Minor Prophets Art: Malachi

Malachi was the final book we looked at in my Minor Prophets class, but I was absent and didn’t get to see Naomi draw this.

The altar in the upper right-hand corner is adjacent to two of the corruptions of worship that Malachi denounced: offering blemished sacrifice (1:6-14)—note the cow with bleeding eye—and subsequently “flood[ing] the Lord’s altar with tears… because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings” (2:13).

The lower left-hand corner (set off by refiner’s fire; 3:2) contains the “scroll of remembrance… written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name” (3:16) and a frolicking well-fed calf (4:2).

Malachi

This is the ninth (and final) post of Naomi’s art from our Minor Prophets Sunday school class. Previous posts were on JonahAmosHoseaZephaniah and Nahum & ObadiahHabakkuk, Haggai, and Zechariah. Naomi’s professional art is available at naomifriend.com. Coming next will be Naomi’s parables art.

Psalm 100 & 134 Hymns

Psalm 100,  one of the best known and beloved psalms, is a call to worship addressed to “all the earth” and especially worshipers about to enter the temple courts. It affirms that the LORD is God, that he made us and we belong to him, that he is good, and that his love and faithfulness will endure “through all generations.”

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Although Psalm 100 is always suitable for use as a call to worship, the Revised Common Lectionary pays it little attention. It is assigned to Christ the King Sunday in Year A as a response to the Ezekiel (which shares with it the image of the Lord as Shepherd). (It shows up as an alternative stream reading in Year A and for Thanksgiving Day in Year C.)

Psalm 100 is connected to one of the most famous tunes in Christian hymnody (and the most famous tune in the 1551 Genevan Psalter), OLD HUNDREDTH (AKA GENEVAN 134), which was written by Louis Bourgeois for Psalm 134. Ten years later it was paired with William Kethe’s versification of Psalm 100 in the 1561 Anglo-Genevan Psalter. The Psalms for All Seasons performance notes claims that the tune is “probably the most sung church melody throughout the world” and that Kethe’s hymn is “perhaps the oldest English psalm versification that continues to be sung today.”

“All People on the Earth Do Dwell” (PFAS #100A/LUYH #1/PH87 #100/PH57 #195/PH34 #205/HFW #6), the marriage of Kethe’s hymn with OLD HUNDREDTH, gets special treatment in the CRC’s new hymnals, which provide the lyrics in 12 languages, including Chinese, Swahili, and Indonesian. Lift Up Your Hearts, which include no other Psalm 100 settings, places the hymn first.

Lift Up Your Hearts uses a modern version of the lyrics, which also appeared in the gray Psalter Hymnal. Psalms for All Seasons uses the older version of Kethe’s lyrics with OLD HUNDREDTH. The modern lyrics are used with another tune. Here is stanza 1 of the modern lyrics:

All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
Serve him with joy, his praises tell,
come now before him and rejoice!

(The gray Psalter Hymnal sets the modern lyrics to GENEVAN 100, including an alternative harmonization with French lyrics. The red and blue Psalter Hymnals set them to another Bourgeois tune, ALL LANDS. The 1912 Psalter uses OLD HUNDREDTH, which is clearly the best of these tunes)

Many people are familiar with OLD HUNDREDTH for its use as a doxology (with lyrics by Thomas Ken). Lift Up Your Hearts includes that hymn, “Praise, God, from Whom All Blessings Flow” (LUYH #965/PH87 #638/PH57 #493/PH34 #468), which is placed last in LUYH in the same 12 languages. The tune also appears in a communion song, “Be Present at Our Table, Lord” (LUYH #843) and the Psalm 134 setting (see below).

The blue and gray Psalter Hymnals uses OLD HUNDREDTH for the doxology and their versifications of Psalm 134 (see below.) Sing! A New Creation has another hymn set to the tune, “For All the Saints Who Showed Your Love” (SNC #195).

An alternative version of “All People on the Earth Do Dwell” (LUYH #100B) pairs the modern version of Kethe’s lyrics with the traditional gospel tune NEW DOXOLOGY, which sounds like a hybrid of OLD HUNDREDTH and DUKE STREET (“Jesus Shall Reign”). The doxology is added as a fifth stanza. It’s a fun tune to sing.

