“Worship celebrates God’s great acts of salvation. During worship, God communicates to the worshipers His salvation and healing, to which the people respond with faith, praise, prayer, thanksgiving, and a life of service in the world,” said the late Dr Robert E. Webber , an American theologian known for his work in worship studies.
Indeed the church of God joyfully gathers every Sunday to tell and enact the story of God’s saving deeds through the songs we sing and through the reading and preaching of Scripture. As the people of God are nourished by His Word, the worship community responds with acts of praise and adoration, offertory and the Eucharistic meal.
Nothing depicts a model of worship better than Sir Robert Grant’s hymn, ‘O Worship the King’. A free paraphrase of Psalm 104, Sir Grant’s hymn urges worshippers to “sing [of] God’s power and God’s love” (stanza 1), to “tell of God’s might” and to “sing of God’s grace” (stanza 2) as a response to God’s work in Creation. For the One who is clothed with splendour and robed in light, we as God’s ransomed creation should raise our voices in worthy praise and adoration of our heavenly King.
Sir Robert Grant (1779-1838), who was of Scottish ancestry but born in India, described himself and all of us as “frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,” even though he was trained in the legal profession, became a member of the Parliament of Scotland and was knighted in 1834, two years after he was appointed governor of Bombay.
In the last two stanzas, Sir Grant’s use of descriptive names (“Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend”) in exalting the Almighty conveys a more personal tone that depicts a relationship between the Creator, the Redeemer and His creatures, the redeemed. After all, biblical worship is based on a covenant between a loving God who calls and His people who respond in faith and obedience.
So let us respond to the call of the Psalmist and join with the heavenly hosts to sing glorious praise to our God and worship Him.
1 Robert Webber, Worship Old & New: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Introduction (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994), 14.
2 Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich: Kregel Publications, 1990), 265.
O Worship the King
O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing God’s power and God’s love;
our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendour, and girded with praise.
O tell of God’s might, O sing of God’s grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space,
whose chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is God’s path on the wings of the storm.
The earth with its store of wonders untold,
Almighty, thy power hath founded of old;
hath stablished it fast by a changeless decree,
and round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.
Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail;
thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.
Words: Sir Robert Grant, 1833 (Ps. 104)
Music: Attr. to Johann Haydn; arr. by William Gardiner, 1815
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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