This hymn has a great combination of strong tune and strong tune. The text is by Matthaus Appeles von Lowenstern (1594-1648), with translation by Philip Pusey (1799-1855). The tune (ISTE CONFESSOR) is from Antiphoner from the city of Poitiers, published in 1746. ISTE CONFESSOR is one of my favorite “new to me” tunes. I first heard it in 2006 at the AGO National Convention in Chicago and have loved it ever since. It is used 2 other places in LSB: Christ High-Ascended, Now in Glory Seated (LSB 840) and Only-Begotten, Word of God Eternal (LSB 916).
Stanzas One through Three depict the Church Millitant, struggling against evil all around. The first stanza is a plea to God to hear the prayer of His Church: Lord of our life and God of our salvation, Star of our night and hope of ev’ry nation: Hear and receive Your Church’s supplication, Lord God Almighty. The tune helps set the tone of the hymn, as the Church’s prayer ascends to God amid the troubles of this world.
Stanza Two continues the plea: See round Your ark the hungry billows curling; See how Your foes their banners are unfurling And with great spite their fiery darts are hurling, O Lord, preserve us. The foes are surrounding the Church, attacking it with no mercy. Finally, there is nothing left but to cry out: O Lord, preserve us! God is indeed our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Only Christ can save us from the assaults of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.
Stanza Three prays that God would be our light and our shield throughout the darkness and battles of this earthly life. It also contrasts the hordes of hell with the peace that can only come through Christ Jesus: Lord, be our light when worldly darkness veils us; Lord, be our shield when earthly armor fails us; And in the day when hell itself assails us, Grant us Your peace, Lord. It is true that the only peace we have in this world comes from God. But greater still is the peace between God and man, won by Christ on the cross of Calvary, proclaimed to those same hordes of hell, and made known to the disciples on that first Easter morning.
It is because of Christ’s work on the cross that we can sing Stanza Four: Peace in our hearts, where sinful thoughts are raging, Peace in Your Church, our troubled souls assuaging, Peace when the world its endless war is waging, Peace in Your heaven. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!