“Let Every Voice on Earth Resound” (PFAS #100C) matches GENEVAN 100 (also by Bourgeois) with lyrics by Michael Morgan. GENEVAN 100 is a big step down from OLD HUNDREDTH and Morgan makes the odd choice of putting the first stanza in passive voice:

Let every voice on earth resound,
and joyful hearts hold God adored;
in gladness may God’s courts abound
with songs of praise unto the Lord.

OLD HUNDREDTH, NEW DOXOLOGY & GENEVAN 100 are all 8.8.8.8 so they are interchangeable.

Psalms for All Season includes four other Psalm 100 hymn settings.

“With Shouts of Joy Come Praise the Lord” (PFAS #100D) is a Punjabi hymn. The score includes only a melody, but parts are given for finger cymbals and bells/Orff instruments.

“Lán tioh kèng-pài Chú Siōg-tè/Let Us Come to Worship God” (PFAS #100E) is a Taiwanese hymn with a traditional tribal melody. Again PFAS provides just the melody and some percussion parts (drum and bass xylophone). The song has one short stanza:

Let us come to worship God,
let us come to worship God,
bless the holy name;
enter God’s house with thanks and reverence,
for the LORD is good, God’s love endures forever.

“Jubilate Deo omnis terra/Raise a Song of Gladness” (PFAS #100G) is a catchy Taizé song by Jacques Berthier with lyrics in Latin and English. The tune is here. The Latin is from Psalm 100 (“Jubilate Deo omnis terra, servite Domino in laetitia.”). The English translation adds a Christian interpretation (“Raise a shout of gladness, peoples of the earth. Christ has come, bringing peace, joy to every heart.”).

“All the Earth, Proclaim the LORD” (PFAS #100H/PH87 #176) is by Lucien Deiss, who was part of the post-Vatican II worship renewal movement. The refrain (“All the earth proclaim the LORD, sing your praise to God”), based on verse 1, is intended to be sung by a cantor. The five stanzas are based on vv. 2-5. The sixth stanza is a trinitarian doxology. The tune is DEISS 100. This song was in the gray Psalter Hymnal but I don’t recall singing it.

The responsorial setting is “Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord” (PFAS #100F).

Psalm 134

Psalm 134 is the conclusion of the songs of ascents sung during the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In my mind, I picture a group of pilgrims arriving after sunset and rushing to the temple, where they find that the worship of the Lord is ongoing throughout the night. They raise their hands and join in worship with the other servants of the Lord.

Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion.

All the CRC hymnals have kept the traditional association between Psalm 134 and OLD HUNDREDTH, but have used different versifications of the lyrics.

The red and blue Psalter Hymnals use a three-stanza versification titled “O Bless Our God with One Accord” (PH57 #281/PH34 #295) by Lambertus Lamberts. [The red Psalter Hymnal also includes the versification from the 1912 Psalter, “Come, All Ye Servants of the Lord” (PH34 #296).]

The gray Psalter Hymnal substituted a new two-stanza versification by Calvin Seerveld, “You Servants of the LORD Our God” (PH87 #134). Seerveld makes explicit the psalm’s suggestion that worship is going on “both day and night”:

You servants of the LORD our God
who work and pray both day and night,
in God‘s own house lift up your hands
and praise the LORD with all your might.

Lift Up Your Hearts uses a two-stanza versification by Arlo Duba, “Come, All You Servants of the Lord” (PFAS #134A/LUYH #924). The arranagement of OLD HUNDREDTH includes a instrumental introduction/interlude/ending the performance notes claims should be played “as a slow rock ballad

Come, all you servants of the lord,
who work and pray by night, by day.
Come, bless the Lord within this place;
with lifted hands your homage pay.

Psalms for All Seasons includes two other Psalm 134 hymns, “Come Bless the Lord” (PFAS #134B), which is uses only vv. 1-2, and “We Will Rest in You” (PFAS #134C), which uses the refrain “Silently, peacefully, we will rest in you.” The verses of “We Will Rest in You” is a chant, which is not something we would use for congregational singing.

This  is part of a series of posts on the psalm hymns in the CRC hymnals related to one of the Sunday school classes I’ve co-taught with Andrew Friend—Psalms for All Seasons and Exploring Our Hymnals—or from my worship planning notes. We have now covered 40 psalms. The list of psalms can be found here.

