Hymn writers can give us good theological lyrics packaged in memorable melodies. The tunes help my aging brain cells remember the words, even when memorizing seems beyond my abilities. Happily, I cut my teeth on hymnals as I grew up and have many verses committed to memory from my youth! While I do appreciate many of the contemporary choruses of the last 40 years, I do have to agree with my late father-in-law. He called some of the newer tunes “the 7-11 choruses.” By that he meant seven words sung eleven times. There’s nothing wrong with a refrain; many scriptural phrases bear repeating. Just look at Psalm 33 or 89 and you’ll see “the steadfast love of the Lord” repeated. An powerful emphasis occurs, somewhat like the Selah that appears in the psalms when the writer wants us to stop and think about what we have just read or heard.But when the last line of a song is tagged 4-10 times, I lose the focus on the Lord; my mind begins to drift to thoughts of whether or not what I’m singing in mere vain repetition.
More recently, especially from the gifted keyboard of Keith Getty, a self-proclaimed modern hymn writer, I see a combining of contemporary melodies with theologically sound words.What a blessed offering to the 21st century church. Hymns of any time period can provide great biblical insight but, sadly, use a vocabulary that puts off those outside the church. Write a hymn called “I Trust in a Sovereign God,” and few can follow the ideas, put off initially by church words that seem foreign, unknown. But when a blind child, Fanny J. Crosby, wrote “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” in 1875, she captured comfort within the convictions of the God who holds all of life together. He does not make mistakes; instead, He uses all the evil that comes to refine His children. Given that Crosby’s blindness came about in her infancy through physician error, she could have grown up bitter and withdrawn. Read these lyrics or sing the hymn aloud, and you’ll know something of God’s sovereignty.
All the way my Savior leads me — /What have I to ask beside?/Can I doubt His tender mercy,/Who through life has been my guide?/Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,/Here by faith in Him to dwell!/ For I know whate’er befall me,/ Jesus doeth all things well.
All the way my Savior leads me–/Cheers each winding path I tread;/ Gives me grace for every trial,/Feeds me with the living Bread./Though my weary steps may falter,/And my soul athirst may be,/Gushing from the Rock before me/ Lo! a spring of joy I see; Gushing from the Rock before me,/ Lo! A spring of joy I see.
All the way my Savior leads me –/ O the fullness of His love!/ Perfect rest to me is promised/ In my Father’s house above./ When my spirit clothed immortal,/ Wings its flight to realms of day,/ This my song through endless ages,/ Jesus led me all the way.