"O HOW LOVE I THY LAW"
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul….the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether" (Ps. 19.7-9)
INTRO.: A hymn that is based upon the portion of Ps. 19 which concerns God’s revelation of Himself in the written word is "O How Love I Thy Law" (#354 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #76 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text of the stanzas is a paraphrase of Ps. 19.7-13 and is taken from The Psalms of David in Metre: According to the Version Approved by The Church of Scotland, more commonly known as the Scottish Psalter, of 1650. The modern adaptation was most likely made and the tune (Kinsman) was definitely composed by James McGranahan (1840-1908). A member of a family which may have had roots in the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ of the 1800’s, McGranahan was a song leader for the revival campaigns of Major Daniel W. Whittle and a well-known composer of gospel song melodies. The original Scottish Psalter text contained the entire Psalm, with a stanza per verse. McGrahanan began his adaptation with verse 7 and continued it through verse 13. For the chorus, he used the words of Ps. 119.97. The original stanza 1, omitted in all of our books, is:
"God’s law is perfect and converts The soul in sin that lies;
God’s testimony is most sure And makes the simple wise."
The song was copyrighted in 1897. It was first owned by Charles M. Alexander and later renewed by the Hope Publishing Co. Other melodies for which McGranahan is famous include those with "Christ Returneth," "I Know Whom I Have Believed," "I Will Sing Of My Redeemer," "None of Self and All of Thee," "Sometime We’ll Understand," "Christ Receiveth Sinful Men," "Christ Liveth In Me," and "The Banner Of The Cross." Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ during the twentieth century, "O How Love I Thy Law" 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 chorus alone was used in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today the song may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord (all of these omit McGrahanan’s first stanza and begin with "The statues of the Lord are right"); in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections, both of which actually begin with stanza 3 of McGranahan’s adaptation, "Unspotted is the fear of God." Many denominational books contain an "updated" version of the psalm text taken from The Psalter of 1912 with McGranahan’s tune.
The song extols the blessings of God’s word in our lives.
I. Stanza 1 points to the power of God’s word to give joy and enlighten the eyes.
"The statutes of the Lord are right And do rejoice the heart;
The Lord’s command is pure and doth Light to the eyes impart."
A. Following the statutes of the Lord is what enables us to rejoice in the Lord: Phil. 4.4
B. The Lord’s commandments are pure because they are designed for our good: Jn. 14.15, 15.14
C. When we obey His commandments, our eyes will be enlightened: Eph. 1.18
II. Stanza 2 points to the power of God’s word to endure and to promote truth and righteousness.
"Unspotted is the fear of God And ever doth endure;
The judgments of the Lord are truth And righteousness most pure."
A. The "fear of God" here stands for His word which will abide forever: 1 Pet. 1.25
B. The "judgments of the Lord" are found in His word which is truth: Jn. 17.17
C. And in these judgments of the gospel are found the righteousness of God: Rom. 1.16-17
III. Stanza 3 points to the power of God’s word to be precious and desirable.
"They more than gold, yea, much find gold, To be desired are;
Than honey from the honeycomb That droppeth–sweeter far."
A. The word of God is more valuable than fine gold: Prov. 8.10, 19
B. Therefore, it is much to be desired, because it is by His word that we can dwell in His house: Ps. 27.4
C. To us, then, the word of God is sweet just as honey is sweet: Rev. 10.9-10
IV. Stanza 4 points to the power of God’s word both to warn and to reward
"Moreover, they Thy servant warn How he his life should frame;
A great reward provided is For them that keep the same."
A. It is by the teaching of God’s word that we are warned so that we can be presented perfect in Christ: Col. 1.27
B. It warns us how we should live so as to be pleasing to Christ: Gal. 2.20
C. When we heed these warnings, there is a great reward awaiting us: Rev. 22.12
V. Stanza 5 points to the power of God’s word to help us deal with sin
"Who can his errors understand? From secret faults me cleanse;
Thy servant also keep Thou back From all presumptious sins."
A. The question, "Who can understand his errors?", does not mean that it is impossible for us to know the sins that we commit; it is simply the poet’s way of expressing his wonderment that, in view of all that God has done for us and given us, who can understand why it is that we continue to rebel against Him? But we do: Rom. 3.23
B. However, thanks be to God that when we meet the conditions laid down in His word, the blood of Jesus Christ is available to cleanse us from our sins: 1 Jn. 1.7-9
C. Also, if we allow the word of God to control our lives, it will keep us from presumptuous sins: Ps. 119.11
VI. Stanza 6 points out the power of God’s word to make us righteous
"O do not suffer sin to have Dominion over me;
I shall be righteous, then, and from The great transgression free."
A. Sin does not have to have dominion over us because we choose whether to serve sin or to serve the Lord: Rom. 6.11-18
B. Thus, when we follow the righteous will of God, we shall be righteous: 1 Jn. 3.7
C. In this way, we can keep ourselves from great (footnote says much) transgression: Jude vs. 20-21.
CONCL.: The chorus then sets out what our attitude should be toward such a word as is able to do these things:
"O how love I Thy law, O how love I Thy law; It is my meditation all the day;
O how love I Thy law, O how love I Thy law; It is my meditation all the day (all the day)."
The word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our pathway (Ps. 119.105). It is able to build us up and give us an inheritance with the saints (Acts 20.32). Because of all that it has done and can do for me, my attitude should be, "O How Love I Thy Law."