Psalm 19 Hymns

Psalm 19 is a brilliant composition that connects God’s glory in creation to the perfection of His Law, both calling forth a response of humility from the worshiper.

The first part (vv. 1-6) describe how “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Although the heavenly bodies use no words, “their voice goes out into all the earth.” The second part (vv. 7-11) describes the perfection of the law, using a series of synonyms (“statutes,” “precepts,” commands,” etc.) and images (“making wise the simple,” “giving light to the eyes,” etc.). The final part (vv. 12-14) describes the psalmist’s reaction:

But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth
and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

The last verse is commonly used as a prayer before  preaching.

According to the Word Commentary (vol. 19 by Craigie & Tate), “each of the characteristics of the Torah listed [in the psalm] contains an allusion to the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2-3), and that by means of these allusions the psalmist is expressing the superiority of the Torah to the tree of knowledge.” I wouldn’t have noticed that myself.

Also from the Word Commentary: “Just as the sun dominates the daytime sky, so too does the Torah dominate human life. And as the sun can be both welcome, in giving warmth, and terrifying in its unrelenting heat, so too the Torah can be both life-imparting, but also scorching, testing, and purifying.”

Our Exploring Our Hymnals class took up Psalm 19 on Sept. 21. The Revised Common Lectionary assigns the psalm on eight occasions (putting it in among the five most used psalms), including the Easter vigil for all three years. On Oct. 4 (Oct. 2-8, Year A), it’s assigned as a response to the Ten Commandments.

“The Heavens Declare Your Glory” (PFAS #19D/LUYH #3/PH87 #429/PH57 #31/PH34 #31) is one of just 19 Psalm settings to appear in all four of the CRC’s main hymnals. (I believe it is the only one of these  that isn’t also in the 1912 Psalter.) Lyrics are by 19th Century British minister Thomas Birks. The version in the first two Psalter Hymnals is “The Heavens Declare Thy Glory”; the lyrics were updated for the gray Psalter Hymnal. All versions are set to FAITHFUL, “an adaptation of a tune from Johann S. Bach’s well-known aria ‘Mein gläubiges Herze’ (‘My heart ever faithful’), found in his Cantata 68” (Psalter Hymnal Handbook).

The first two stanzas cover the heavens portion of the psalm (vv. 1-6). (The first stanza can be heard here.) The third and final stanza is a loose versification of v. 14:

All heaven on high rejoices
to do its Maker’s will;
the stars with solemn voices
resound your praises still.
So let my whole behavior,
each thought, each deed I do,
be, Lord, my strength, my Savior,
a ceaseless song to you.

Since the section on the law is skipped, this doesn’t make a good response to the Ten Commandments.

The other Psalm 19 setting in Lift Up Your Hearts is “God’s Glory Fills the Heavens” (PFAS #19B/LUYH #719/SNC #88), with modern lyrics by Carl Daw set to Franz Haydn’s CREATION. We were familiar with it from Sing! A New Creation. The three stanzas are about God’s glory filling the heavens, God’s perfect law reviving the soul, and God’s servant praying to be faithful. (A sample of the first stanza is here.)

God’s glory fills the heavens with hymns;
the domed sky bears the Maker’s mark.
New praises sound from day to day
and echo through the knowing dark.
Without a word their songs roll on;
into all lands their voices run.
And with a champion’s strength and grace
from farthest heaven comes forth the sun.

This is my favorite of the Psalm 19 hymns and the one we’re using Sunday. I’ve paired it with a Ten Commandments litany (LUYH #722) in the “We Are Renewed in God’s Grace” section of our liturgy.

Psalms for All Seasons includes three additional Psalm 19 settings. “The Stars Declare His Glory” (PFAS #19A) follows pattern of the heavens declaring God’s glory (stanzas 1-2), the glory of God’s law (stanza 3), and a response from the psalmist (stanza 4). Lyrics are by Timothy Dudley-Smith; the tune is David Haas’ DEERFIELD. (A sample of stanza 1 is here.)

The stars declare his glory;
the vault of heaven springs
mute witness of the Master’s hand
in all created things,
and through the silences of space
their soundless music sings.

“Silent Voices” (PFAS #19F) follows a similar pattern. Stanza 1 describes the “silent voices” of the sun and stars. Stanza 2 has “human voices” telling again “what they were told… Laws, decrees, precepts, commandments.” Stanza 3 asks that our “daily lives” will reflect this same glory. (A sample of stanza 1 is here.)

