HYMN FOR EPIPHANY II Love Lifted me
Text: John Rowe (1865-1933). Tune: Howard E. Smith (1863-1918)
1 I was sinking deep in sin, Far from the peaceful shore, Very deeply stained within, Sinking to rise no more; But the Master of the sea Heard my despairing cry, From the waters lifted me– Now safe am I. R/ Love lifted me, Love lifted me, When nothing else could help, Love lifted me; Love lifted me, Love lifted me, When nothing else could help, Love lifted me.
2 All my heart to Him I give, Ever to Him I'll cling, In His blessed presence live, Ever His praises sing. Love so mighty and so true Merits my soul's best songs; Faithful, loving service, too, To Him belongs. R/
3 Souls in danger, look above, Jesus completely saves; He will lift you by His love Out of the angry waves. He's the Master of the sea, Billows His will obey; He your Savior wants to be– Be saved today. R/
REFLECTIONS This old gospel song still speaks to many. Based on a line in Psalm 40:2, “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock.” The hymn is written from a time and place when most people were well acquainted with the dangers of seafaring. England, a seafaring nation, ruled the waves, and its people knew the dangers of the waters. While the psalm has more of quicksand in it than sea, the thought of sinking into the waters was well known by everyone. All of us, whether we are much around lakes or seas, know it too. Peter knew it when he tried to walk on water. Dante begins his great epic with a description of himself almost drowning but being lifted up by Lucia, a messenger from Beatrice who brought the love of God to him.
The very physical image of sinking into a mire or deep sea is a great metaphor for our being caught in sin. Especially in a miry bog. The more one tries to get out, the deeper one sinks. There is no way we can get out on our own. The only salvation is when someone comes along with a rope or board that can give us a solid footing. We cannot save ourselves. This is true whether our miry bog is just that or our own sins. All of us know how tangled up we can get by trying to extricate ourselves from our own messes. We need help.
Christians learn these lessons over time. We need to look up for help and cry out. The Lord is waiting for that cry and will come at once. He loves to save us. And must be amused at our thrashing around in our own messes as we struggle to free ourselves, waiting for the cry that comes when we realize we cannot save ourselves.
His coming to lift us out of the mire or deep waters shows us his very nature: Love. The God of the universe who made worlds on worlds stooping down to lift insignificant souls like us out of sin. That is love. The whole plan of salvation is about love for sinners. God’s whole work is designed to lift us out of the mire and save us and finally bring us into fellowship with him, the Almighty God! Love so amazing, so Divine, all for us!
The hymn was written by James Rowe, an Englishman born in 1865. For some years he worked in the Government Survey Office in Dublin. In 1890 he emigrated to New York where he worked for the railroads, until he became superintendent of the Mohawk and Hudson River Human Society. Not until 1896 did he begin writing hymns, songs and poems. He died in 1933. Over the years the song has become a favorite of the African American church but remains well known in evangelical circles. Almost nothing is known about the composer Howard Smith.
LINKS LA Mass choir https://youtu.be/5_ckHj0VH18
Kim Hopper/Gaither Music TV https://youtu.be/YbE3Rmfhtz4
Bebe Winans https://youtu.be/2btUHZuR_Kc
Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers/A classic recording, but not always clear which love it is