HYMN 89 Lord, Our God, With Praise We Come Before Thee
Updated: Apr 16, 2022
Norwegian: Herre Gud, ditt dyre navn og ære
Matthew 6:9b Hallowed be thy name
Text: Petter Dass (1647-1707). Tune: Folk tune from Romedal
1. Lord, our God, with praise we come before thee,
Let all nations humbly now implore thee
And all endeavor
To serve thee ever
And ceasing never
May we forever
2. With great joy we hear the Lord’s creation
Praising God as is their obligation.
The desert flowers,
The woodland bowers
Proclaim God’s power
With ev’ry hour
3. If the church would ever cease its praising
Of God's name, its hymns of glory raising,
The stones would cry out,
Dry bones would sigh out,
And not be quiet
For all would try out
4. Then one day all knees will bow before thee
All in highest heaven shall adore thee,
For none is greater
Than our creator,
And the great traitor
5. God is God though earth were all forsaken,
God is God though all by death were taken,
And though all races
Had left no traces
In starry spaces,
God’s love embraces
6. Vales and hills shall move from their foundations,
Heav’n and earth shall crash in consternation,
When mounts transcending
Will have their ending,
Then Christ descending
Shall bring unending
Tr. Peter Sveegen (1881-1959); Eivind Berggrav (1884-1959) alt.
Petter Dass is one of the true characters of Norwegian poetry and hymnody. Born in North Herøy in Helgeland, near Sandnessjøen, he grew up in poverty. His father was a Scot who emigrated to Bergen to escape the religious wars. When he was six, his father died, leaving five children with their mother. When he was 19 he went to Copenhagen for his theological studies and returned as pastor to Alstahaug in Northern Norway. There he flourished, as pastor, writer and owner of ships that shipped dried cod to Bergen for trade in Europe.
As pastor he wrote memorable hymns to teach Luther’s Small Catechism, Bible stories and other evangelical songs. After he died, the sails on the fishing boats of the North wore black patches in mourning for the next 100 years.
My favorite story about Dass is in the realm of legend, but it is a wonderful story about him and the nature of preaching. Dass received an invitation from King Christian V to preach Christmas Day at the cathedral in Copenhagen where he was known. He said, "I don’t have time to get there." Acquainted with the Black book, Dass asked the devil for a ride. The devil said, “You can ride on my back and I will get you there in time. But you must promise me that I will receive the souls of anyone who falls asleep during your sermon and the soul of the last one to leave the church.”
“Agreed.” So Dass rode to Copenhagen, walked into the church where the King and his council sat waiting for him. The King accused Dass of working for Satan; Dass said, "No, Satan works for me." The king had said there would be a sermon in the pulpit he could preach. Dass entered the pulpit. He looked around, saw the paper, it was blank. He looked again and announced, “Here is nothing! (Her er intet!)” and then looked out at the congregation. “Out of nothing, God created the heavens and the earth!/Av intent skapte Gud himmelen og jorden!” and he began preaching on how the Word created the heavens and earth and became flesh to dwell among us. No one fell asleep. At the end, he got everyone out of the church, and the devil said, “I still get the soul of the last person to leave.” Dass said, "Yes." He was the last to leave. "Ah, ha!" shouted the devil. "I have you." “No, you don’t,” Dass replied. “My shadow was the last to leave. You can have that!” So, the devil, defeated, carried him home.
Although pure legend, it shows Dass had the reputation for being a crafty intellect, spellbinding preacher and one who understood the goal of a sermon: to keep the people awake and defeat the devil.
This hymn is Dass' hymn on Luther's explanation of the First Petition in the Lord’s Prayer—Hallowed be thy name. The original is filled with all the things in creation that will praise God—every kind of fish imaginable--even if some cannot. If the old are stiff and sleepy, the children in their mother’s wombs will sing out; nothing will hinder God's praises.
For Dass, as for many other hymn writers, creation owed God praises, to hallow his name. As Luther puts it in his explanation to the First Petition, “God’s name is indeed holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may become holy also among us.” How better to hallow God’s holy name than have the whole creation cry, Holy, Holy, Holy.
This is the first hymn in the current Norwegian hymnal. If one were to ask whether or not there were a Norwegian hymn known outside of Norway, this would be the one. And with this tune. The congregation in Babette’s Feast is singing it when Achille Papin arrives in the small village and hears it.
During the horrors of World War II Bishop Eivind Berggrav (1884-1959) of Norway became world famous for his leading the church in its resistance to the Nazis. Berggrav's suggestion that other churches include this hymn to represent the Norwegian church was followed. His translations in English and German became the standard ones—but he used only three stanzas from the sixteen stanza hymn. Given its frequent rhymes it is very difficult to translate into English. This tune was in the Concordia to another text, "There's a Kingdom." Berggrav's translation was included in the Service Book and Hymnal (SBH) in 1958, and Sveegen's with a tune by Leland B. Sateren in the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW) 1978. He had written the tune for a choral anthem that became a favorite of young people in the Lutheran Free Church. They sang it at a Luther League Convention in Tacoma in 1957. The ELW currently in use by members of the ELCA returned to the tune in the Norwegian hymnal. There are many folk tunes for it, but this one seems to be the preferred tune. Many many versions on Youtube.
Choir, orchestra and congregation
Arve Moen Bergset/more of the stanzas
Nidaros Boy Choir
Jazz/Tore Brunborg and Kjetil Bjerkstrand
Gunnar Petersen-Øverleir/Egil Hovland's organ fantasy on the tune