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HYMN 200 Trust and Obey

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

German: Wenn wir wandeln mit Gott

Norwegian: Når vi vandre med Gud

Proverbs 16:20; 1 John 1:9

Text: John Henry Sammis (1846-1919) Tune: Daniel Brink Towner (1850-1919)

The new Bethany Church/now closed

1. When we walk with the Lord In the light of his word, What a glory he sheds on our way! While we do his good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey. R/Trust and obey, for there's no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

2. Not a burden we bear, Not a sorrow we share, But our toil he doth richly repay; Not a grief or a loss, Not a frown or a cross, But is blest if we trust and obey. R/

3. But we never can prove The delights of his love Until all on the altar we lay; For the favor he shows, For the joy he bestows, Are for them who will trust and obey. R/

4. Then in fellowship sweet We will sit at his feet, Or we'll walk by his side in the way; What he says we will do, Where he sends we will go; Never fear, only trust and obey. R/


Bethany steeple collapsing

This reminds me of Sunday school exercises in the new Bethany Lutheran church my father served in North Dakota. The old church had burned down the first year we were there. I was three. I watched from my grandfather’s lap as the blizzard winds whipping the flames toppled the steeple, knowing my father and mother were there. One of my most vivid and worst memories.

After that the parsonage, a few houses away, became the center of activity. Trustees would meet and meet; mother would make fabulous desserts, her favorite (and the trustees) cream puffs as the meetings grew later and later. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs listening to them talking, even arguing, much later than my parents knew. This went on until I was five in 1948. The new church, a typical fifties neo-gothic structure, was a huge project for the congregation and my parents. I watched from the sidelines a lot. I remember the team of horses they used to drag the ground around the church as they were building. I got to ride on them briefly.

Opening exercises for Sunday school in the brand new sanctuary

We had been meeting in the basement, then moved upstairs where every Sunday we had the opening exercises of the Sunday School. The superintendent would always ask if we had any requests, and my hand would shoot up. "Trust and obey," I would yell.

The confirmation class in the back row got sick of it and complained to my dad. He did not tell me to quit requesting it. He just told me what they had said. I got the message and quit. But this song brings to mind that time and place.

The hymn worries some people who are always watching out for works' righteousness. Jesus doesn’t love you for what you do for him. He loves sinners for what they need from him. He wants to give us life and change us. This hymn describes the new life. We can change our behavior and live according to God’s laws because it's smart, we tend to flourish when we follow the old rules.

Sin has its pleasures, but a long hangover. Growing up in the parsonage, I heard whispers about stuff I didn't understand, but could see wreckage in the families that continues today. None of us is exempt. How have my sins hurt the next generation? The consequences of our straying catch us and our progeny unto the third and fourth generation at least, Scripture says. The hymn teaches, as does plain moral sense, it is better to walk in the light, and to Trust and Obey! Of course we fail, and our sins forgiven, but a stop sign at the top of the hill can do as much as an ambulance at the bottom!

My Sunday school class in 1952

Our Bible study group at church has had conversations now and then tracing back in their own lives how a sin of a parent and grandparent or even great grandparent continues to unravel in their lives and their children even today. This is not God’s doing; this is our doing. There is no unraveling those twisted skeins on our own. Only Jesus can do that. We flee to him, praying for the strength to trust and obey, knowing that Jesus has come to untangle all those snarls and give us new life free and blessed as we live on.

So much innocence in that sanctuary; so much sin. Where better to be? What better than to be encouraged by a song teaching us to be careful how we lived? “Never fear, only trust and obey.”

HYMN INFO Sammis, born in Brooklyn, moved to Indiana when he was in his twenties. There he was converted. He worked in the YMCA and then studied at McCormack Seminary to become a Presbyterian pastor. He served churches in Iowa, Michigan and Red Wing, Minnesota. In 1909 he moved to Los Angeles where he taught at BIOLA, continuing to write hymns. This is his most famous, by far. The hymn came to him after he heard of a testimony from a new convert at a revival: "All I can do now," he said, "is trust and obey."

D. B. Towner, the man who set the text to music was a long time colleague of Dwight L. Moody. He had heard the testimony of the man who said Trust and Obey. He wrote it down on a scrap of paper and gave it to Sammis who wrote the text. Towner composed the tune which was published in Hymns Old and New in 1887. Towner studied briefly with P. P. Bliss who also worked with Moody until his tragic death in a railroad accident. Towner earned a doctorate in music and became head of the music dept. at Moody Bible Institute. He composed over two-thousand hymn tunes during his life.

LINKS Fountainview Academy

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