help in Ages Past is a paraphrase of Psalm 90:1-5.  The text was written by Isaac Watts in 1714, shortly before the death of Queen Anne of England. This was a time of great crisis and turmoil, as the successor of Queen Anne was as yet undetermined, and the fear of a monarch who would reinstate the persecution of Protestants was great. It was published in a collection of poetic versions of the Psalms, The Psalms of David Imitated, 1719.


About the Author

Isaac Watts was the son of a Dissenter—a Congregationalist at odds with the Church of England.  His father was a strong advocate for his faith and found himself in trouble with the law on more than one occasion because of his dissent.  This provided an intense environment in which Isaac Watts’ character was formed.


Watts demonstrated poetic ability at an early age, sometimes even rhyming his ordinary conversation.  While still quite young, Watts expressed annoyance with the Psalm tunes sung in their Congregational tradition.  When Watts expressed his low opinion of the music they were using, his father is reputed to have responded, “Why don’t you give us something better, young man!”  So, Watts did.  He wrote some 600 hymns during his lifetime and is known today as the Father of English Hymnody.


The hymn tune associated with this hymn was composed by William Croft.  He named it “St. Anne” in honor of the church where he served as organist—St. Anne’s Church in Soho, London.  Croft later served as the organist at Westminster Abbey.


Sources:

1. http://www.sermonwriter.dev/richard-niell-donovan/

2.https://hymnary.org/text/our_god_our_help_in_ages_past_watts 

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We are commanded to, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." (Colossians 3:16). Accordingly, we incorporate hymns into our regular Sunday morning worship at Pacific Hope Church. We firmly believe in equipping God's people with the knowledge of His Word through sound teaching in our classes, Bible studies, and even in our Sunday morning worship. Our worship will always be with the purpose of exalting the Lord to His proper place; it is never man-centered or seeking to create an emotional experience.