"WHEN MORNING LIGHTS THE EASTERN SKIES"
"Cause me to hear Thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in Thee do I trust…" (Ps. 143.8)
INTRO.: A hymn which asks the Lord in whom we trust to make known His lovingkindness to us in the morning is "When Morning Lights the Eastern Skies." The text is a paraphrase of Psalm 143.8-11. The arranger is unknown. It first appeared as part of a full metrical version of Psalm 143 in The Psalter of the United Presbyterian of America, 1889. A revised version was used in The Hymnbook (Presbyterian) of 1955, where it is attributed to The Psalter of 1912. The tune (Avon, Martyrdom, All Saints, Bostal, Drumclog, Fenwick, or Inverness) was composed by Hugh Wilson, who was born around Dec. 2, 1766 (some sources say 1764), at Fenwick near Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of a cobbler named John Wilson. After being educated in the village school, he learned the shoemaking trade from his father, and in his spare time studied mathematics, music, and designing sundials, one of which he made can still be seen in Fenwick.
Supplementing his income by teaching some of the villagers reading, writing, arithmetic, and music, Wilson frequently led singing in the local Secession Church and directed the village choir. About 1800, he moved to Pollokshaws to become a calculator and draftsman in the mills of William Dunn, and later moved to Duntocher where he held a similar position. Elected the manager of the Secession Church in Duntocher, he founded the first Sunday school there with the help of James Slimmond. Wilson produced and arranged many Psalm tunes, and this one is usually dated around 1800. It appeared in common or duple toward the end of the eighteenth century on leaflets printed for use in music classes and may have been adapted from a traditional Socttish ballad melody, "Helen of Kirkconnel." After Wilson’s death at Duntocher on Aug. 14, 1824, it was found in triple time in Sacred Music Sung in St. George’s Church, second edition, of 1825, published at Edinburgh, Scotland, where it is called an "old Scottish melody" and was arranged most probably by the editor, Robert A. Smith (1780-1829).
Wilson’s heirs sued to validate his ownership of the copyright and won. 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) 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 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; and the 1966 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater (which also uses the tune with "O for a Faith That Will Not Shrink"). Today it may be found in the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard, as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat. The same tune has been used with other hymns in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2, the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise (all with "While Shepherds Watched their Flock by Night"); and in Sacred Selections (with "That dreadful night before His death").
The song seeks to center our attention on the blessings of God early in the morning.
I. Stanza 1 focuses on the Lord’s mercy
"When morning lights the eastern skies, Thy mercy, Lord, disclose,
And let Thy lovingkindness rise; On Thee my hopes respose."
(The original read: "…O Lord, Thy mercy show.
O Thee alone my hope relies; Let me Thy kindness know")
A. Morning is a perfect time to commune with the Lord and think of all His goodness: Mk. 1.35
B. One aspect of His goodness that we all need is His mercy for our salvation: Tit. 3.5
C. Because of His mercy, our hopes on Him repose because our hope is by the resurrection of Christ: 1 Pet. 1.3
II. Stanza 2 focuses on the Lord’s redemption
"Teach me the way that I should go; I lift my soul to Thee.
Redeem me from the raging foe; To Thee, O Lord, I flee."
(The original read: "…For refuge from my cruel foe, To Thee…")
A. We need the Lord to teach us in the way that we should go: Ps. 27.11
B. The Lord wants us to follow in His way so that we can have redemption through Christ’s blood: Eph. 1.7
C. However, to obtain this redemption, we must flee to Him: Heb. 6.18
III. Stanza 3 focuses on the Lord’s guidance
"Because Thou art my God, I pray, Teach me to do Thy will;
O lead me in the perfect way By Thy good Spirit still."
(The original read: "Thou art My God, to Thee I pray; Teach me Thy will to heed.
And in the right and perfect way May Thy good Spirit lead")
A. Like Jesus, it should be our desire to do God’s will: Lk. 22.42
B. The right and perfect way in which He wants to guide us is strait and narrow: Matt. 7.13-14
C. However, we can know the way because His good Spirit revealed all truth to the apostles: Jn. 16.13
IV. Stanza 4 focuses on the Lord’s faithfulness
"For Thy name’s sake, O gracious Lord, Revive my soul and bless,
And in Thy faithfulness and love Redeem me from distress."
A. If we trust Him, the Lord will revive our souls: Ps. 85.6
B. We can be sure that He will fulfil His promises because of His faithfulness: Lam. 3.23
C. As a result of His faithfulness, we look to Him to keep us safe from distress and temptation: 1 Cor. 10.13
CONCL.: In some churches it used to be a custom to begin a morning service with a song like this one. Though it is short, it is certainly appropriate for just such an occasion. The early morning, with its peacefulness, has always been one of my favorite times of day. When I was a youngster, we lived way out in the country and, especially during the summer, I would often arise very early before the sun came up to watch the sunrise from my window or even go out and walk in the dewy yard. It is good to be reminded of the Lord’s watchfulness and provision "When Morning Lights the Eastern Skies."