German: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan
Text: Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708) Tune: Anonymous ca.
1 Whate'er my God ordains is right: His holy will abideth; I will be still, whate'er he doth, And follow where he guideth. He is my God; though dark my road, He holds me that I shall not fall: Wherefore to him I leave it all.
2 Whate'er my God ordains is right: He never will deceive me; He leads me by the proper path; I know he will not leave me. I take, content, what he hath sent; His hand can turn my griefs away, And patiently I wait his day.
3 Whate'er my God ordains is right: Though now this cup, in drinking, May bitter seem to my faint heart, I take it, all unshrinking. My God is true; each morn anew Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart, And pain and sorrow shall depart.
4 Whate'er my God ordains is right: Here shall my stand be taken; Though sorrow, need, or death be mine, Yet am I not forsaken. My Father's care is round me there; He holds me that I shall not fall: And so to him I leave it all.
(On Sundays I have tried to use Sunday morning church hymns and of late, those associated with Bach Cantatas which are fine meditations on the texts for the Sunday back in the day.) Today I am using Bach’s Cantata BWV 99 "Was Gott tut ist wohlgetan," which is one of my favorites. It uses a hymn that many shy away from today. Some people don’t like its calm resignation to whatever their fate is. But this is not fatalism, it is faith.
It does raise a difficult question for us: does God bring evil to us? The singer doesn’t answer that question, but goes forward confident that whatever happens he will be brought through safely, ultimately.
Wondering who has caused our sufferings may be the wrong question. We don’t know. Is God chastening us or is the devil working his evils on us? What the whole hymn and the cantata ask us to do is look to the Lord. Maybe some bitter medicine is necessary for us in order to heal. Most of us know those who have had to suffer chemotherapy or surgery, maybe we ourselves have, that causes great pain and suffering. But without that deep cutting or pain, death would have won the battle.
The saints I have known who have had more than their share of sufferings remain steadfast in their faith and point to God who will give them each morning sweet comfort and rest. "My God is true; each morn anew/sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,/and pain and sorrow shall depart.”
The cantata ends joyfully in that faith. "God holds me in his arms though sorrow, need, or death be mine,/yet am I not forsaken./My Father's care is round me there.” We can shriek with Jesus, "Father, why hast thou forsaken me,” and like him we can also commend our lives into his keeping and let his will govern us. No one loves us more. No one has done more for us, even sending his Son to die for us. We will not know what it all means until the end. We can trust him for the best.
HYMN INFO Rodigast was born near Jena after the Thirty Year’s War had ended. He taught philosophy there for some time until he moved to Berlin where he served as rector from 1698 until 1708. He wrote the hymn for a friend who was ill, who may have written the tune. It was a favorite hymn of many. Frederick William III had it sung at his funeral. It was used by both Protestants and Catholics.
Bach uses this hymn in several of his cantatas. This one is maybe the simplest. The first stanza and the last open and close the work. Through the rest of the libretto the language refers to the bitterness of the cross and God’s faithfulness. The flute part is very rich and makes the scholars think Bach at the time of writing this had a very gifted flautis in his midst.
LINKS Sovereign Grace Music https://youtu.be/F7H4qwj5rpo
Organ Accompaniment https://youtu.be/FH386ReJPzw
Netherlands Bach Society https://youtu.be/TwmQo97zb6I