“WE PRAISE THEE, O GOD, OUR REDEEMER”
“As for our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name” (Isa. 47:4)
INTRO.: A hymn which gives praise to our Redeemer whose name is the Lord of Hosts is “We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer.” The text was written by Julia Bulkley Cady Cory, who was born on Nov. 9, 1882, at New York City, NY, the daughter of architect J. Cleveland Cady. Julia attended Brearley School and Reynolds School, both in New York, and her family belonged to the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York City. Due to the popularity of the 1626 hymn “We Gather Together” sometimes attributed to Adrianus Valerius, with the words translated by Theodore Baker and the music arranged by Edward Kremser, in 1902, often sung at Thanksgiving services, J. Archer Gibson, who was the music director at the Brick Presbyterian Church, requested of Julia some new lyrics for the tune which is used with that song. After struggling for two weeks, Julia, who was not long out of school, produced three stanzas. The first public performance of her hymn was the next Thanksgiving Day.
A month later, the author’s father wished to use the hymn for a service on Dec. 25 at the Church of the Covenant, also in New York City, so he asked his daughter to add a fourth stanza. The song first appeared in Hymns of the Living Church in 1910. In 1911, Miss Cady married businessman Robert Haskell Cory. She was active in many church activities, and did much for her community. For most of her adult life she was a member of the New York City Hymn Society. She lived with her husband and their family at Englewood, NJ, spending their summers in Weld, ME, and she died on May 1, 1963, at Englewood. Some older books erroneously say that the hymn "We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer, Creator" was written by an unknown author and translated by Julia B. Cady Cory, but William J. Reynolds notes that while this hymn was written as a substitute for "We Gather Together" it is not another translation or version of the original.
Some more recent books have tried to “update” the language and begin the song, “We Praise You, O God, Our Redeemer.” I have to ask, why? Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer" with the first three stanzas only using the traditional Dutch tune, is found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann, and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand, as well as the 2007 Sumphonia Hymn Supplement edited by Steve Wolfgang and others. It was used in the original edition of Shepard and Stevens’ Hymns for Worship but omitted from the revised edition. I really like “We Gather Together.” However, I also like “We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer.” It is my opinion that every good hymn deserves a tune of its own, rather than just being sung to “some other hymn’s tune,” so I looked around to find another tune for the latter. Not locating one, I provided one of my own (Affton). Because of the rather odd meter of the two songs and their obvious similarity, my tune is of necessity also somewhat similar to the one for “We Gather Together,” especially in its movement.
The song expresses praise to God for several different reasons
I. Stanza 1 praises Him as our Creator
"We praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer, Creator,
In grateful devotion our tribute we bring.
We lay it before Thee, we kneel and adore Thee,
We bless Thy holy name, glad praises we sing."
A. God is the one who created the heavens and the earth, as well as man: Gen. 1:1, 27
B. Therefore, we should kneel before Him: Ps. 95:6
C. The word “bless” here simply means to praise or give glory to: Ps. 103:1-2
II. Stanza 2 praises Him as the God of our fathers
"We worship Thee, God of our Fathers, we bless Thee;
Through life’s storm and tempest our guide hast Thou been.
When perils o’er-take us, Thou wilt not forsake us,
And with Thy help, O Lord, life’s battle’s we win."
A. Throughout the Bible Jehovah is called “the God of our fathers”: Deut. 26:7
B. He has promised that He will never forsake us: Heb. 13:5
C. With His help, we can be victors in life’s battles: Rom. 8:37
III. Stanza 3 praises Him as our guide
"With voices united our praises we offer,
And gladly our songs of true worship we raise.
Thy strong arm will guide us, our God is beside us,
To Thee, our great Redeemer, ever be praise."
A. Not only can we praise God individually, but we can also unite our voices in song: Col. 3:17
B. The singing of songs is a part of true worship to God: Jn. 4:24
C. One reason we sing songs of praise to Him is because His strong arm will guide us: Ps. 89:13
IV. Stanza 4 praises Him as our Savior
"Thy love Thou didst show us, Thine only Son sending,
Who came as a babe and whose bed was a stall,
His blest life He gave us and then died to save us;
We praise Thee, O Lord, for Thy gift to us all."
A. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son: Jn. 3:16
B. He came as a babe whose bed was a manger stall: Lk. 2:1-6
C. Then He died to save us: Rom. 5:8-9
CONCL.: There are many different kinds of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” to sing in worship by which we can teach and admonish one another. I would not for a minute seek to eliminate the devotional songs which encourage us to commune with our Father in prayer, or the hopeful songs which focus our minds on heaven, or the didactic songs which exhort us in our lives as Christians. However, we should never forget that we also need to sing hymns of glory and honor in which we tell our Maker, “We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer.”