"I WILL NOT FORGET THEE"
"Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should not have compassion…yet will I not forget thee" (Isa. 49.15)
INTRO.: A hymn which emphasizes that God has promised not to forget His people is "I Will Not Forget Thee" (#502 in Hymns for Worship Revised, #251 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (Sweet Promise) was composed both by Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (1856-1922). It was first published in the 1889 Triumphant Songs compiled by Edwin O. Excell. Originally owned by Excell, the copyright was renewed in 1917 by the Rodeheaver Co. Gabriel produced both words and music for such well known gospel songs as "Glory For Me," "God Is Calling the Prodigal," "He Lifted Me," "I Stand Amazed," "Where the Gates Swing Outward Never," "More Like the Master," "Only a Step," and "Send the Light," and provided either words or music for "Come to the Feast," "Harvest Time," "Higher Ground," "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," "An Evening Prayer," "Jesus, Rose of Sharon," "Only in Thee," "Since Jesus Came into My Heart," and "The Way of the Cross Leads Home."
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "I Will Not Forget Thee," often identified by its first line "Sweet Is the Promise," appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today, it is found in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song reminds us that we can trust in God’s promise never to forget His people.
I. Stanza 1 centers on God’s promise
"Sweet is the promise, ‘I will not forget thee;’ Nothing can molest or turn my soul away.
E’en though the night be dark within the valley, Just beyond is shining an eternal day."
A. God has always promised never to leave or forsake His people: Deut. 31.5-6, Heb. 13.5-6
B. Therefore, nothing that would try to molest us or turn our souls away should cause us to fear: Matt. 10.28
C. Because of this promise, we can always be motivated to move forward because we know that just beyond is shining an eternal day: Prov. 4.18
II. Stanza 2 centers on our trust of God’s promise
"Trusting the promise, ‘I will not forget thee,’ Onward will I go with songs of joy and love;
Though earth despise me, Though my friends forsake me, I shall be remembered in my home above."
A. We must trust the promises that God has made to us: Ps. 37.3-5, Prov. 3.5-6
B. With such a trust, we can rejoice always in the Lord: Phil. 4.4
C. The reason is that because of our trust we can know that God will remember us, both here and in the home above: Mal. 3.16, Heb. 6.10
III. Stanza 3 centers on our receiving the fulfilment of God’s promise
"When at the golden portals I am standing, All my tribulations, all my sorrows past,
How sweet to hear the blessed proclamation, ‘Enter, faithful servant, welcome home at last.’"
A. The hope of the Christians is at the end of the way to stand at the golden portals (gates) to the eternal city: Rev. 21.10-12
B. Then all our tribulations and sorrows will be past, and God shall wipe away all tears: Rev. 21.1-4
C. At that time, we shall receive the fulfilment of God’s promise by hearing the Lord say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter in": Matt. 25.21
CONCL.: The chorus continues to focus our attention on the promise of God not to forget or leave us.
"’I will not forget thee or leave thee; In my hands I’ll hold thee, in my arms I’ll fold thee.
I will not forget thee or leave thee; I am thy Redeemer, I will care for thee.’"
Personally, I have always found this a very comforting song. In this life, I have had times when things of this world molested me and tried to turn my soul away, when people of earth seemed to despise me and even friends forsook me, and when I experienced my share of tribulation and sorrow. But it helps me to know that I can put my trust in a God who says, "I Will Not Forget Thee."