Silent voices, unheard voices,
day to day and night to night.
Sun in blue sky, stars in black sky:
singing, speaking, telling light.
Everything that God has made
tells his glory, tells his glory.

“May the Words of My Mouth” (PFAS #19E) uses v. 16 as a refrain. The five stanzas versify vv. 7-15. (The refrain is here.)

The responsorial setting is “Through the Witness of Creation” (PFAS #19C). The alternate setting is “Lord, You Have the Words” (PFAS #19C-alt).

The Psalter Hymnals include another four Psalm 18 songs.

“The Spacious Heavens Tell” (PH87 #19) was versified for the gray Psalter Hymnal by Helen Otte and set to GENEVAN 19.

The three additional settings in the red and blue Psalter Hymnals are: “The Spacious Heavens Declare” (PH57 #28/PH34 #29); “Jehovah’s Perfect Law” (PH57 #29/PH34 #30); and “The Spacious Heavens Laud” (PH57 #30/PH34 #32). The first two are from the 1912 Psalter.

This  is part of a series of posts on the psalm hymns in the CRC hymnals related to one of the Sunday school classes I’ve co-taught with Andrew Friend—Psalms for All Seasons and Exploring Our Hymnals—or from my worship planning notes. We have now covered 38 psalms. The list of psalms can be found here.

Hymns about Fall and the Human Condition

This past Sunday our class took up Lift Up Your Heart’s six hymns on Fall and the Human Condition, the shortest section in the hymnal. We weren’t familiar with most of them, but we were impressed by their compositional and theological sophistication. These are not hymns that allow verse skipping.

Since the first half of the hymnal is organized around the story of creation-fall-redemption, it needed some hymns about the fall. (Fall and the Human Condition is sandwiched between Creation and Providence and God’s Covenant Faithfulness in a larger section titled Old Testament Life and Witness that opens the hymnal.)

The section consists of three hymns that refer to the Fall and three imprecatory psalm settings (imprecatory psalms apparently saying something important about the human condition.)

Hymns about the Fall

“God Marked a Line and Told the Sea” (LUYH #28) is a hymn about lines and limits with definitely theological lyrics by Thomas Troeger. The first stanza is about the limit God put on the sea in the creation story. The second stanza is about the limit on eating the fruit in the garden. The third stanza informs us that:

The line, the limit, and the law
are patterns meant to help us draw
a bound between what life requires
and all the things our heart desires.

The fourth stanza describes our exceeding the limits, reaching “to take what is not ours.” The fifth is the conclusion:

We are not free when we’re confined
to every wish that sweeps the mind,
but free when freely we accept
the sacred bounds that must be kept.

Here is Bert Polman’s explanation of the hymn from hymnary.org: “Thomas Troeger based this text on Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17 for the First Sunday in Lent, Year A, when the assigned Old Testment reading is from Genesis 2 and 3 in the Revised Common Lectionary. Stanza 4 also references Job 38:8-11. Many of his hymn texts were written in direct response to scripture and for devotional use as well as singing in public worship. His texts often follow a three-step pattern of 1) Memory: to recall the passage; 2) Understanding: to explore the meaning, and 3) Will: to commit to live God’s will in accordance with both the memory and the understanding.”

The tune is DEO GRACIAS, which is also used in LUYH for “O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High” (LUYH #111/PH87 #364) and “Ride On, Ride On in Majesty” (LUYH #149/PH87 #382).

We concluded that “God Marked a Line and Told the Sea” is a candidate for congregational singing at Trinity, possibly with confession or as a response to appropriate sermons.

“How Sweet Was the Garden, Fertile and Fair” (LUYH #29) tells the story of the Fall: the garden was good (stanza 1); we ate the fruit (stanza 2); but God hasn’t given up on us (stanza 3). Here is the third stanza:

From dark, bitter fruit came forth a bright seed,
for God did not turn from us in our need;
the love that first formed us embraces us still
and woos us from wandering to follow God’s will.

The lyrics are by Carl Daw, who has ten songs in LUYH, including “Faith Begins by Letting Go” (LUYH #852/SNC #172) and “God of the Prophets” (LUYH #853/PH87 #521). The tune is LONG ISLAND SOUND by Rusty Edwards. Here is a sample.

