"HEAR WHAT THE VOICE FROM HEAVEN PROCLAIMS"
"And I heard a voice from heaven saying….Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord" (Rev. 14:13)
INTRO.: A hymn which reminds us that the voice from heaven says that those who die in the Lord are blessed is "Hear What the Voice from Heaven Proclaims." The text was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). It was first published in his 1707 Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Cyberhymnal suggests using a tune (Wigtown) taken from the Scottish Psalter of 1635. The Christian Hymnary, edited by John J. Overholt and published in 1972 by Christian Hymnary Publishers, a Mennonite publisher, uses a tune (Harvey’s Chant) composed by William Batchelder Bradbury (1816-1868). It is dated 1853, but I have no further information about it. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the text, to my knowledge, has never been used. The tune appeared with or as an alternate to another hymn by Watts, "O God, Our Help in Ages Past," in 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. This same version today may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by John P. Wiegand.
The song directs our minds to the future state of those who die in the Lord.
I. Stanza 1 says that the righteous dead have their names remembered
"Hear what the voice from heaven proclaims For all the pious dead;
Sweet is the savor of their names, And soft their sleeping head."
A. "The voice from heaven" would be the voice of God since the Father dwells in heaven: Matt. 5:9
B. Sweet is the savor of the names of the pious dead because God has a book of remembrance: Mal. 3:16
C. Because they rest from their labors they are said to be asleep: Jn. 11:11
II. Stanza 2 says that the righteous dead are free from sufferings
"They die in Jesus and are blest; How kind their slumbers are,
From sufferings and from earth released, And freed from every snare."
A. To "die in Jesus" one must first be "in Christ": Gal. 3:26-27
B. Their slumbers are kind because they are asleep in Jesus: 1 Thess. 4:13-14
C. The state in which they exist following death is described as a place of comfort and thus a foretaste of being freed from sufferings and every snare in the heavenly Jerusalem: Lk. 16:25, Rev. 21:1-4
III. Stanza 3 says that the righteous dead are present with the Lord
"Far from this world of toil and strife, They’re present with the Lord;
The labors of their mortal life End in a large reward."
A. Those who die in the Lord are no longer in this world of toil and strife because at death the spirit is separated from the body and goes back to God who gave it: Eccl. 12:7, Jas. 2:26
B. Rather, they are present with the Lord: 2 Cor. 5:8, Phil. 1:23
C. And the final end of their labors will be a large reward: 2 Jn. v. 8
CONCL.: The tune requires the repetition of the last line of each stanza. Watts produced three books of Hymns, and this is #18 in Book 1. His Psalms of David paraphrased all but two of the Old Testament Psalms, but many of Watts’s hymns were paraphrases of other passages of scripture. Knowing that life on this earth will end and that where our eternal destiny will be depends on how we live hear, we should strive to "Hear What the Voice from Heaven Proclaims."