Hymn of the Week: ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past’

Hymn of the Week: ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past’ September 8, 2018

Whether my planning or by coincidence, this great rafter-raising hymn is our entrance song this weekend. I can’t think of a more timely or more consoling cry of hope and faith during turbulent times.

Here’s a great rendition from Great Britain:

Some background:

The hymn was originally part of The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, published by Watts in 1719. In this book he paraphrased in Christian verse the entire psalter with the exception of twelve Psalms which he felt were unsuited for Christian usage.

The hymn is often sung as part of the remembrance day service in Canada and festive occasions in England.

The hymn tune “St. Anne” (common metre 86.86) to which the text is most often sung was composed by William Croft in 1708 whilst he was the organist of the church of St Anne, Soho: hence the name of the tune. It first appeared anonymously in the Supplement to the New Version of the Psalms, 6th edition in 1708. It was originally intended to be used with a version of Psalm 62. It was not until sometime later when set to Watts’ text that the tune gained recognition.

According to one account, it was sung on the Titanic, sung during a service the morning it sank.

It was also sung in 1941 aboard the HMS Prince of Wales at a service attended by Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt, marking the creation of the Atlantic Charter.

The words:

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

 


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