Although I didn’t recognize it, our occasional choir apparently sang “How Sweet Was the Garden, Fertile and Fair” during last year’s Christmas Lessons & Carols service as a response to the Fall reading. It probably would work better with a choir or soloist than as a congregational hymn for us.

“What Adam’s Obedience Cost” (LUYH #34) tells the whole story of fall and redemption: Adam’s disobedience led to Eden lost (stanza 1); despite the Flood and “ark of mercy,” we “rebuilt… an unrepentant world” (stanza 2); through Jesus, “Eden is restored” (stanza 3) and “the kingdom is the Lord’s” (stanza 4); and we look ahead to New Jerusalem (stanza 5). The lyrics are by Fred Pratt Green. Here is a sample.

This hymn could be used as a Christmas song because the focus on Jesus is as “a little child” inspiring “joyful carols everywhere.” It would work at the end of a Lesson & Carols service.

Four Imprecatory(-ish) Psalms

Imprecatory psalms are those that pray for judgment or misfortune against enemies. Most lists of imprectory psalms don’t seem to include 52, 75 or 14/53, but they all celebrate God’s judgment and are treated by Lift Up Your Hearts and Psalms for All Seasons with special care for these elements. (LUYH specifically refers to 52 & 75 as “psalms of imprecation).

Three hymns in Lift Up Your Heart’s Fall and the Human Condition section are based on these psalms. For our class, we sang these three songs and additional songs for these psalms in Psalms for All Seasons. (We didn’t sing any of the psalm settings from the Psalter Hymnals, but I include those here.)

“God, Let Me Like a Spreading Tree” (LUYH #30/PFAS #52A) is a Psalm 52 setting by Doug Gray known in Psalms for All Seasons as “You Cunning Liar, Why Publicize.” The first seven verses of the psalm (stanzas 1-2) denounce the psalmist’s enemy and celebrate God’s coming judgment. In the final two verses (stanza 3), the psalmist declares “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God.” LUYH places the “God, let me like a spreading tree” stanza at the beginning and the end of the hymn, sandwiching (and de-emphasizing) the imprecatory part of the psalm. Here is that stanza:

God, let me like a spreading tree,
grow as I trust in your sure love.
Where loyal servants offer praise
within your house, I’ll add my voice
to glorify your holy name.

The tune is BACA.

“O God, Your Deeds Are Unsurpassed” (LUYH #32/PFAS #75A) is based on Psalm 75, which is about God as Judge. The lyrics, by Michael Morgan, place us in the position of the guilty (which the psalm doesn’t do) and asks God to “remove our pride” and “help us to know humility.” A sample is here.

According the Psalms for All Seasons performances notes: “It is dangerous to sing a psalm calling for God to judge the powerful or to pour a draught of bitter wine down the throats of the proud when the singers themselves may in fact be the powerful and the proud. Rather than representing the psalm as a call for judgment on others, this versification imagines that we may be the ones in danger of being judged as insolent. The psalm could first be read, after which the worship leader might ask, ‘Is it possible that some may be able to pray this psalm against us? Have we lifted ourselves up?’ After a moment of silence for contemplation, the congregation can sing this song with humility and contrition.”

“O God, Your Deeds Are Unsurpassed” is paired with  “God, Let Me Like a Spreading Tree” since they both use BACA and they are thematically connected to “Prayers of the Oppressed and Oppressor” (LUYH #31), which “may be prayed with the readings or singing of Psalm 52 or Psalm 75 or other psalms of imprecation.” One of the two prayers “assumes the voice of the psalmist in praying for judgment against those who hurt and oppress.” The other “assumes the voice of a person who may be the oppressor, the one the psalmist is praying against.”

“All Have Sinned” (LUYH #33/PFAS #53A) by Bev Herrema has three stanzas based on Psalms 14 & 53 (which are nearly identical) and a refrain from Romans 3 that shifts the theme from condemnation to redemption:

All have sinned, all have turned aside,
and there’s no one righteous.
But redemption will one day come
from Zion, so rejoice!

Here are samples of the first and second stanzas. The hymn is called “Hear the Fool” in Psalms for All Seasons for the beginning of the first stanza (“Hear the fool saying loud and long, there’s no God, we’re all alone”). LUYH’s name change shifts emphasis to the refrain. This song is suitable for congregation singing, perhaps after the confession/pardon of assurance.

