“God Himself Is with Us”

"One thing have I desired of the LORD, that…that I may dwell in the house of the LORD…to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple" (Ps. 27.4)

     INTRO.: A song that was intended specifically for the opening of a worship service to remind us that in His house is "God Himself Is With Us." The original may be the work of a French writer Jean de Labadie (1610-1674). The text as we know it was written by Gerhardt Tersteegen (1697-1769). Originally in five stanzas, it was first published in his 1729 Geistliches Blumengartlein. Tersteegen is best known among us for his hymn, "God Calling Yet." The first translation, consisting of stanza 1 through 3, was made by Frederick William Foster and John Miller. Foster was born on Aug. 1, 1760, at Bradford in West Yorkshire, England, and educated with the Moravians at Fulneck in Yorkshire and at the Moravian College in Barnby, Prussian Saxony. Ordained a Moravian minister, he edited the Moravian Hymn Book of 1801 and its 1808 Supplement, and was made bishop in 1818. He died at Ockbrook in Derbyshire, England, on Apr. 12, 1835. Miller was born in 1756 at Groshennersdorg near Herrnhut in Saxony. After receiving his education at the Moravian Theological College at Barnby, he went to Fulneck, England, in 1781, and to Pudsey in 1788. His original hymns and translations were contributed to the 1789 Moravian Hymn Book, including "God Himself Is With Us." He died in 1790 of tuberculosis.
     Alterations to stanza 1 were made in The Church Psalter and Hymn Book of 1855 by editor William Mercer (1811-1873). Alterations to stanza 2 were made in the 1930 American Lutheran Hymnal by Herman H. M. Brueckner (1866-1942). Further alterations were made and the translation of stanzas 4 and 5 was done both for a composite in the 1940 Protestant Episcopal Hymnal based on the work of Henry Sloan Coffin (1877-1954). The tune (Wunderbar Koenig, Arnsburg, or Gott Ist Gegenwartig) is attributed to Joachim Neander (1650-1680). It was first published with another hymn in his 1680 Alpha und Omega: Glaub-und Liebesubung. Neander’s best known hymn is probably "Praise Ye the Lord, the Almighty." Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use among churches of Christ in the twentieth century, "God Himself Is With Us" appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal (sts. 1 and 2) edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1975 Supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 (sts. 1 and 3) originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised (sts. 1 and 3) edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord (sts. 1, 2, and 3) edited by John P. Wiegand.

     The song reminds us that when we assemble for worship we are in the presence of Almighty God.

I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the presence of God
"God Himself is with us; Let us now adore Him, And with awe appear before Him.
God is in His temple; All within keep silence, And before Him bow with reverence.
Him alone, God we own, Him, our; To our Lord and Savior Praises sing forever."
Some newer versions have the opening line to read, "God Himself is present."
The original translation of line six read, "Prostrate lie in deepest reverence."
 A. We need to remember that when we come to worship God, we are before Him: Acts 10.33
 B. Thus, we are bowing before God who is in His temple and should keep "silence," indicating our reverence: Hab. 2.20
 C. One way that we show our devotion to God when we are in His presence is to sing praises to Him: Col. 3.16

II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the need to praise God
"God Himself is with us, Whom angelic legions Serve with awe in heavenly regions.
‘Holy, holy, holy,’ Sing the hosts of heaven; Praise to God be ever given.
Bow Thine ear to us here: Hear, O Christ, the praises That Thy church now raises."
The original translation read:
"God Himself is with us: Hear the harps resounding! See the crowds the throne surrounding!
‘Holy, holy, holy,’ hear the hymns ascending, Angels, saints, their voices blending!
Bow Thine ear to us here: Hear, O Christ, the praises That Thy church now raises."
 A. Even the angelic legions in the heavenly regions express praise and worship to the Lord: Heb. 1.6
 B. In their praise, they identify Him as "Holy, holy, holy": Rev. 4.8
 C. In like manner, we desire that He would bow His ear to us and hear the praises that we raise in the congregation: Heb. 2.12

III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the blessings of God
"O Thou Fount of blessing, Purify my spirit; Trusting only in Thy merit,
Like the holy angels Who behold Thy glory, May I ceaselessly adore Thee,
And in all, great and small, Seek to do most nearly What Thou lovest dearly."
 A. God is the fount of every blessing because all good gifts come down from the Father of lights: Jas. 1.18
 B. Because of these blessings, we should be like the holy angels who ceaselessly adore Christ: Rev. 5.11-12
 C. However, it is not enough just to sing praise to God for His blessings; we must also seek to do most nearly what He loves most dearly in obedience to His will: Heb. 5.8-9

IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes the need for God to dwell in us
"Come, abide within me; Let my soul, like Mary, Be Thine earthly sanctuary.
Come, indwelling Spirit, With transfigured splendor; Love and honor will I render.
Where I go here below Let me bow before Thee, Know Thee, and adore Thee."
 A. Just as God had a physical sanctuary made in the Old Testament, so we as Christians are a spiritual temple for the dwelling of God: Exo. 25.8, Eph. 2.19-22
 B. The means by which this is made possible is the indwelling Spirit who by means of His word resides in each Christian who is a building block of that spiritual sanctuary: 1 Cor. 6.18, Eph. 5.18
 C. Because the Lord dwells in us, wherever we go we should bow before Him, symbolic of our reverence and our praise: Heb. 12.28,

V. Stanza 5 emphasizes our responsibilities before God
"Gladly we surrender Earth’s deceitful treasures, Pride of life and sinful pleasures;
Gladly, Lord, we offer Thine to be forever, Soul and life and each endeavor.
Thou alone shalt be known Lord of all our being, Life’s true way decreeing."
 A. One responsibility is to surrender or deny Earth’s deceitful treasures: Tit. 2.11-12
 B. The next responsibility then is to offer our entire soul and life as a living sacrifice to the Lord: Rom. 12.1-2
 C. In this way, we become the Lord’s own special people, belong to Him alone: 1 Pet. 2.9-10

     CONCL.: Donald Hustad said, "Gerhard Tersteegen is considered to be one of the great German hymnists and spiritual leaders in the Reformed tradition." Fred L. Precht called this an "excellent hymn." This hymn is probably not very well known in churches of Christ because it has not been included in very many of our books, as is true of a large number of the great German chorales and hymns of the Reformation. However, it is good to remember when we gather together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to worship our Creator that "God Himself Is With Us."


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