What Hope! An Eden Prophesied - LSB 342

This hymn is a wonderful poetic retelling of Isaiah 11. Stephen Starke (b. 1955), Pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Amelith, MI is the author. The tune (CONSOLATION) comes from John Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, which was published in Harrisburg, PA in 1813. CONSOLATION is most well-known for being used with The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns (LSB 348).

Stanza One:

What hope! An Eden prophesied Where tame live with the wild;
The lamb and lion side by side, Led by a little child!

This stanza particularly references Isaiah 11:6, “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.” Before the Fall in Eden there was no death, violence, or anything of the sort. We eagerly await that day when peace will once again reign. But who is the One who brings about this day we long for?

Stanza Two:

A shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stem, A branch from David’s line,
A Prince of Peace in Bethlehem: The fruit of God’s design.

Isaiah 11:1: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” The promised One is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace who would restore Paradise again. The King of kings and Lord of lords was born in a lowly manger to redeem His fallen creation.

Stanza Three:

As banner of God’s love unfurled, Christ came to suffer loss,
That by His death a dying world Would rally to the cross.

Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection on the third day is the pivotal event in all of history. Through His death He destroyed the power of sin, death, and the devil, and on the third day He rose again, giving us His life to be our very own. We have this as a sure and certain hope right now. We do still live in this world and have to deal with being in the fallen creation, but we do not lose hope, because we know how the story ends: Jesus wins!

Stanza Four:

Come, Jesus, come, Messiah Lord, Lost Paradise restore;
Lead past the angel’s flaming sword -- Come, open heaven’s door.

We now eagerly await Christ’s second coming where He will proclaim His victory once and for all and do away with the trials and tribulations of this world. As baptized children of God, we know that we will live with Him in the New Heavens and the New Earth, paradise made perfect again. And so we pray with the Apostle John from Revelation 22:20: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee - LSB 607

This is one of the truly great Lutheran chorales. The text and tune are both by Martin Luther (1483-1546) and the translation is by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878), that great translator of German hymn texts. It is based on Psalm 130, but it not simply a metrical paraphrase. Rather, it brings that Psalm home for the Christian and speaks of hope we have in Christ, despite our many sins.

Stanza One:

From depths of woe I cry to Thee, In trial and tribulation; Bend down Thy gracious ear to me, Lord, hear my supplication. If Thou rememberest every sin, Who then could heaven ever win Or stand before Thy presence?

We begin the first stanza in the very pit of despair and in the midst of many trials and tribulations. We plead for mercy to God, knowing we deserve nothing but punishment and the troubles we are currently in. For our sins are great and if God counted every sin against us, there would be no hope and no chance that He would hear and answer our cries.

Stanza Two:

Thy love and grace alone avail To blot out my transgression; The best and holiest deeds must fail To break sin’s dread oppression. Before Thee none can boasting stand, But all must fear Thy strict demand And live alone by mercy.

There is nothing within us that can ever make us clean from sin. Yet God, in His great love and mercy, took pity on us to wash us clean. Any boasting in ourselves would be foolish and would fail, but we live by the mercy of God, who loves us and pities us in our great weakness.

Stanza Three:

Therefore my hope is in the Lord And not in mine own merit; It rests upon his faithful Word To them of contrite spirit That He is merciful and just; This is my comfort and my trust. His help I wait with patience.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is faithful and always keeps His promises. He alone has never broken one and He will be faithful to you and to me. So we can rest all our hope on His Word, knowing that His help will come at just the right time. This does not mean we will not have times of distress, but we know that God will help and comfort us in the midst of them. He works all things for the good of His children.

Stanza Four:

And though it tarry through the night And till the morning waken, My heart shall never doubt His might Nor count itself forsaken. O Israel, trust in God your Lord. Born of the Spirit and the Word, Now wait for His appearing.

God’s time is not our time and His ways are not our ways, so it may indeed seem like His salvation is a long time in coming. Yet the same Christ who died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day says at the end of the book of Revelation, “Surely I am coming soon.” The Apostle John’s response, and ours is, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Stanza Five:

Though great our sins, yet greater still Is God’s abundant favor; His hand of mercy never will Abandon us, nor waver. Our shepherd good and true is He, Who will at last His Israel free From all their sin and sorrow.

Our sins are indeed great, but greater still is God’s favor towards us for the sake of Christ. He will never leave us or forsake us, but is our Good Shepherd who will at last graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in Heaven. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Hope of the World - LSB 690

This hymn, in the Sanctification section of Lutheran Service Book, reminds us that Christ is our one hope and the only hope of all the world. The text is by Georgia Harkness (1891-1974), and American theologian and the first woman to teach in an American seminary. The tune, EIRENE, is by Frances R. Havergal (1836-1879), a British hymn-writer and composer of hymn tunes.

