Hymns & Songs

Blowing the ram’s horn in the year of jubilee

Oct 2015    

Writing this article, I was reminiscing about the grand celebration of our nation’s 50th National Day. I give thanks to God for guiding and preserving this tiny nation, which appears as a little red dot in the world map, for 50 years of independence. Everywhere in Singapore, the SG50 logo that celebrates the Singaporean spirit – which proves that “size does not matter” – can be seen on the streets, on TV screens, on T-shirts, on large posters, and banners. The Golden Jubilee is a significant milestone for a young nation like Singapore.

 

The word “jubilee” in the Bible is derived from the Hebrew word jobel, which means “ram’s horn”, since it was precisely that horn which was used as a trumpet, sounded throughout the land of Israel to indicate to everybody the beginning of the jubilee year.1 Legislated into the Mosaic Law, the jubilee arrangement ensured that all debts were cancelled, all family properties sold were returned and all bondage in service to others was ended with the year of jubilee (Lev. 25).

 

‘Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow’ was a popular hymn written by the prolific hymnist Charles Wesley in 1750. This six-stanza hymn was the third of his seven hymns for the New Year’s Day collection. At the heart of this Wesleyan hymn is the vision of Christ’s second coming, an idea clearly conveyed in the refrain “The year of jubilee is come! The year of jubilee is come! Return, ye ransomed sinners, home.”

 

As a result of sin, man in his fallen nature was in debt, shackled by his great adversary, Satan. Adam and his race had forfeited all their rights to the blessings of the earth. Being enslaved to sin and destined for death was never the design of God when He created man.

 

In this hymn, Charles Wesley proclaimed that Jesus, our great High Priest, the atoning Lamb of God, has made full restitution for our sins by His death on the cross. The weary spirits can now find rest and mournful souls can be glad because Jesus the Messiah has ushered in the jubilee time when man is freed, liberated from sin and hell (stanza 2 and 4).

 

This is truly a fitting hymn to sing as we celebrate the year of jubilee. The church looks forward to the second coming of Christ when all creation will be restored. The apostle Paul said, “… that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21)

Blow Ye the Trumpet Blow
(The United Methodist Hymnal, #379)


Blow ye the trumpet, blow!
The gladly solemn sound
let all the nations know,
to earth’s remotest bound:

Refrain:
The year of jubilee is come!
The year of jubilee is come!
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home.

Jesus, our great high priest,
hath full atonement made;
ye weary spirits, rest;
ye mournful souls, be
glad: (Refrain)

Extol the Lamb of God, the
all-atoning Lamb; redemption
in his blood throughout the
world proclaim: (Refrain)

Ye slaves of sin and
hell, your liberty
receive, and safe in
Jesus dwell, and blest
in Jesus live: (Refrain)

Ye who have sold for nought
your heritage above

shall have it back unbought,
the gift of Jesus’ love:

(Refrain)

The gospel trumpet hear, the
news of heavenly grace; and
saved from earth, appear
before your Saviour’s face:
The year of jubilee is come!
The year of jubilee is come!
Return to your eternal home.

Words: Charles Wesley, 1750 (Lev. 25:8-17) Music: Lewis Edson, ca. 1782

Dr Yeo Teck Beng is Principal of the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.

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