“O Jesus, King, Most Wonderful”

"I will extol Thee, my God, O King; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever" (Ps. 145:1)

     INTRO.: A hymn which identifies Jesus as the King whom we should extol and bless His name forever and ever is "O Jesus, King, Most Wonderful." The text is attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (1090/1-1153). It comes from a section entitled "Jesu, Rex admirabilis," of the medieval Latin poem (c. 1130-1140, perhaps as late as 1150-1153) known as Jesu dulcis memoria, from which at least two other hymns, "Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee" and "Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving hearts," are also derived. The English translation of "O Jesus, King, Most Wonderful," was made by Edward Caswall (1814-1878). It first appeared in his 1849 Lyra Catholica. Caswall is perhaps best known for his English translation of hymn, "May Jesus Christ Be Praised," beginning, "When morning gilds the skies," from the German. The text of "O Jesus, King, Most Wonderful" has been set to several different tunes.

     Most of our books have a tune (St. Peter) by Alexander Reneigle, which is now most often used with John Oxenham’s "In Christ There Is No East or West." Some older books have a tune (Arbridge) that was composed by Isaac Smith (1835-1900). I have been unable to find any other information about the composer, the source, or the date of the tune. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song, with the Reneigle tune, appeared in the 1922 edition of 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; and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit Sidney Teddlie. Today it may be found, again with the Reneigle tune, in 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.

     The song expresses praise to Jesus for what He means to each true believer.

I. Stanza 1 addresses Him as King
"O Jesus, King, most wonderful, Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou Sweetness most ineffable, In whom all joys are found!"
 A. Jesus Christ is the King of kings and Lord of lords: Jn. 1:49, Rev. 17:14
 B. As such, He is the Conqueror renowned: Rev. 6:1-2
 C. Yet, He is also a Sweetness most ineffable, and when we taste Him we find that He is gracious: 1 Pet. 2:1-3

II. Stanza 2 says that He brings truth
"When once Thou visitest the heart, Then truth begins to shine;
Then earthly vanities depart, Then kindles love divine."
 A. Jesus Christ wants to dwell in our hearts: Eph. 3:17
 B. When we allow Him to do so, His truth will shine within us because He is the truth: Jn. 14:6
 C. Then earthly vanities will depart because He came to deliver us from this present evil world: Gal. 1:3-4

III. Stanza 3 calls Him Light
"O Jesus! Light of all below, Thou Fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know, All that we can desire."
 A. Jesus Christ is the Light of the world: Jn. 8:12
 B. As fire gives light, so He is a Fount of living fire to light the way through His Holy Spirit: Rev. 4:5
 C. This light affords us joy that surpasses everything that we can know or desire in this world: Phil. 4:4

IV. Stanza 4 extols Him for His mercy and love
"Thy wondrous (or Jesus, Thy) mercies are untold Through each returning day;
Thy love exceeds a thousand fold Whatever we can say."
 A. Jesus Christ is characterized by the quality of mercy: Jude v. 21
 B. Because He is divine, His mercies are new every day: Lam. 3:23
 C. As a result of His mercy, His love which exceeds a thousand fold whatever we can say, has been demonstrated for us: 1 Jn. 3:16

V. Stanza 5 identifies Him as the one whom we must confess
"May every heart confess Thy name, And ever Thee adore;
And seeking Thee, itself inflame To seek Thee more and more."
 A. Jesus Christ wants every heart to confess His name: Phil. 2:11
 B. He also wants us to adore or honor Him even as we adore and honor the Father: Jn. 5:23
 C. And He wants us to seek Him and His kingdom first in our lives: Matt. 6:33

VI. Stanza 6 tells us that He is the divine image that we must seek to bear
"Thee may our tongues ever bless; Thee may we love alone.
And ever in our lives express The image of Thine own."
 A. Jesus Christ is worthy of all blessings of the tongue: Rom: 9:5
 B. As God, we should love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind: Matt. 22:37
 C. By living according to His word, we express in our lives His own image: 2 Cor. 3:18

     CONCL.: The Protestant Reformation largely rejected the music of the Medieval Roman Catholic Church, much of it, such as the highly ornate and complex choral music intended for show rather than praising God, rightly so. But it also threw the baby out with the bathwater by ignoring the simple Latin hymns of the time. These were rediscovered in the nineteenth century, and many of them were translated into English.  They were once largely popular but in more recent years have been once again dropped as reflecting the theology of the medieval monks and thus not relevant to modern times. However, while we may not agree with everything that accompanied monastic practices, Christians of all ages have many of the same aims–to seek Christ above earthly desires and dedicate themselves wholly to doing His will. Therefore, we can still use their thoughts to praise our Savior as we address Him as, "O Jesus, King, Most Wonderful."


One thought on ““O Jesus, King, Most Wonderful”

  1. I sang “O Jesus King, Most wonderful” in high school. I’ve loved it and ‘played’ the text over and over in my mind MANY times in the last 40 years! I wanted to find it for my choir. How delighted I am to read such a well researched, thoughtful commentary. Bless you and thank you for doing this.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s