Stanza One:

Hope of the world, Thou Christ of great compassion; Speak to our fearful hearts by conflict rent. Save us, Thy people, from consuming passion, Who by our own false hopes and aims are spent.

This hymn is about the Hope of the World, Jesus. He is given that title by St. Paul in Timothy 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” We also read in Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” The goal of this hymn, then is to point us to the hope we have in Christ, the one who has great compassion on us to speak to us and heal the wounds caused by placing our trust in false hopes.

Stanza Two:

Hope of the world, God’s gift from highest heaven, Bringing to hungry souls the bread of life, Still let Thy Spirit unto us be given To heal earth’s wounds and end our bitter strife.

Jesus calls himself the “bread of life” many times in John chapter 6. He is our greatest food and feeds us with Himself in the Lord’s Supper. Through this great gift of God we are given forgiveness, life, and salvation as the Holy Spirit works to strengthen our faith and live as His holy people here on Earth.

Stanza Three:

Hope of the world, afoot on dusty highways, Showing to wandering souls the path of light, Walk Thou beside us lest the tempting byways Lure us away from Thee to endless night.

We pray in the Sixth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer “And lead us not into temptation.” Not only does Jesus not lead us into temptation, He walks with us through each temptation, for he was tempted in every way we are, yet without sin. Jesus is the light of the world (Jn 8:12) who shows us the path we are to take and gently leads us back when we stray.

Stanza Four:

Hope of the world, who by Thy cross didst save us From death and dark despair, from sin and guilt, We render back the love Thy mercy gave us; Take Thou our lives and use them as Thou wilt.

“Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling.” So begins the third stanza of Rock of Ages (LSB 761). All that we have is a gift from God, won for us on the cross of Christ and given to us in Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the preached Word. There is no greater gift we can give back to God than that which He first gave to us, and so we return to Him our thanks and praise. Our very life is a gift from God, and so we present our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1) to Him and in service to our neighbor.

Stanza Five:

Hope of the world, O Christ, o’er death victorious, Who by this sign didst conquer grief and pain, We would be faithful to Thy Gospel glorious. Thou art our Lord! Thou dost forever reign!

The wonderful Good Friday hymn Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle (LSB 454) begins the fourth stanza like this, “Faithful cross, true sign of triumph.” Jesus’s death on the cross was not merely a symbolic act, but is both the means by which he saved us from our sins and the sign we use to remind us of His great victory. We then pray that Christ would make us faithful to the Gospel, sure of the hope we have because of Christ. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Note: The line “Who by this sign didst conquer grief and pain” calls to mind a story of Constantine the Great. He had a vision of a Chi-Rho, which are the first two letters of the Greek word Christos and was an early Christian symbol of Christ. In the vision he also saw Latin words that said “In this sign you will conquer.” Constantine then used the Chi-Rho as his battle symbol.

Christ, the Lord of Hosts, Unshaken - LSB 521

September 29th is the Festival of St. Michael and All Angels, which we will be celebrating on September 30th. The celebration of St. Michael and All Angels reminds us of how the Lord delivered us from the lying accusations of Satan by sending His Son to beat down Satan for us on the cross of Calvary, rising again on the third day to proclaim His victory over Satan’s greatest weapon: death. The tune (FORTUNATUS NEW), by Carl Schalk (b. 1929), is more commonly associated with Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle (LSB 454), a fantastic Holy Week hymn that was originally set to a great Plainchant melody.  The text is by Peter Prange (b. 1972). 

Stanza One:

Christ, the Lord of hosts, unshaken By the devil’s seething rage, Thwarts the plan of Satan’s minions; Wins the strife from age to age; Conquers sin and death forever; Slams them in their steely cage. 

This stanza, like the rest of the hymn, is packed with vivid imagery, especially how Christ slams Satan and his minions in their cage. Christ has not only beaten Satan, but has completely and utterly vanquished him.  There is no escaping or undoing Christ’s victory; it is absolutely certain and final.

Stanza Two:

Michael fought the heavenly battle, Godly angels by his side; Warred against the ancient serpent, Foiled the beast, so full of pride, Cast him earthbound with his angels; Now he prowls, unsatisfied. 

Again, such incredible imagery.  Really, this hymn could be made into a Lord of the Rings style movie.  Not to get too nerdy, but when I read that stanza I see something like one of the giant battles in those films.  However, there is one difference: in this battle, there is no question who will win, because Christ has already defeated the devil and his angels.  The outcome has already been decided.  Satan lost and was kicked out of heaven and now he roams the earth, seeking whom he may devour.  