Psalms 52, 75 or 14/53 in PFAS & the Psalter Hymnals

“You Cunning Liar, Why Publicize” is the only Psalm 52 hymn setting in Psalms for All Seasons. The responsorial setting is “But I Am Like a Green Olive Tree” (PFAS #52B). (Psalm 52’s only appearance in the Revised Common Lectionary is during Year C as a response to Amos 8, about the basket of ripe fruit.)

Psalms for All Seasons makes an odd choice with its second hymn setting of Psalm 75. “Canticle: My Soul Cries Out” (PFAS #75B/LUYH #69) is a song based on the Magnificat. The song appears in Lift Up Your Hearts as “My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout” and is set to STAR OF COUNTY DOWN. (A sample is here.) It’s a great song, which we sang this past advent, but it isn’t Psalm 75. PFAS actually includes a canticle section that includes four settings of the Magnifcat; another is included as part of “A Service of Evening Prayer.” I don’t understand this choice.

“Hear the Fool” is the only song in the Psalm 53 section of  Psalms for All Seasons. The Psalm 14 section includes “Oh, That Your Salvation and Your Rescue” (PFAS #14A), which is in 5/8 time, making it unsuitable for congregational singing.

The responsorial setting is “Prone to Wander, Lord, I Feel It” (PFAS #14B), a line from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” (LUYH #521/PH87 #486/PH57 #314/PH34 #330/HFW #104) set to BEACH SPRING. (Psalm 14 is used twice in the lectionary, including as a response to the story of David and Bathsheba.) PFAS also includes “A Prayer of Confession” (PFAS #14C).

All the settings for these four psalms in the gray Psalter Hymnal are original versifications by Marie Post (14/53) or Helen Otte (52/75): “The Foolish in their Hearts Deny” (PH87 #14) set to MAPLE AVENUE, “Mighty Mortal, Boasting Evil” (PH87 #52) set MADILL, “The Foolish in Their Hearts Exclaim” (PH87 #53) set to BRISTOL, and “We Give Our Thanks to You, O God” (PH87 #75) set to WEYMOUTH.

The earlier Psalter Hymnals include five settings of the four psalms, four of which (all those in the 1934 Psalter Hymnal) are from the 1912 Psalter. The Psalm 14 settings are “The God Who Sits Enthroned on High” (PH34 #20) and “How Long Wilt Thou Forget Me” (PH57 #18). The Psalm 52 setting is “O Mighty Man, Why Wilt Thou Boast” (PH57 #97/PH34 #104). The Psalm 53 setting is “Fools in Their Heart Have Said” (PH57 #98/PH34 #105). The Psalm 75 setting is “To Thee, O God, We Render Thanks” (PH57 #143/PH34 #151).

 

Hymns about Jesus’ Teaching and Miracles

My new Sunday school class with Andrew Friend, “Exploring our Hymnals,” kicked off earlier this month with a look at Lift Up Your Heart’s section on Teaching and Miracles.

Lift Up Your Hearts is organized into two divisions: The Story of Creation and Redemption and Worshipping the Trinune God. The latter has sections of hymns running through an order of worship: Opening of Worship, Called to Be Holy, Hearing the Word, Confessing Our Faith, Receiving the Sacraments, Living Our Baptism and Sent Out (each with subsections). The Story of Creation and Redemption division wraps the liturgical calendar into the larger story of God and his people. The sections are: Old Testament Life and Witness, Advent Expectation, Christ’s Life, Christ’s Passion and Exaltation, Joining in the Spirit’s Work, Trusting in the Triune God, and Hope for Things to Come.

The Christ’s Life section has six sub-sections: Christmas, Epiphany, Baptism of Our Lord, Teaching and Miracles, and Transfiguration and Lenten Journey. We chose Teaching and Miracles as our starting point because it is one of just four subsections we haven’t sung from at all since adopting the hymnal last year.

Of the 14 hymns in Teaching and Miracles, five can be found in Sing! A New Creation and eight are in Singing the New Testament, a Faith Alive hymnal of songs derived directly from specific New Testament passages. Of its 260 hymns, only nine (!) were included in Lift Up Your Hearts (according to this great spreadsheet). Among our discussion topics Sunday were why these sort of hymns are so unpopular and how to use them during a worship service (other than the obvious use as response to one of the source passages).

