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HYMN FOR PENTECOST 5 The God of Abraham Praise

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Text and tune: Thomas Olivers (1725-1799)

Abraham and Isaac on the way to Mt. Moriah. Joakim Skovgaard Viborg Cathedral

1 The God of Abraham praise, Who reigns enthron'd above; Ancient of everlasting days, And God of love; Jehovah, Great I AM! By earth and heaven confessed, I bow and bless the sacred Name, For ever bless'd. 2 The God of Abram praise, At whose supreme command From earth I rise and seek the joys At his right hand. I'd all on earth forsake, Its wisdom, fame, and power; And him my only portion make, My shield and tower. 3 The God of Abram praise, Whose all-sufficient grace Shall guide me all my happy days, In all his ways: He calls a worm his friend? He calls himself my God! And he shall save me to the end, Thro' Jesu's blood. 4 He by himself hath sworn, I on his oath depend, I shall, on Eagle's wings up-borne, To heav'n ascend: I shall behold his face, I shall his power adore: And sing the wonders of his grace For evermore! Part the Second. 5 Tho' nature's strength decay, And earth and hell withstand; To Canaan's bounds I urge my way At God's command; The wat’ry deep I pass, With Jesus in my view, And thro' the howling wilderness My way pursue. 6 The goodly land I see, With peace and plenty blest; The land of sacred liberty, And endless rest. There milk and honey flow, And oil and wine abound; And trees of life forever grow, With mercy crown'd. 7 There dwells the Lord our King, The Lord our righteousness; Triumphant o'er the world and sin, The Prince of Peace. On Sion's sacred height His kingdom still maintains; And glorious, with his saints in light, Forever reigns. 8 The ransom'd nations bow, Before the Savior's face, Joyful their radiant crowns they throw, O'erwhelm'd with grace: He shews his prints of love; They kindle to a flame, And sound thro' all the world above, "The slaughter'd Lamb." 9 The whole triumphant host; Give thanks to God on high: "Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!" They ever cry. Hail Abram's God and mine, I join the heavenly lays: All might and majesty are thine, And endless praise.


REFLECTION

When one of the lessons for a Sunday is the account of Abraham taking Isaac to sacrifice him, it is difficult to think of any other text or hymn. There are understandably few hymns that treat the story. It is a very troubling story. A lot of ink has been spilled on commentaries, Kierkegaard’s in Fear and Trembling probably the most well-known.


Many refuse to even consider the lesson, thinking it too cruel. What kind of a God would command such a thing? One can go round and round. But one hears in the story that God is both testing Abraham and making a statement against child sacrifice. Not until the knife is out, and God has seen Abraham’s obedience, does he intervene. And then the intervention contains a message necessary at the time: no child sacrifice!


Child sacrifice we think is long gone, but I am not so sure. As the West becomes more pagan, it is seemingly reverting to old habits. How to appease the Gods, the pagan asks? Give them what is dearest to me. My child. I had a colleague who argued, successfully to my mind, that kids instinctively understand this story. Something about it is true in ways we cannot find language to express.


Abraham’s whole life was about obedience, from his leaving home for the promised land to his obeying God whom he trusted above all things to save Isaac.


When Jesus says, as he does in last Sunday’s text, those who love father or mother, or son of daughter more than him, he is presenting us with this dilemma again. It isn’t that you can't or don’t love your family, it is the more in that sentence. Unless God comes first, we become idolators. And many of us who love our children have felt that dilemma. There is nothing we love more than our children, we think, not even God. But often times, that is not good for either. We have seen the damage indulgent parents have wreaked on children by idolizing them, indulging them as they grew up to be narcissistic monsters


The God of Abraham does not want such a sacrifice. To keep us from doing so, he sacrificed his own Son so we don’t have to. In fact, the whole Christian story is about what God has done for us, not much about what we can do for him, except worship and obey him by serving the neighbor, not appease him.


Idols demand a lot. They need to be appeased. They can cause us to kill what is dearest to us, do terrible things to each other, find pleasure in what is harmful, call evil good and good evil. One sees all around us what happens when people no longer believe in God. They become their own gods and judges. The entire book of Judges with its disgusting accounts of sinful deeds shows us what happens when people become their own law.


All this can only be made right only when we acknowledge and praise a God who reigns over all, who loves us more than we can fathom and who wants always the best for us. "See his prints of love!"


HYMN INFO

Thomas Olivers

Olivers was a contemporary of Isaac Watts who included this hymn in his collection of psalms. Olivers early on became an orphan and was passed from relative to relative. At about 18, he came to Bristol where he heard the great evangelist George Whitefield preaching and gave his heart to Christ. He worked closely with John Wesley as his Man Friday. For twenty five years he helped Wesley as an itinerant preacher. Some people think that Olivers paraphrased the original hymn Yigdal by Daniel ben Judah, a Jewish poet born in Italy in the 15th century. It is thought to be part of the morning prayer sung by the Sephardim on Sabbath evening and holy days.


LINKS

Truro Cathedral Choir


St. Mark’s Episcopal, Philadelphia



Grace Community Church


Outreach Quartet


Choral arrangement by Mark Hayes









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