“FOREVER O MAY THE LORD’S GLORY STAND” (Psalm 104:31-35)
“The glory of the Lord shall endure forever” (Ps. 104:31)
INTRO.: A hymn which expresses the desire that the glory of the Lord shall endure forever is “Forever O May the Lord’s Glory Stand” (#513 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text is a paraphrase of Psalm 104:31-35 taken from The Book of Psalms for Singing published in 1973 by the Board of Education and Publication of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, Pittsburgh, PA. It came into use in churches of Christ through its inclusion in the 1974 Selected Psalms for Church edited by Edward Fudge and originally published by The C.E.I. Publishing Company of Athens, AL. In both Selected Psalms for Singing and Hymns for Worship Revised, it is set to a tune (Lyons) attributed to Johann Michael Haydn and most commonly associated with Robert Grant’s hymn “O Worship the King.” The original edition of Hymns for Worship had words only but with a note to use this same tune.
The Book of Psalms for Worship, published in 2010 also by The Board of Education and Publication of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America as the successor to The Book of Psalms for Singing, sets it to another similar tune (Hanover) attributed to William Croft and most commonly associated with Charles Wesley’s hymn “Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim.” The Book of Psalms for Worship makes some changes in the text, such as the first line, “Forevermore may the Lord’s glory stand.” Evidently, modern Psalm paraphrasers feel that they must follow the example of their Scottish Psalter forefathers who continually tinkered with the Psalms for every successive edition. The meter of “Forever O May the Lord’s Glory Stand” is 10.10.11.11, which means the number of syllables per line of text, and tunes with this meter are not a dime a dozen. However, others do exist. The Book of Psalms for Singing had used one (Houghton) composed by Henry J. Gauntlett. It sets other portions of the Psalm with the same meter to various tunes (Emsworth, and Bradford) by John K. Robb and (Beaumont) by John Beaumont. I have also composed such a tune (Ohio Street).
In doing some research on this hymn, I found another hymn study on it. The unknown author began, “Before looking at the verses themselves, it should be noted that the song title is not accurate in that the words of the stanza are not Ps. 104:31-35, but are instead rewordings/paraphrases of the noted text. Thus, even if all the stanzas prove scriptural, the title would need to be changed.” I guess that I don’t see the point of making the difference. The hymn IS a poetic “version” of Psalm 104:31-35. Is the author saying that it can be called “Psalm 104:31-35” ONLY if it contains the exact words quoted from the King James Version of the Bible? What about from the American Standard Version, or the New American Standard Bible, or the New International Version, or the New King James Bible, or the English Standard Version? Or what about some of the predecessors of the King James Version, such as the Geneva Bible, or those of John Wycliffe or William Tyndale? Which precise wording is worthy to be called “Psalm 104:31-35”? It seems to me that if the text says substantially what the passage says, then it can be identified as coming from that passage.
The song gives praise to God for His glory, His goodness, and His righteousness.
I. The first stanza is about God’s glory, Ps. 104:31-32
Forever O may the Lord’s glory stand!
The Lord shall enjoy each work of His hand.
He looks on the earth and it trembles in fear;
When He touches mountains, the smoke will appear.
A. The glory of the Lord refers to His exalted majesty, but also includes the praise that is due Him: Ps. 29:1-3 (Our anonymous critic friend of the hymn study mentioned previously also said, ““’O may’ is a problem. ‘Forever, it will, the Lord’s glory stand.’” Yet, the New King James Version says, “MAY the glory of the Lord endure forever….” In many languages, the same form that might be translated into English as a simple future, “the glory of the Lord shall endure,” can also be translated as the expression of a desire, “may the glory of the Lord endure.”
B. Again, the New King James expresses the wish, “May the Lord rejoice in His works,” because when He created everything, He declared it to be very good: Gen. 1:31, cf. Prov. 8:30-31
C. The fact that “He looks on the earth and it trembles in fear” is obviously poetic for such is not literally so, but it is reminiscent of the demonstration of His glory at Mt. Sinai: Ex. 19:18, Hab. 3:10
II. The second stanza is about God’s goodness, Ps. 104:33-34
I’ll sing to the Lord as long as I live,
Sing praise to my God while life He will give.