Jesus Calling Disciples and their Response

“Tú has venido a la orilla/You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore” (LUYH #116/SNC #269) was composed by Cesáreo Gabarain, a Spanish priest involved in post-Vatican II liturgical renewal, following a visit to the Sea of Galilee. We used to sing it regularly from Sing! A New Creation, usually as a closing hymn. The song is from the perspective of a fisherman being called to be Jesus’ disciple. Here’s the refrain:

O Lord, you have looked down into my eyes;
kindly smiling, you‘ve called out my name.
On the sand I have abandoned my small boat;
now with you I will seek other seas.

In my view (which was not held by everyone in the class) the tune (sample here) is extremely boring.

“Jesus Calls Us, O‘er the Tumult” (LUYH #121/PH87 #553/PH57 #459/PH34 #443), a better song about Jesus calling disciples, is one of the 70-some perennial  hymns to appear in all four main CRC hymnals. It was written by Cecil Alexander for St. Andrew‘s Day (1852). [Alexander also wrote “Once in David’s Royal City” (PH87 #346), but has no other hymns in LUYH.] The earlier hymnals had four stanzas, but LUYH adds a fifth (“Jesus calls us from the worship of the vain world’s golden store…”). The tune is GALILEE.

Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea,
day by day his voice is sounding,
saying, “Christian, follow me.”

“Come to Me, O Weary Traveler“ (LUYH #123/SNT #56) was written  in 1991 by Sylvia Dunstan, a prison chaplain, “on a commuter bus [in 1991] after a particularly bad day (visiting inmates) at the jail” and is based on Matthew  11:28-30 (“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…”). [Her other compositions include “You, Lord, Are Both Lamb and Shepherd” (LUYH #225), “All Who Hunger, Gather Gladly” (LUYH #534) and “Go to the World” (LUYH #925).] The tune is AUSTIN.

“Somlandela”/“We Will Follow” (LUYH #129) is a traditional Zulu hymn that we agreed would make a lively closing song. It’s a response to Jesus’ call, promising to follow him “through the valleys,” “to the mountains,” “in the city,” “in our classroom,” and “in our calling.”

“I Heard the Voice of Jesus Calling” (LUYH #128) is an Iona Community hymn that reports various things Jesus said. Here is stanza 1:

I heard the voice of Jesus calling;
here’s what he said to me:
If you don’t let me wash your feet,
I can’t your Savior be; no, I can’t your Savior be.

Subsequent stanzas have Jesus saying “All that you do for the least of these—that’s what you do to me”; If you have ears to hear, then hear; if you have eyes, then see”; “This is my body, given for you—why don’t you taste and see?” et cetera (there are seven total stanzas). Why these particular sayings were chosen is unclear to me. The song could be used as an offertory or elsewhere depending on the choice of stanzas.

Jesus’ Parables

I’m going to write another post on parable hymns once I start posting Naomi’s artwork from our parables class. We sang parable songs in that class (usually with guitar); most were either from Singing the New Testament or Selah Publishing’s And Jesus Said, a collection of 55 parable songs. Only four parable songs made it into Lift Up Your Hearts.

“The Kingdom of Our God Is Like” (LUYH #118/SNT #34) is based on the five parables from Matthew 13: the Hidden Treasure, Mustard Seed, Yeast, Pearl of Great Price and Net. The lyrics are by Christopher Webber. The tune (DOVE OF PEACE) is from Southern Harmony (1835).

“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” (LUYH #119/SNT #47) is a great African American spiritual based on an image from the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. I’m skeptical that our congregation could sing it in the style it should be.

“Far from Home We Run, Rebellious” (LUYH #122/SNT #40) is one of only two songs from And Jesus Said to be included in Lift Up Your Hearts, but with a different tune. The lyrics, by Herman Stuempfle, put the singer in the position of the prodigal son.

Far from home we run rebellious,
seeking cities bright with dreams
casting loose from love that claims us,
craving life that glitters, gleams.

