"HARK! TEN THOUSAND HARPS"
"And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels…And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands" (Rev. 5:11)
INTRO.: A hymn which praises Jesus Christ as the King to whom ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of angels sing is "Hark! Ten Thousand Harps." The text was written by Thomas Kelly, who was born at Kellyville, Stradbally in Queens County, Ireland, on July 13, 1769. The son of Judge Thomas Kelly of the Irish Court of Common Appeals, he attended Trinity College, from which he received the B. A. in 1789, and planned to become a lawyer, but after converting to Christ he changed his plans and chose the ministry. In 1792 he became an Anglican (Irish Episcopal) minister, but because of his evangelical preaching and work, which the archbishop did not approve and in fact actually prohibited, he eventually left the established church and identified with a group of "dissenting" ministers, establishing independent congregations in Athy, Portarling, and Wexford. A fine classical scholar and the author of over 760 hymns, he published several works, including A Collection of Psalms and Hymns Extracted from Various Authors in 1802, Hymns on Various Passages of Scriptures in 1804, and Hymns not before Published in 1815.
Originally entitled "Let all the angels of God worship Him" with seven stanzas, "Hark! Ten Thousand Harps" first appeared in the second edition of his Hymns on Various Passages of Scripture which came out in 1806. Some of his other hymns that have appeared in our books include "Look, Ye Saints! the Sight is Glorious," "Praise the Savior, Ye Who Know Him," and "The Head that Once Was Crowned With Thorns." Kelly died at Dublin, Ireland, on May 14, 1855. The tune (Harwell) was composed for this text and the "Hallelujahs" and "Amens" were added both by Lowell Mason (1792-1872). The melody is dated 1840 and was first published in Mason’s 1841 Carmina Sacra. Among hymnbooks published during the twentieth century by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today it may be found in the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard. The tune was used with an altered version of the hymn "Hark! The Gospel Bells Are Ringing" by S. Wesley Martin in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater.
The song is a paean of praise to our Lord who rules the world alone.
I. Stanza 1 focuses on the reign of Jesus
"Hark! ten thousand harps and voices Sound the notes of praise above;
Jesus reigns, and heaven rejoices, Jesus reigns, the God of love.
See, He sits on yonder throne; Jesus rules the world alone."
A. Some object to making references to "harps" in hymns; however, the book of Revelation definitely pictures the use of harps as a symbol, and whatever it means by that symbol we ought to be able to sing and mean the same thing: Rev. 14.1-2
B. The reason why these harps and voices are sounding the note of praise above is that Jesus reigns: Rev. 11.15
C. We know that Jesus rules because He sits on the throne with His Father: Rev. 3.21
II. Stanza 2 focuses upon the glory of Jesus
"Come, ye saints, unite your praises With the angels round His throne;
Soon, we hope, our God will raise us To the place where He has gone.
Meet it is that we should sing, Glory, glory to our King!"
A. The Bible pictures the angels as worshipping the Son: Heb. 1.6
B. Because of what the Son has done for us, we hope that God will raise us: 1 Cor. 6.14
C. Therefore, to Him should be blessing and honor and glory and power: Rev. 5.12-13
III. Stanza 3 focuses upon the sacrifice of Jesus
"Sing how Jesus came from heaven, How He bore the cross below,
How all power to Him is given, How He reigns in glory now.
‘Tis a great and endless theme–O, ’tis sweet to sing of Him."
A. Jesus left heaven and became obedient to the death of the cross: Phil. 2.6-8
B. Therefore, all power has been given to Him: Matt. 28.18
C. This is one of the reasons why we sing with grace in our hearts to the Lord: Col. 3.16
IV. Stanza 4 focuses upon the love of Jesus
"Jesus, hail! whose glory brightens All above and gives its worth;
Lord of life, Thy smile enlightens, Cheers, and charms Thy saints on earth.
When we think of love like Thine, Lord, we own it love divine."
A. Jesus is God the Son, and He gives all above its worth for He is worthy: Rev. 4.11
B. Because He is Lord of life, His smile enlightens, cheers, and charms the saints on earth, especially when they are suffering and in need of patience: Rev. 13.10
C. The saints are willing to suffer because they own His love which washed them from their sins in His own blood to be divine: Rev. 1.5
V. Stanza 5 focuses upon the grace of Jesus
"King of glory, reign forever! Thine an everlasting crown.
Nothing from Thy love shall sever Those whom Thou has made Thine own:
Happy objects of Thy grace, Destined to behold Thy face."
A. Jesus wears the crown that symbolizes the fact that He reigns forever: Rev. 19.12
B. His love is such that nothing shall sever those who love Him from it: Rom. 8.38-39
C. Thus our faith and hope are rooted in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Rev. 22.21
VI. Stanza 6 focuses upon the coming of Jesus
"Savior, hasten Thine appearing; Bring, O bring the glorious day,
When, the awful summons hearing, Heaven and earth shall pass away.
Then with golden harps we’ll sing, ‘Glory, glory to our King!’"
A. Jesus Himself often referred to "the last day": Jn. 12.48
B. That day will summon the heaven and the earth to pass away: 2 Pet. 3.10
C. Yet, at that time the righteous will join those who are pictured with the golden harps to sing eternal praise to the King: Rev. 15.1-2
CONCL.: The refrain, added by Mason, simply concludes each verse by adding a final note of praise.
In Hymns of Our Faith, William J. Reynolds wrote, "In Our Hymnody [Robert G.] McCutchan writes: ‘The Joint Commission charged with compiling the Methodist Hymnal, 1935, not always wisely softened all the "Hallelujahs" into "Alleluiahs." Sometimes a Methodist feels the need of shouting "Hallelujah!"’ This goes for Baptists, too!" And, one might add, singing "Hallelujah!" goes for New Testament Christians as well. As we think about the power and glory that our Lord possesses, we should want to join with the angelic hosts in their praise as we listen with our mind’s ear to the book of Revelation and "Hark! Ten Thousand Harps."