"PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD"
"…Prepare to meet thy God…" (Amos 4.12)
INTRO.: A song which uses the language of the prophet in ancient Israel to encourage people today to be prepared to meet God in judgment is "Prepare To Meet Thy God" (#297 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #633 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (Heed the Warning) was composed both by James Henry Stanley (1869-1964). I have no information about Stanley and very little information about the song itself except that many older books carry a note, "From a sermon by Rev. J. F. Haley, July, 1909." One would assume that Haley was a denominational preacher, and it is at least possible that Stanley was a denominational preacher as well. Apparently, the song was produced in 1909 and copyrighted by Stanley, since he is identified as the owner. However, none of the books, even older ones, that I have ever list an actual copyright date.
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 1940 Praise and Revival Songs edited by Will W. Slater; the 1940 The Complete Christian Hymnal and the 1960 Hymnal both edited by Marion Davis; the 1943 Standard Gospel Songs edited by Tillit S. Teddlie; the 1938/1944 The New Wonderful Songs edited by Thomas S. Cobb; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1963 Christian Hymnal (chorus only) edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today, it can be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; as well as Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
In my experience, this has been a very popular and much-used invitation song.
I. Stanza 1 issues an invitation
"Careless soul, why will you linger, Wandering from the fold of God?
Hear you not the invitation? O prepare to meet thy God."
A. It is sad that too many lost souls continue to linger in sin, like Lot in Sodom: Gen. 19.16
B. As long as such sould continue to linger, they are wandering from the fold of God: Lk. 15.4-7
C. Therefore, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, issues an invitation for all who labor and are heavy laded to come to Him for rest: Matt. 11.28-30
II. Stanza 2 asks a question
"Why so thoughtless are you standing While the fleeting years go by,
And your life is spent in folly? O prepare to meet thy God."
A. The unprepared soul is asked why he stands thoughtless and idle, as were the men at the eleventh hour in the pareable of the vineyard workers: Matt. 20.1-6
B. What makes this question so important is that our time here to prepare is not unlimited because the years are fleeting by: Ps. 90.9-12
C. And it is even more sad because as those years are fleeting by, the unprepared soul is spending his life in folly, just as the prodigal son wasted his substance in riotous living: Lk. 15.11-13
III. Stanza 3 contains a pleading
"Hear you not the earnest pleading Of your friends who wish thou/thee/you well?
And perhaps before tomorrow You’ll be called to meet thy/your God.
A. The gospel is designed to plead with or beseech people to be reconciled to God: 2 Cor. 5.19
B. The sinner’s friends who make up the bride or church join with the Spirit in pleading with him to come: Rev. 22.17. (There is some variation in this stanza, due to Stanley’s apparent misunderstanding of the Elizabethan pronouns. Our modern English "you" is both nominative and objective. However, in Old English, "thou" is always nominative, as in "Thou art merciful, O Father," whereas "thee" is always objective, as in "Still he calls for thee." Some books correct it to "Of your friends that wish THEE well." Other editors, apparently not liking to mix the old with the new, change it to "Of your friends that wish YOU well" and also at the end of the stanza "You’ll be called to meet YOUR God." Hymns of Worship eliminated the problem completely by omitting the entire stanza!)
C. This pleading needs to be heard and heeded because at any time one’s life may be called, as was that of the rich fool: Lk. 12.16-20
IV. Stanza 4 gives a warning
"If you spurn the invitation Till the Spirit shall depart,
Then you’ll see your sad condition, Unprepared to meet thy God."
A. Unfortunately, a lot of people do spurn the invitation, refusing to accept and obey the gospel, as did many in Antioch of Pisidia: Acts 13.45-46
B. I understand the clause "Till the Spirit shall depart" to mean either until one’s heart becomes so hardened that the call of the Spirit no longer has any appeal–cf.: Heb. 3.13-15; or perhaps more likely, until one dies after which he is no longer in a condition where the Spirit will plead with him (Heb. 9.27)
C. So, if a person dies in such a condition, he will certainly see a sad ending to his existence as one who has not known God or not obeyed the gospel: 2 Thess. 1.7-9
CONCL.: The chorus continues to invite, ask, plead, and warn the lost soul:
"Careless soul, O heed the warning, For your life will soon be gone;
O how sad to face the judgment, Unprepared to meet thy God."
Certainly, gospel preaching should appeal to the sinners based on the love of God, the sacrifice of Christ, and the blessings of the Spirit. However, they must also be made aware of the consequences of not responding to the Lord’s invitation, as we encourage each one to "Prepare To Meet Thy God."