Stanza Three:

Long on earth the battle rages, Since the serpent’s first deceit; Twisted God’s command to Adam, Made forbidden fruit look sweet.  Then the curse of God was spoken: “You’ll lie crushed beneath His feet!” 

Indeed, the battle has been raging since the Fall into sin.  But God foretold Satan’s demise in the coming of His Son.

Stanza Four:

Jesus came, this word fulfilling, Trampled Satan, death defied; Bore the brunt of our temptation, On the wretched tree He died Yet to life was raised victorious; By His life our life supplied.

Christ came into the world and destroyed Satan’s plans.  The devil planned to rule the world and thought he had won when Christ died on the cross.  But unbeknownst to him, Christ was taking the punishment for all the sins of all mankind upon Himself, dying in our place.  Christ then descended to hell to proclaim His total and complete victory and finally rose from the dead on that first Easter morning.  Because He lives, we too shall live eternally!

Stanza Five:

Swift as lightning falls the tyrant From his heavenly perch on high, As the word of Jesus’ victory Floods the earth and fills the sky.  Wounded by a wound eternal Now his judgment has drawn nigh! 

No more can Satan lay any claim to us who have been bought with Christ’s own blood, washed in the waters of Holy Baptism and given faith to receive the forgiveness of sins. Death is now merely the doorway to eternal life.

Stanza Six:

Jesus, send Your angel legions When the foe would us enslave.  Hold us fast when sin assaults us; Come, then, Lord, Your people save.  Overthrow at last the dragon; Send him to his fiery grave.

Amen! Come soon, Lord Jesus!

Lord, Enthroned in Heavenly Splendor - LSB 534

This is a hymn of praise to Christ, the Paschal Lamb who cleansed our souls from every stain by His death on the cross and resurrection on the third day. The author is George H. Bourne (1840-1925), an Anglican priest. The powerful tune, BRYN CALFARIA, is by William Owen (1813-1893), a Welsh composer.

Stanza One:

Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendor, First-begotten from the dead, You alone, our strong defender, Lifting up Your people’s head. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Jesus, true and living bread! Jesus, true and living bread!

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again! This is the hope we have as Christians, that because Christ died for us, rose for us, and ascended into Heaven for us, we know that His Word is true. He said He will come again and we can be absolutely sure of that. But he has not left us without hope, but has given us His Holy Spirit as a guarantee, and even feeds us with His very Body and Blood each and every Lord’s Day. So He has lifted up our heads in joy and anticipation as we wait for that great and glorious Day of His return.

Stanza Two:

Though the lowliest form now veil You As of old in Bethlehem, here as there Your angels hail You, Branch and flower of Jesse’s stem. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! We in worship join with them; We in worship join with them.

We often think of Christmas as a wonderful, idyllic scene, which it is on the surface. If we go deeper, we see the great depths of humiliation that Christ undertook as He condescended to be born as one of us, a mere human. He humbled Himself to take on our human flesh so that sinful humanity could be redeemed. This all began with our Lord being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. God becoming human is no small thing, but is a monumental event in the history of universe.

Stanza Three:

Paschal Lamb, Your offering, finished Once for all when You were slain, In its fullness undiminished Shall forevermore remain, Alleluia, allleluia, alleluia! Cleansing souls from evey stain; Cleansing souls from every stain.

What Christ began at His incarnation He completed by His death and resurrection. He is the ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system, the true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. His once for all death has destroyed death so that it can no longer hold us. We have been cleansed by His shed blood so we will stand before the Father on the Last Day without fear or shame.

Stanza Four:

Life-imparting heavenly manna, Stricken rock with streaming side, Heaven and earth with loud hosanna Worship You, the Lamb who died, Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! Risen, ascended, glorified! Risen, ascended, glorified.

Just as God provided manna and water to His people Israel in the wilderness, Christ feeds His Church, the new Israel, with the heavenly food of His Body and His Blood. We do not have to ask, “Manna? (what is is?)” as the OT Israelites did, for we know exactly what He gives us: Himself. This food is the medicine of immortality and so we worship our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord, who sits in glory at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Entrust Your Days and Burdens - LSB 754

This hymn, by the great Lutheran pastor and hymn-writer Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), speaks of the absolute trust and confidence we have in God because of all He has done for us. The tune (SUFFICIENTIA) is by Stephen R. Johnson, a Lutheran church musician living in Mahopac, NY.

Stanza One:

Entrust your days and burdens To God’s most loving hand; He cares for you while ruling The sky, the sea, the land. For He who guides the tempests Along their thunderous ways Will find for you a pathway And guide you all your days.

