"O LORD, OUR LORD"
"O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!" (Ps. 8:1)
INTRO.: A hymn which ascribes praise to the name that is excellent in all the earth is "O Lord, Our Lord." A number of hymns have appeared in our books with that title, but the text which is the subject of this hymn study was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Based on Psalm 8, it was first published with nine stanzas as the first of three paraphrases on Psalm 8 in his 1719 Psalms of David. The tune that I would suggest with this hymn was composed by Lloyd Otis Sanderson (1901-1992). It was produced for his own two-stanza arrangement of Psalm 8 probably around 1948 and appeared that year in Christian Hymns No. 2 which he edited that year for the Gospel Advocate Co. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, Watts’s text has never been used any of which I am aware. In addition to Christian Hymns No. 2, the tune appeared in the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 also edited by Sanderson.
Several of our books have had an 1874 choral arrangement of Ps. 8:1 entitled "O Lord, Our Lord" by Horatio Richmond Palmer. In Christian Hymns, Sanderson noted that his arrangement "may be followed by the chorus on the following page" which was Palmer’s. Some of our newer books have a 1964 hymn entitled "O Lord, Our Lord" with words by Morris Lynwood Smith and music by C. C. Stafford. The original editions of Hymns for Worship had a paraphrase of Psalm 8 with words only to be sung to Jessie S. Irvine’s tune (Crimond) used as an alternate for "The Lord’s My Shepherd" or the tune (Arlington) used in Hymns for Worship with "Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" This text is based upon a version found in The Psalter of 1912, revised for The Book of Psalms for Singing of 1973, and included in Edward Fudge’s 1974 Selected Psalms for Church Singing with the tune (Antioch) arranged by Lowell Mason from Music of George Frederick Handel normally used for "Joy to the World." And there is a fairly new (1981) contemporary Christian music type of "praise song" by Michael W. Smith entitled "How Majestic Is Your Name" that begins, "O Lord, our Lord."
Watt’s text with Sanderson’s tune seems a fitting way to capture the thought of the Psalm.
I. Stanza 1 expresses praise to God’s wondrous name
"O Lord, our Lord, how wondrous great Is Thine exalted Name!
The glories of Thy heav’nly state Let men and babes proclaim."
A. Our Lord is great: Ps. 16:25
B. Therefore, His name should be exalted: Isa. 12:4
C. Men and even babes can proclaim the glories of His heavenly state: Matt. 21:15-16
II. Stanza 2 considers the works of God
"When I behold Thy works on high, The moon that rules the night,
And stars that well adorn the sky, Those moving worlds of light."
A. The works of the heaven declare the glory of God: Ps. 19:1
B. He created the moon to rule the night: Gen. 1:16
C. Because He made them, He knows the number of the stars: Ps. 147:4
III. Stanza 3 wonders why God is mindful of man
"Lord, what is man, or all his race, Who dwells so far below,
That Thou shouldst visit him with grace, And love his nature so?"
A. In view of God’s greatness as manifested in nature, we might wonder why He is mindful of us who are lower than the angels: Heb. 2:6-7
B. Yet we know that He is mindful of man because He visits Him with grace: Tit. 2:10
C. Furthermore, He is perfect in His love for man in that the sun rise on the evil and the good and the rain falls on the just and the unjust: Matt. 5:45
IV. Stanza 4 points out that God is so mindful of man that His Son took mortal form
"That Thine eternal Son should bear To take a mortal form;
Made lower than His angels are, To save a dying worm?"
A. Even greater than the physical blessings of earth, God has been mindful of man that His eternal Son should take mortal form and become flesh: Jn. 1:1, 14
B. Since we are made a little lower than the angels, the Son was also made a little lower than the angels and shared in our flesh and blood: Heb. 2:9-18
C. His purpose in doing this was to save sinful man, represented as a "dying worm," reminiscent of Watt’s line in "Alas! and Did My Savior Bleed" which says, "For such a worm as I" and which modern man rejects to be replaced by "Such a one as I": Job 25:6, Ps. 22:6
V. Stanza 5 says that the Son should be crowned with majesty and honor
"Let Him be crowned with majesty, Who bowed His head to death;
And be His honors sounded high, By all things that have breath."
A. Jesus is to be crowned with majesty: Phil. 2:9-11
B. This is because He bowed His head to death for us: Rom. 5:8
C. Therefore, we should honor the Son just as we honor the Father: Jn. 5:23
VI. Stanza 6 concludes with an expression of praise to Jesus as Lord
"Jesus, our Lord, how wondrous great Is Thine exalted Name!
The glories of Thy heav’nly state Let the whole earth proclaim."
A. Jesus Christ is Lord: Jn. 13:13
B. He is now in a glorified heavenly state: 1 Tim. 3:16
C. Thus, the whole should should proclaim Him: Isa. 61:1-2
CONCL.: The three stanzas which Watts himself indicated could be omitted are:
5. "Yet while He lived on earth unknown, And men would not adore,
Th’ obedient seas and fishes own His Godhead and His power."
6. "The waves lay spread beneath His feet; And fish, at His command,
Bring their large shoals to Peter’s net, Bring tribute to His hand."
7. "These lesser glories of the Son Shone through the fleshly cloud;
Now, we behold him on His throne, And men confess Him God."
Edward Fudge noted, "Thomas Campbell, and his son Alexander, came from strictest Presbyterian stock. And, as reformers are apt to do, when it came to church music, Alexander Campbell threw out the baby with the bath! Not only did he reject the exclusive use of biblical Psalms in worship, Campbell practically rejected the Psalms altogether. His own hymnal, published in 1828, contained not a single Psalm from the Old Testament." While we, like Campbell, would reject the exclusive use of biblical Psalms in worship, we can still agree with Fudge, "There can be no harm, and there can be much good, in restoring the scriptural use of inspired Psalms in the Bible." Isaac Watts, while writing "hymns of human composure," also sought to provide the Psalms of David imitated in the language of the New Testament. There are times when it is appropriate and good to use the inspired language of the Psalms as we address God in song, saying, "O Lord, Our Lord."