This week’s hymn is quite simply a song of praise. Praise. I had to give that some thought. It’s a word used often in church settings. It’s a word that describes a kind of gift we can bestow upon someone or something we really admire. Something we endorse. Something we find to be great.
In this case, the poet Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847) was trying to capture the spirit of Psalm 103 in song; a spirit of whole hearted praise of God.
Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me His praise should sing?
Praise the everlasting King.
Praise Him for His grace and favour
To all people in distress.
Praise Him still the same as ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Glorious in His faithfulness.
Particularly suitable as we celebrate Fathers’ Day this week, is the third verse that describes the care and gentle nature a father exhibits. God as father can sometimes overwhelm – both as a standard to live up to, and as a singularly overused metaphor. But in this case, it is a beautiful reminder of the traits that are worthy of praise. Fatherlike equals gentle, knowing care.
Fatherlike He tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame He knows.
In His hands He gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Widely yet His mercy flows.
As I thought more about these words, it occurred to me that the characteristics inspiring praise might well be a guide for all of us. Grace and favour towards those in distress, slow to chide, swift to bless, tending and gently bearing. I think these are indeed characteristics worthy of praise, although I sometimes wonder if they are the characteristics we actually value. It seems words like ‘successful’, ‘popular’, ‘accomplished’ and ‘powerful’ engender more praise in our culture. Yet, for hundreds of years images of the Divine have been crafted through words, music and art inspiring praise of tenderness, joy, care and grace. Perhaps we should pay heed to this history. Praise that which is worthy. Live lives worthy of praise.
Angels, help us to adore Him;
Ye behold Him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before Him,
Dwellers all in time and space.
Praise with us the God of grace.