"PRAISE TO THE LORD, THE ALMIGHTY"
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits" (Psalm 103.2)
INTRO.: A hymn which reminds us to bless the Lord because of all His benefits is "Praise To the Lord, the Almighty." The text, originally in six stanzas, was written by Joachim Neander, who was born in 1650 at Bremen, Germany, the grandson of a musician and the son of a teacher. The family name was originally Neuman but was changed by his grandfather. Following a rebellious youth in Bremen, Germany, during which he studied at both the Paedagodium, where his father taught, and the Gymnasium, Joachim professed Christianity at age twenty under the influence of a local minister, Theodore Under-Eyck, and studied theology at Bremen University from 1666 to 1670. After tutoring five young sons of wealthy merchants from Frankfurt-am-Main, he accompanied them to the University of Heidelberg where he completed his education from 1671 to 1673, when he moved to Frankfurt and met Pietistic scholars Jokob Spener and Johann Schutz.
From 1674 to 1679 Neander was principal of the Reformed Latin Grammar School in Dusseldorf. Difficulties between him and the minister led to his dismissal, but his promises to abide by the rules of the church brought about his reinstatement. During this time, he satisfied his love of nature by wandering the seculuded Dussel River valley which had a deep ravine between rock faces and forests with numerous caves and waterfalls. Probably, Neander thought up many of his hymns there, but he also held religious services. This valley is now known as the Neander Valley (Neander-thal, whence the name of the tribe of early European mankind is derived–it has been said that Neander is the only hymnwriter with fossils named after him!). Eventually he returned to Bremen and became a minister at St. Martin’s Church, working with his old mentor Under-Eyck. Known as the outstanding hymn writer of the German Reformed Church, he produced about sixty hymns. This one, based on Psalms 103 and 150, was first published in his A und Blaub Glaub-und Liebesubung of 1679/1680, the year that he died at age thirty of consumption in Bremen on May 31, 1680.
The translation of five stanzas (actually the original stanzas three and four were combined into a single third stanza) was made by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878). It appeared in her 1863 Chorale Book for England. The tune (Lobe den Herren) was found in the second edition of the Ander Theil des erneuerten Gesangbuch of Stralsund, published in 1665, with another hymn "Hast du denn, Liebster," by Ahasuerus Fritsch. There is the possibility that it is based on an old secular air composed by Johann Flittner (1618-1678). Neander himself adapted it for this hymn in his book. It was arranged in its present form for his Cantata No. 57 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The modern harmonization was made by William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875). It is taken from the second edition of Winkworth’s Chorale Book for England published in 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 1963 Christian Hymnal (where it was entitled "Praise YE the Lord, the Almighty") edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1975 supplement to the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 originally edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard.
The hymn suggests several reasons why we should praise the Lord.
I. According to stanza 1, we should praise the Lord because of who He is
"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, Now to His temple draw near, Join me in glad adoration."
A. He is the Almighty King of creation: Gen. 1.1, 17.1; Ps. 10.16
B. He is the source of our health and salvation: Ps. 27.1, 42.11 (KJV)
C. He is the one who dwells in the temple and alone is worthy of our praise: Eph. 2.21-22
II. According to stanza 2, we should praise the Lord because of what He is doing in the universe
"Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shieldeth (shelters) thee under His wings, yea so greatly sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen How thy desires e’er have been Granted in what He ordaineth?"
A. The Lord reigns over all the universe: Ps. 96.10
B. The Lord also sustains the universe through Christ: Col. 1.17, Heb. 1.3
C. And the Lord providentially uses the things of the universe to provide for our needs according to His will: Jas. 1.17
III. According to stanza 3, we should praise the Lord because of what He is doing in our lives
"Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew What the Almighty will do, If with His love He befriend thee."
A. The Lord prospers and defends His people: Ps. 1.3, 62.2
B. The Lord also grants His goodness and mercy to attend His people: Ps. 23.6
C. And the Lord befriends those who become His people, so that He will do for us even beyond that which we think or expect: Jn. 15.14-15, Eph. 3.20-21
IV. According to stanza 4, we should praise the Lord because of what He has done for us
"Praise thou the Lord, who with marvelous wisdom hath made thee,
Decked thee with health, and with loving hand guided and stayed thee.
How oft in grief Hath not He brought thee relief, Spreading His wings to o’ershade thee!"
A. The Lord has made us fearfully and wonderfully: Ps. 139.14
B. The Lord has also guided us with His loving hand: Ps. 31.3, 119.173
C. And the Lord has spread His wings to protect us in grief: Ps. 17.8
V. According to stanza 5, we should praise the Lord because of His provisions for our sin
"Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night, Saints with His mercy surrounding."
A. This world is pictured as a place of darkness because sin is abounding: Rom. 5:20
B. There are times when it seems that the godless triumph and confound all virtue: Ps. 94:3
C. However, God chases away the horrors of this night and surround the saints with His mercy by sending the light of His word: Ps. 119:105
VI. According to stanza 6, we should praise the Lord because He is the One who is worthy of all praise
"Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him!
Let the Amen Sound from His people again; Gladly for aye we adore Him."
A. He is worthy of praise by all that is within each one of us: Ps. 103.1
B. He is also worthy of praise by all that has life and breath: Ps. 148.7-10
C. And He is worthy of praise by His people, who should sound the Amen: Ps. 106.48
CONCL.: The omitted stanza (actually number 5) is as follows:
"Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace, Whirlwinds and waters assuaging."
John Julian in his monumental Dictionary of Hymnology called this hymn "a magnificent hymn of praise to God, perhaps the finest production its author, and of the first rank in its class." Over the years, as I have occasionally been watching the television and channel surfing, I have come across the choir and orchestra on Robert Schuller’s "Hour of Power" rendering this hymn as an opening song. Since I do not watch the program regularly, I do not know if this is done on every show or not. I certainly wish to give absolutely no credence whatever to choirs and orchestras in worship, nor to any false doctrine of Robert Schuller. However, whenever I hear such singing, unscriptural as it may be, I am reminded that God’s non-denominational people can and should use these same grand old hymns in a scriptural manner as we seek to give "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty."