Vol. 31 Num. 28
“Whate’re My God Ordains Is Right”
First Published: July 16, 1998
This month we have been singing and learning the wonderful hymn: “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right” (Trinity Hymnal, 108). This hymn was written in 1675 by Samuel Rodigast for a friend of his named Severus Gastorius (who was the “precentor” —the person who leads the congregational singing— of the church in Jena). When Rodigast wrote the hymn, his friend was very ill, but when he recovered Gastorius wrote the hauntingly beautiful tune to which we sing this song. This hymn became the favorite hymn of King Frederick William III of Prussia, and it is easy to see why.
Each stanza of the hymn opens with a declaration of trust in the goodness of God’s sovereignty: “Whate’er my God ordains is right.” In the first stanza, we declare our trust in the Lord no matter what he does because “He is my God; though dark my road, he holds me that I shall not fall: wherefore to him I leave it all.”
In the second stanza we remind ourselves that the Lord never deceives us and that he always leads us on the proper road in life. Furthermore, we recount that he will not leave us and that he is strong enough to deflect our grief.
In stanza three, we join in the experience of our Lord who himself had to say in dark Gethsemane “nevertheless, not my will but thy will be done.” Here we sing: “though now this cup, in drinking, may bitter seem to my faint heart, I take it, all unshrinking.” How can we sing such words? What enables us to bear them up to God? The next phrase gives the answer: “My God is true.” It is the believer’s trust in the covenant faithfulness of God which enables him to endure his sorrows, in hope awaiting the day that they will all depart.
The final stanza concludes with a strengthening declaration of trust in the face of the severest calamity: “My Father’s care is round me there; he holds me that I shall not fall: and so to him I leave it all.” As we open our singing of this stanza we are announcing that it is on the ground of God’s good sovereignty that we will take our stand in “sorrow, need, or death.”
This hearty and realistic hymn is one well worth memorizing. Its theology is biblical, Reformed, and heartfelt. Even as I write these words, I can picture in my mind many saints in our own congregation who have “hung on when there was nothing left in them but the will to hang on” because of the great truth celebrated in this hymn.
May the Lord help us to sing it and believe it and live it.