God is the Creator of all, from the tiniest atom to the largest galaxy and beyond. That same God cares for you, so what is there to fear? As the Psalmist says, “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 125:1-2). God will guide us through the storms of this life unto our eternal home with Him.

Stanza Two:

Rely on God your Savior And find your life secure. Make His work your foundation That your work may endure. No anxious thought, no worry, No self-tormenting care Can win your Father’s favor; His heart is moved by prayer.

Christ is your Redeemer, so with Paul you can “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7). Christ is the one mediator with the Father, interceding on our behalf and for our benefit. Christ is our brother and God is our Father, so we can ask Him with all boldness and confidence as dear children ask their dear father.

Stanza Three:

Take heart, have hope, my spirit, And do not be dismayed; God helps in every trial And makes you unafraid. Await His time with patience Through darkest hours of night Until the sun you hoped for Delights your eager sight.

Christians live as people of hope, knowing that the sure and certain promises of Christ are true. Though we endure the troubles of this world, we know that Christ has defeated the darkness and the the Light of the World is coming soon. Confident in this, we wait with patience for Christ’s return on the Last Day.

Stanza Four:

Leave all to His direction; His wisdom rules for you In ways to rouse your wonder At all His love can do. Soon He, His promise keeping, With wonderworking powers Will banish from your spirit What gave you troubled hours.

St. Peter writes, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7). We need not worry, for Christ fights for us, keeping at bay the powers of evil, no matter how bleak things look. He invites us to give Him our burdens and take His yoke upon us, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Stanza Five:

O blessed heir of heaven You’ll hear the song resound Of endless jubilation When you with life are crowned. In your right hand your maker Will place the victor’s palm, And you will thank Him gladly With heaven’s joyful psalm.

Oh, the wonder and glories of heaven! This is what we long for: to be with the Lord in that place where there will be no sorrow or tears and where Christ will be our light forevermore.

Stanza Six:

Our hands and feet, Lord, strengthen; With joy our spirits bless Until we see the ending Of all our life’s distress. And so throughout our lifetime Keep us within Your care And at our end then bring us To heaven to praise You there.

Confident of the joys of the life to come, we pray that God would strengthen us while we sojourn here on Earth. He will keep us in His care throughout our lives and take us to be with Him. What wonderful promises we have, promises that are sure and certain because of Christ’s death and resurrection for us and for all people.

Rise! To Arms! With Prayer Employ You - LSB 668

This hymn, in the Church Militant section of Lutheran Service Book, is a bold encouragement to Christians to “put on the whole armor of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11). The text is by Wilhelm Erasmus Arends (1677-1721), a Lutheran Pastor in Crottorf, in the Western part of Germany. The tune, WACHET AUF, was written for the text “Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying.” The composer, Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608), was a German Lutheran pastor who wrote both text and tune for the hymn “Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying” (LSB 516) and “O Morning Star, How Fair and Bright) (LSB 395).

Stanza One:

Rise! To arms! With prayer employ you, O Christians, lest the foe destroy you; For Satan has designed your fall. Wield God’s Word, the weapon glorious; Against all foes be thus victorious, For God protects you from them all. Fear not the hordes of hell, Here is Emmanuel. Hail the Savior! The strong foes yield To Christ, our shield, And we, the victors, hold the field.

When our Lord was tempted by Satan He did not use His divine powers, but the Word of God, the “sword of the Spirit,” as St. Paul writes in Ephesians 6. We Christians, then, also use the Word and prayer, which is speaking back to God the promises He’s given us, in our daily fight against the Devil. We need not fear the hordes of hell, for Christ has won the victory.

Stanza Two:

Cast afar this world’s vain pleasure And boldy strive for heavenly treasure. Be steadfast in the Savior’s might. Trust the Lord, who stands beside you, For Jesus from all harm will hide you. By faith you conquer in the fight. Take courage, weary soul! Look forward to the goal! Joy awaits you. The race well run, Your long war won, Your crown shines splendid as the sun.

Christ says in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The stuff of this world will not last, it will decay and turn to dust. But in Christ, we have an eternal treasure that will neither perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for us. So, while we live amidst this world of decay and destruction, we have the sure and certain hope that the best is yet to come because of Jesus.

Stanza Three:

Wisely fight, for time is fleeting; the hours of grace are fast retreating; Short, short is this our earthly way. When the Lord the dead will waken And sinners all by ear are shaken, The saints with joy will greet that day. Praise God, our triumph’s sure. We need not long endure Scorn and trial. Our Savior King His own will bring To that great glory which we sing.

Christ will come again soon! We don’t know when, but we wait with eager expectation for that great and glorious day. “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). We have such great promises from the Lord and we know that they are certain and sure in Christ. “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raise imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53) Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!