Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: "Let us Love and Sing and Wonder"

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 31 Num. 22
“Let us Love and Sing and Wonder”
First Published: June 4, 1998

This Sunday, as we enter our summer months, we will begin to sing a new Hymn of the Month: “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder” (Trinity Hymnal, 172) by John Newton (author of “Amazing Grace”). This hymn is set to a vigorous and joyful tune called “All Saints Old.” Many of you will immediately recognize the melody, and even if you don’t you’ll find it easy to pick up.

The first four stanzas are an exhortation from one believer to others to consider the gracious work of God and to respond accordingly. The first stanza calls on us to “love and sing and wonder” at the work of the Lord Jesus who has “hushed the law’s loud thunder.” That is, he has quenched the penalty of the Law, which we deserved, by his death on the cross. The final thought of this opening line is that Jesus “has brought us nigh to God” — a theme that will be repeated throughout the hymn in different language.

The second stanza now takes up the first of stanza one’s three imperatives: “Let us love.” Here we are focused on the blessed task of displaying our love for Christ. Five things are then mentioned to supply clear motivation for our appreciation of him: (1) he pitied us when we were still his enemies [Romans 5:8]; (2) he graciously called us to salvation; (3) he taught us the truth, giving us the ability to understand; (4) he cleansed us by his blood; and (5) he “presents our souls to God.” No doubt, each of these thoughts are suitable for kindling our love for him.

Stanza three picks up on the second imperative of the song: “Let us sing.” This line asks us to sing to the Lord even in the midst of severe trials: “though fierce temptation threaten hard to bear us down.” How can one sing at such a time? Newton has an answer! “For the Lord, our strong salvation, holds in view the conqu’ror’s crown.” Indeed, we must sing because Jesus “soon will bring us home to God.” We, thus, persevere our trials with joy and song because of the future grace of victory and nearness to the Lord.

The fourth stanza then chimes in, calling on us to obey the third imperative: “Let us wonder.” That is, “let your minds reflect upon God, his truth, and his plan of salvation and be in utter awe of what he has done.” What thought provokes this awe? The thought that in God’s way of redemption grace and justice work together to secure our salvation. God, in his grace, freely saves us by his mercy as we trust in Christ. Simultaneously, he saves us by his justice, in meting out upon his own beloved Son the precise punishment due to us. Hence, “when through grace in Christ our trust is, justice smiles and asks no more.” What a phrase! This leads us to wonder at the awesome goodness and wisdom and love of the one who “has secured our way to God.”

Finally, in the fifth stanza, we begin with a new exhortation Let us praise,” but this stanza ends with a direct address to the Lord Jesus “You have washed us with your blood; you are worthy, Lamb of God.” Here Newton calls us to “join the chorus of the saints enthroned on high.” Why? Because they trusted in Jesus here, before we ever arrived on the scene and now they are praising him in heaven. Thus, they move us to hope for the day when we will join them, and to praise the Lord now in anticipation of that future blessing.

I suspect that this hymn will become one of our congregation’s favorites. The combination of an excellent tune and its exalted themes is hard to match. May we sing it heartily unto the Lord.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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