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HYMN 341 Thy Word is a Lamp unto my Feet

Psalm 119 Text: Amy Grant Tune: Michael W. Smith R/Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path 1. When I feel afraid
Think I've lost my way
Still you're there right beside me
And nothing will I fear
As long as you are near
Please be near me to the end R/Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path 2. I will not forget
Your love for me and yet
My heart forever is wandering
Jesus be my guide
And hold me to your side
I will love you to the end Nothing will I fear as long as you are near
Please be near me to the end R/Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
And a light unto my path
You're the light unto my path. MEDITATION
This is among the signature songs of contemporary Christian music in its first generation. Written by Amy Grant with Michael W. Smith, it is of a piece with the Wattsian tradition of using the language of the psalm and then riffing a bit on it, not worrying about paraphrasing Scripture exactly as the early Calvinist psalmists did. Calvin had urged hymn writers to paraphrase the psalms exactly because it was in the psalms where God taught us how to praise him. That means nothing extraneous would creep into the language of prayer and corrupt it. That notion kept the writers of the Calvinists working to provide singeable versions of the psalms for a long time. From 1542 until Watts, there was little wavering from that. The Bay Psalm book, 1640, the first book published in America, was prepared by Puritan divines like Richard Mather, (1596-1669) grandfather of Cotton Mather—a remarkable achievement when one thinks of their small libraries and busy times working in the colony to provide pastoral care for their widespread parishes. Watts thought the restrictions of that form were too strict and also not Christian enough—he shrank from some of the sentiments of the psalms, such as the last verse of Psalm 137, about dashing the babies of the Babylonians against the rocks. Furthermore, he wanted to use images from the Gospels, such as his great hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." His innovations became the standard form of the English hymn until the 19th century and the Oxford Revival brought hymns from the early and medieval church into English. Still he remains the English standard—if you ask a kid who has been a church goer to write a song, chances are high that he or she will write one in the meter of a standard Watts ballad form. That is also the most popular form of English poesy. When the contemporary Christian music movement began, it followed in the Watts’ tradition. This song is clear evidence of that. Grant and Smith used the language of Psalm 119. Their text and music, while using the conventions of Watts, and even the traditional language of the King James Version, also used conventions from contemporary pop music like its frequent repetitions. We remember mostly the refrain “Thy Word is a Lamp until my Feet.” That repetition teaches us the essence of Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the psalter. The tune is also what we would call an ear worm. Once you hear it, it runs through your mind for a long time. I am an admirer of the Calvinist psalter and its enormous influence on the American mind. Every Calvinist tradition brought to the American shores one version or another of the psalter, from the Huguenots, to the Dutch, the Scots, the Irish, the English—their music became the music of the American church. Most any early American drenched in Biblical language would have known when they heard "Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet" that they were hearing Psalm 119. Now that language is not so widely shared. Sometimes the language paraphrasing Scripture today may sound like the creation of the singer. That means to me the people hearing it, while hearing the Word of God, may not realize it is Scripture. While that may not be crucial, Grant and Smith with their riffs on the psalm, “Sometimes I feel afraid,“ made the language of Scripture understandable to their audience by showing how they used it in their lives. We believe that God’s Word creates faith. And this song has done that. It is interesting to think a bit about how a tradition can inform and influence a new movement. The Spirit is always breaking and remaking traditions to cause faith to be renewed again and again. Even though their work was opposed by the mainline, they had far more success in teaching the faith than the main line appeared to have.Their songs certainly are among the most popular on Youtube and people who write in response to the song have been greatly helped by it over the years. For that we can praise God! One bit of evidence for the work of the Spirit that we must be alert to as we pray for revival. HYMN INFO This hymn by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith was first published in 1984 and became one of the hit Christian contemporary songs. Both Grant and Smith were deeply committed Christians and worked to bring the Gospel to their generation. Grant and Smith have rafts of hit songs and awards in honor of their work. Grant, known as the Queen of Christian pop, sang with the Gaithers and many others. Her collaboration with Smith was very fruitful. She has successfully crossed over into general pop music, but her fans are always happy when they hear her do new Christian music, something she has done very successfully. She has sold over 30 million albums. Smith has been one of the greats in the Contemporary Christian movement. This has now been included in hymnals and also an anthem that choirs in the mainline sing. LINKS Amy Grant and Michael Smith singing the song Choral rendition. Presbyterian Church in Plano, Texas Amazing Grace Christian Fellowship Maranatha singers

HYMN 341 Thy Word is a Lamp unto my Feet
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