"LORD, WE COME BEFORE THEE NOW"
"O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker" (Psa. 95.6).
INTRO.: A hymn which talks about our coming before the Lord in worship and prayer is "Lord, We Come Before Thee Now" (#68 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by William Hammond (1719-1783). Originally in eight stanzas, it was first published in his Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of 1745. Later it was reduced and amended in A Collection of Psalms and Hymns of 1760 by the editor, Martin Madan (1726-1790). The tune (Hendon) was composed by Henri Abraham Cesar Malan, who was born at Geneva, Switzerland on July 7, 1787. Educated at the College of Geneva, where his father Jacques Imbert Malan was a faculty member, he was a man of many talents, being not only a preacher, writer, and musician, but also a printer, carpenter, blacksmith, mechanic, and artist.
In 1810, Malan became a preacher first with the National Reformed Church of Switzerland, and began work with the Chapelle du Temoignage in Geneva, but in 1821 he withdrew from the established church due to his outspoken criticism of formalism and established his own independent chapel in his garden at Vandouvres where he preached for the next 43 years. This became the beginnings of the Evangelical Free Church. Also, he made evanglistic trips throughout France, Belgium, and Great Britain, establishing a friendship with hymnwriter Charlotte Elliot, best known for "Just As I Am." Beginning in 1823 he started compiling several collections of hymns and tunes. This melody may have been produced as early as 1823 and seems to have been first published in 1827, appearing in one of his collections for which he provided both words and music. It was brought to America, arranged, and published in the 1841 Carmina Sacra by Lowell Mason (1792-1872).
Besides the hymn "Lord, We Come Before Thee Now," the tune has been used with "Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know" by Johann Christoph Schwedler; "Christ, Of All My Hopes the Ground" by Ralph Wardlow; "Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare" by John Newton; and "Take My Life And Let It Be" by Frances Ridley Havergal. In both his preaching and his writing, Malan placed great emphasis on the doctrines of John Calvin. In 1826 the University of Glasgow gave him an honorary D. D. degree. Said to have produced over 1000 hymns, he is sometimes called the gratest name in the history of French hymnology. Many of these were published in his Chats de Sion in 1841. He died at Vandoeuvres on May 18, 1864.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song 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; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann (same tune also used with "Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know"); and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
This hymn mentions several things associated with our coming before the Lord.
I. In stanza 1, we ask God not to disdain our suit so that our seeking Him is not in vain
"Lord, we come before Thee now; At Thy feet we humbly bow:
O do not our suit disdain; Shall we see Thee, Lord, in vain?"
A. God will disdain the prayers of those whose lives are evil: 1 Pet. 3.12
B. Also, He’ll disdain those prayers which are purely selfish in nature: Jas. 4.1-3
C. However, if we live in harmony with God’s word and ask according to His will, we can be thankful that He has promised to hear and answer our prayers: Matt. 7.7-8
II. In stanza 2, we express our total reliance and trust in God
"Lord, on Thee our souls depend: In compassion now descend;
Fill our hearts with Thy rich grace, Tune our lips to sing Thy praise."
A. Some people trust in the things of this world: Matt. 16.26
B. Others trust in themselves: Prov. 3.5
C. But God’s people must learn to depend solely upon Him: Psa. 20.7
III. In stanza 3, we acknowledge our lack of ability to guide our own steps
"In Thine own appointed way, Now we seek Thee, here we stay;
Lord, we know not how to go Till a blessing Thou bestow."
A. Some have objected to this stanza because they think that it advocates seeking some kine of direct guidance from God, but ut
specifically states that we are seeking God in His own appointed way: Isa. 55:6
B. In fact, as the stanza itself points out, we do not know how to go by ourselves: Jer. 10:23
C. Therefore, we need Him to bestow a blessing, and this He has done by providing us with the inspired scriptures to direct our path: Ps. 119:105
IV. In stanza 4, we beseech God to bless us as we stand before Him
"Send some message from Thy word That may peace and joy afford;
Let Thy Spirit now impart Full salvation to each heart."
A. One of the purposes for which we assemble together in God’s presence is to find peace and joy by exhorting one another: Heb. 10:24-25
B. The means that God has given to us by which we can do that is the word, which is to be preached and which we hear: 2 Tim. 4:2
C. This word is the agency of the Spirit to impart salvation to all who hear and obey: Eph. 6:17
V. In stanza 5, we ask God to bless those who are suffering
"Comfort those who weep and mourn; Let the time of joy return;
Those who are cast down, lift up; Make them strong in faith and hope."
A. God has promised to comfort those who mourn: Matt. 5:4
B. He has also promised to lift up those who are cast down: Ps. 30:1-3
C. Certainly, whenever we come before the Lord, we should make supplication for others who are in need: 1 Tim. 2:1-2
VI. In stanza 6, we seek God’s blessings on us and on all mankind
"Grant that all may seek and find Thee a God supremely kind;
Heal the sick, the captive free; Let us all rejoice in Thee."
A. Our God has provided for all the physical needs of mankind on earth: Jas. 1.18
B. In addition, He has provided for all our spiritual needs in Christ: Eph. 1.3
C. It shouild be our desire that everyone would seek the Lord so that each one could come before Him with rejoicing: Acts 17.24-27
CONCL.: There is a general sense in which everyone is always in the Lord’s presence. But when Christians assemble for worship or approach God in prayer, there is a special sense in which we come into His presence. This song helps us to focus our minds upon the things that are most important at such times, as we say, "Lord, We Come Before Thee Now."