“O Jesus, I Have Promised”

"If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be" (Jn. 12.26)

     INTRO.: A hymn which asks Jesus to help us keep the promise to follow Him so that we can be with Him is "O Jesus, I Have Promised" (#132 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by John Ernest Bode, who was born at St. Pancras, London, England, on Feb. 23, 1816, the son of William Bode. Educated at Eton, Charterhouse, and Christ Church in Oxford, where he was the first winner of the Hertford Scholarship in 1835, he received his B. A. in 1837, followed by his M. A. For six plus years after his graduation, he was a tutor and classical examiner at Christ Church and then became a minister for the Anglican Church in 1841.

     During his life, Bode served three churches, the second of which was at Westwell in Oxfordshire, where he began in 1847. In 1855 he was honored by being asked to deliver the Brampton Lectures at Oxford. In addition, he published three volumes of verse: Ballads from Herodotus in 1853, Short Occasional Poems in 1858, and Hymns from the Gospel of the Day for Each Sunday and Festivals of Our Lord in 1860. Also in 1860, he moved to Castle Camps, where he spent the last fifteen years of his life.  This hymn was produced around 1866, originally beginning, "O Jesus, we have promised," for the confirmation of his daughter and two sons in the Church of England.

     At that time Bode told his children, "I have written a hymn containing all the important truths I want you to remember." It was first printed as a leaflet in 1868 by the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, and then published in the 1869 appendix to this organization’s Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship of 1869. Just five years later, Bode died at Castle Camps, Cambridgeshire, England, on Oct. 6, 1874, at the age of 58. The tune (Angel’s Story) was composed by Arthur Henry Mann (1850-1929). A well-respected English musician, he originally provided this music for Emily H. Miller’s "I love to hear the story that angel voices tell." It was first included in The Methodist Sunday School Tune Book of 1881.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song was used 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 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson. It can be found today 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; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand, in addition to Hymns for Worship.

     The hymn expresses the desire for the constant presence of Christ in our lives.

I. In stanza 1 we learn the we need Christ to face the battle and keep us from wandering.
"O Jesus, I have promised To serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me, My Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle If Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway If Thou wilt be my Guide."
 A. When we obey the gospel and become Christians, we are in essence making a promise to serve Christ because we are confessing Him as our Lord: Rom. 10:9-10
 B. Following this, one’s life as a Christian becomes a great battle, and we should look to Jesus for help to wage a good warfare: 1 Tim. 1:18
 C. We must also look to Him as our guide to keep us from wandering from the strait and narrow pathway that leads to everlasting life: Matt. 7.13-14

II. In stanza 2 we learn that we need Christ to overcome the danger of worldliness
"O let me feel Thee near me: The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, The tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me, Around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw Thou nearer, And shield my soul from sin."
 A. The world here refers to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life that tempt us away from Christ: 1 Jn. 2.15-17
 B. The foes, both without and within, are led by our adversary the devil, who goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour: 1 Pet. 5.8
 C. However, if we will but draw nearer to the Lord, He will draw nearer to us and help to shield our souls from sin so that we can resist the devil: Jas. 4.7-8

III. In stanza 3 we learn that we need Christ to withstand the storms of life.
"O let me hear Thee speaking, In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, The murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me, To hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, Thou guardian of my soul."
 A. The means by which we hear Jesus speaking to us today is through the scriptures which reveal His words to us: Matt. 24:35, Jn. 12:48
 B. As we listen to Him, His words can calm the tempests of our life just as He stilled the storms on the Sea of Galilee: Matt. 8.25-27
 C. In this way, we can look to Jesus as the guardian of our soul to keep us from stumbling: Jude v. 24

IV. In stanza 4, we learn that we need Christ as our example
"O let me see Thy footprints, And in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly Is in Thy strength alone.
O guide me, call me, draw me, Uphold me to the end;
And then in Heaven receive me, my Savior and my Friend."
 A. By the life that He lived, as recorded in the scriptures, Jesus left us an example that we should follow in His steps: 1 Pet. 2.21
 B. He wants us to learn from His example and apply the principles that we find in both His life and His teaching to our lives no matter what; this is how we follow Him: Matt. 16.24
 C. As we strive to do this on our journey from earth to heaven, Jesus has promised to uphold us with His presence: Matt. 28.20

V. In stanza 5, we learn that we need Jesus to help us keep our promise
"O Jesus, Thou hast promised To all who follow Thee,
That where Thou art in glory There shall Thy servant be;
And Jesus, I have promised To serve Thee to the end:
O give me grace to follow My Master and my Friend."
 A. Jesus has promised that He will come and receive us unto Himself: Jn. 14.1-3
 B. This stanza is the final request for complete discipleship, strength, and guidance from Jesus to help us to be faithful unto death: Rev. 2.10-11
 C. Therefore, we look to Christ for His grace that is sufficient for us to follow Him all the days of our lives: 2 Cor. 12.9

     CONCL.: Every day we should set aside some time for reflecting on and evaluating the past as well as for setting serious goals for the future. Of all Bode’s poems, only this one has survived as a hymn, but it is almost universally loved and used because it meets this need for reflection. It concentrates on personal consecration by reminding me that when I became a Christian, I was saying to my Lord who promised to save me if I obey Him, "O Jesus, I Have Promised."

2 thoughts on ““O Jesus, I Have Promised”

  1. Where does the quotation
    “I have written a hymn containing all the important truths I want you to remember.” Come from. We are celebrating 150 of the Hymn here in Castle Camps and there is some question about whether Bode wrote the Hymn specifically for the confirmation or it was more a response to his own situation as vicar of Castle Camps.


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