(picture of Michael Weisse)
LORD, THY WORD ABIDETH
“Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89)
INTRO.: A hymn which speaks about the eternal nature of God’s word is “Lord, Thy Word Abideth” (#631 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text was written by Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877). It first appeared in the 1861 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, for which he served as the chairman of the committee which compiled it. The tune (Ravenshaw) was adapted from a medieval melody (Gottes Sohn Ist Kommen) found in Ein Neu Gesengbuchlen edited by Michael Weisse, who was born around 1480 or 1488 at Neisse, Silesia (now Nysa, Poland), and attended the Pfarrgymnasium (pastoral school) there. Educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood, he studied at the Jagiellonian University of Cracow from 1504 and became a Franciscan monk for a while in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland) in 1510. However, he and a couple of his colleagues, Johannes Zeising and Johann Mönch, were influenced by the writings of Martin Luther (1483-1546).
As a result Weisse and his two friends were expelled from Breslau around 1517. Leaving the Roman Catholic Church in 1518, they were admitted to the house of the Bohemian Brethren or Unitas Fratrum at Leutomischl in Bohemia (now Litomyšl, Czech Republic). This group, followers of reformer Jan Hus, was called by their enemies Piccards (Beggars) and later were known as Moravians. They allied themselves in Reformation times with Luther. In 1522, Weisse was sent as part of a delegation to Wittenberg, to compare the Brethren’s creed with that of Martin Luther and check for points of difference in doctrine. In 1531, Weisse was ordained as a priest of the Unitas Fratrum or Unity of the Brethren by a synod in Brandeis, and at the same time made Prediger (preacher) and Vorsteher (leader) of the German congregations of Brethren at Landskron in Bohemia and Fulnek in Moravia. Also that year, he published his hymnal for the Brethren, Ein Neu Gesengbuchlein (A new little hymnal), also known as Ave Hierarchia, at Jungbunzlau.
This was the first hymnal for the Brethren in the German language. It contained 157 hymns, 137 written, translated, or otherwise adapted by Weisse, for which he partially composed some music himself but mostly used melodies from the Bohemian tradition of the Brethren. Then the most extensive Protestant hymnal, it influenced other collections and was the first hymnal structured by topics. One of his hymns (“Christus, der uns selig macht”) was used in Johann Sebastian Bach’s St John Passion, Part II, third scene. Weisse, who joined the Unity’s Inner Council in 1532, died of food poisoning at Landskron, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), on March 19, 1534, or possibly 1540. The melody, which is often attributed to Weisse, was arranged for Williams’s text in the 1861 Hymns Ancient and Modern by the music editor William Henry Monk (1823-1889). Other tunes used with the hymn include St. Cyprian Chope by Richard R. Chope in 1862, and Goetchius by Joseph Maclean in 1901. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song is also found in the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al., in addition to Hymns for Worship.
The song points out the importance of God’s eternal word to our lives.
I. Stanza 1 tells us that God’s word will guide our footsteps
Lord, Thy Word abideth,
And our footsteps guideth;
Who its truth believeth
Light and joy receiveth.
A. God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our pathway: Ps. 119:105
B. The reason is that it is the truth that will make us free: Jn. 8:32
C. As such it not only gives light but brings joy: Acts 8:4-8
II. Stanza 2 tells us that God’s word will cheer us in our tribulations
When our foes are near us,
Then Thy Word doth cheer us,
Word of consolation,
Message of salvation.
A. Those who wish to live right will find cheer or delight in God’s word: Ps. 1:1-2
B It offers consolation to those who are suffering: 2 Cor. 1:3-7
C. But most importantly it reveals the message of salvation: Eph. 1:13-14
III. Stanza 3 tells us that God’s word will protect us in the storms of life
When dark clouds are o’er us,
And the storms before us,
Then its light directeth,
And our way protecteth.
A. The greatest storm is the fight against sin, and God’s word will help us not to sin: Ps. 119:11
B. It will direct us in times of temptation: 1 Cor. 10:13
C. And it will protect us from the evil one: Eph. 6:14-16
IV. Stanza 4 (not in HFWR) tells us that God’s word will impart treasure
Who can tell the pleasure,
Who recount the treasure,
By Thy Word imparted
To the simple hearted?
A. The testimony of God’s word is sure, making the simple wise, and is thus more to be desired than gold: Ps. 19:7-10
B. It is like a pearl of great price: Matt. 13:45-46
C. Therefore, it will enable us to lay up treasure in heaven: Matt. 6:19-20
V. Stanza 5 (also not in HFWR) tells us that God’s word provides for the needs of both living and dying
Word of mercy, giving
Succor to the living;
Word of life, supplying
Comfort to the dying!
A. God’s word makes known His mercy: Ps. 138:7-8
B. It gives succor to the living because Jesus came to bring life: Jn. 10:10
C. And it gives comfort to those who are dying in the Lord: Rev. 14:13
VI. Stanza 6 (#4 in HFWR) tells us that God’s word will lead us to be with the Lord evermore
O that we, discerning
Its most holy learning,
Lord, may love and fear Thee,
Evermore be near Thee!
A. God as our Shepherd wants us to dwell in His house forevermore: Ps. 23:1-6
B. But to do so, we must first discern or understand His will—how?: Eph. 3:3-5
C. Then we must love and fear Him by keeping His commandments: Eccl. 12:13-14, 1 Jn. 5:3
CONCL.: The God of the universe has spoken to mankind. He revealed His will for us today through His Son who sent the Holy Spirit to guide inspired apostles and prophets in producing the written word which contains God’s message for the whole world. This word of God has been preserved since then and will continue to the end of time. Thus, we can praise Him for His revelation, saying, “Lord, Thy Word Abideth.”