My thoughts about Him will sweet pleasure afford.
For I am rejoicing each day in the Lord.
A. We should sing to the Lord as long as we live: Col. 3:16
B. Indeed, we should sing praise to God while life He will give because it is in Him that we live, move, and have our being: Acts 17:25-28
C. The motive for this singing is that we are rejoicing each day in the Lord: Phil. 4:4
III. The third stanza is about God’s righteousness, Ps. 104:35
Consumed from the earth let sinners then be;
The wicked in life no more let us see.
And now, O my soul, blessing give to the Lord.
Let glad hallelujahs ring; O praise the Lord!
A. The hymn study referenced earlier said of the lines, “Consumed from the earth let sinners then be; the wicked in life no more let us see” that “If these words mean ‘kill sinners’ they don’t reflect the attitude of a Christian,” suggesting the substitution of “Turning from evil, all sinners should be, To follow the Lord, His holy decree.” However, they are almost a direct quote from v. 35, so they must mean something. This, and all imprecatory Psalms, are not calling on the righteous to “kill sinners,” but for God to demonstrate His righteousness by executing His judgment upon the evildoers: Rom. 12:19
B. In contrast to the sinners and wicked, the souls of the righteous should give blessing or praise to the Lord: Ps. 16:7
C. “Hallelujah” is a transliterated Hebrew word which means “praise the Lord”: Ps. 146:1-2
CONCL.: This hymn is actually just the last portion of the entire Psalm all set to the same meter. Here are the earlier sections with the verses of the Psalm in parentheses:
1. (1) My soul, bless the Lord! Lord God, You are great!
With honor arrayed, majestic in state,
(2) You cover Yourself with a garment of light
And stretch out the sky as a curtain by night.
2. (3) The beams of Your courts in waters You laid;
On wings of the wind Your pathway You made.
(4) The clouds are Your chariot; the winds do Your will;
The flames and the lightnings Your pleasure fulfill.
3. (5) You set up the earth on foundations sure,
That always it should unshaken endure.
(6) The deep like a garment about it You cast;
The waters stood high; over mountains they passed.
4. (7) But at Your rebuke the high waters fled;
Your thunder they heard and fast away sped.
(8) The mountains arose, and the valleys sank low;
The place You appointed for them now they know.
1. (9) To hold waters fast You set up their bound,
Lest turning again they cover the ground.
(10) You make springs gush forth in the valleys below
And cause rushing streams between mountains to flow.
2. (11) The beast of the field they furnish with drink;
The wild donkeys (orig. asses) quench their thirst on the brink.
(12) The birds make their nests in the trees by the spring;
And there in the branches they joyfully sing.
3. (13) You water the hills with rain from Your sky,
With fruit of Your works the earth satisfy.
(14) To nourish the cattle, You cause grass to grow;
For creatures who serve man the plants You bestow.
4. So man brings forth food by working the earth;
(15) And wine that he grows his heart fills with mirth;
To make his face shine he extracts fragrant oil
And finds bread that strengthens his heart for his toil.
1. (16) The trees of the Lord are all watered well;
Great cedars high up on Lebanon dwell.
(17) There birds build their nests; the stork makes first its home.
(18) On high rocks the badgers and goats safely roam.
2. (19)The moon You have set the seasons to show;
The sun will its time for each setting know.
(20) When You make the darkness, the night follows day,
And beasts of the forest creep forth seeking prey.
3. (21) The young lions roar, from God begging meat,
(22) But at the sunrise they quickly retreat,
And deep in their dens all day hide from the light,
(23) While man works and labors abroad till the night.
1. (24) How many works, Lord, in wisdom You’ve made!
How full on the earth, Your riches displayed!
(25) Out yonder the ocean, how great and how wide,
Where small and great creatures unnumbered abide!
2. (26) Where ships sail the deep, Leviathans play;
(27) These all look to You to give food each day.
(28) Whatever You give them they gather for food;
When Your hand You open You fill them with good.
3. (29) When You hide Your face, bewildered they yearn.
When You take their breath, to dust they return.
(30) When You send Your spirit, created are they.
The face of the ground you renew every day.
As we think about who God is and what He has done for us, everyone should be moved to say, “Forever O May the Lord’s Glory Stand.”