And Jesus Said sets the song to RESTORATION. Singing the New Testament and Lift Up Your Hearts uses GOTT WILL’S MACHEN by Johann Ludwig Steiner (1723). Steiner’s minor mode melody is used for the first three stanzas, about the experience of the prodigal in rebellion. Norma de Waal Malefyt wrote a major alternative for the final three stanzas, about the father’s greeting. The final stanza (about “bread and wine for celebration” make this a fine communion song . It could also be used for our confession/assurance of pardon section.

“A Sower’s Seed Fell on a Path” (LUYH #124/SNT #33), also by Herman Stuempfle, has four stanzas for each of the four places the seed falls in the Parable of the Sower. It is set to MORNING SONG, the mostly commonly used tune (five times) in Lift Up Your Hearts. It would be good song for illumination before the message because of its refrain: “Lord, give us ears to hear your Word and hearts where seed can grow.”

Sermon on the Mount/Jesus’ “I Am” Statements

“Blest Are They” (LUYH #117/SNC #122/SNT #19) is David Haas’ versification of the beatitudes, which we were were familiar with from Sing! A New Creation. [Eight hymns by Haas are in Lift Up Your Hearts, including the short Psalm 27 song “The LORD Is My Light and My Salvation” (PFAS #885/PFAS #27H/SNC #206)]. A sample is here. This excellent humn could be used as a response to our confession/assurance section, among other place in the liturgy.

“Look and Learn” (LUYH #120/SNC #186/SNT #24/SWM #110), based on Matthew 6:23-24, is a Korean hymn by Nah Young-Soo, translated and adopted by John Bell for the Iona Community. A sample is here. This is another good song that could work as a response to our confession/pardon section. Here is the first stanza:

Look and learn from the birds of the air,
flying high above worry and fear;
neither sowing nor harvesting seed,
yet they’re given whatever they need.
If the God of earth and heaven
cares for birds as much as this,
won’t he care much more for you,
when you put your trust in him?

“Jesus the Lord Said, “I Am the Bread” (LUYH #125/SNC #121/SNT #27) is an Urdu hymn versifying Jesus’ seven “I am” statements in John. Giving a verse to each statements, it’s very repetitive. The tune is here.

Jesus’ Miracles

“Jesus Heard with Deep Compassion” (LUYH #127/SNC #124) has modern lyrics by Joy Patterson set to PLEADING SAVIOR from J. Leavitt’s Christian Lyre (1830) [the tune used for “As We Gather at Your Table” (SNC #245) in Sing! A New Creation]. Despite  the section’s title “Teaching and Miracles,” I believe this is the only one to focus on Jesus’ miracles. The first two stanzas address Jesus’ treatment of “outcasts, weak or sinful, scornful or poor.” The third calls for us to do the same. Here is the first stanza:

Jesus heard with deep compassion pleas for
healing, cries of pain;
cured the lame and cleansed the leper, gave the
blind their sight again.
At his voice, tormenting spirits fled a madman’s
tortured mind;
clothed and healed, he went rejoicing, home and
family to find.

Singing the New Testament includes 15 hymns in its Christ’s Miracles section, none of which I’ve heard of.

 Psalm 49

“Come, One and All” (LUYH #126/PFAS #49B)) is a Psalm 49 setting that is in this section of Lift Up Your Hearts for some reason. Because the title sounds like something Jesus would say? The tune, KIÚ-JĪ-IT, is a very catchy Asian melody; the performance notes recommend that it “should not be sung forcefully, but gently, as a wise bard sharing ancient proverbs.” The lyrics, by Martin Leckebusch, capture the main ideas of the psalm, which addresses the folly of those who put their trust in wealth, which can’t save them from death. Here is the first stanza:

Come, one and all, from near and far,
to share the insights I have found:
a heart which has been taught by faith
informs the wisdom I expound.

I like the song, but I’m not sure when we’d sing it. The Revised Common Lectionary assigns Psalm 49 only once, as part of the alternate stream in Year C. I suppose it could be a response to a message related to Jesus’ teaching on money.

Since it’s unlikely we’ll ever have full a class on Psalm 49, I’m going to use this occasion to do a brief overview of the other Psalm 49 settings in CRC hymnals.

“Let Not the Wise” (PFAS #49C) is the other hymn setting in Psalms for All Seasons. It consists of a short stanza (“Let not the wise glory in their wisdom. Let not the mighty glory in their might. Let not the rich glory in their riches, let those who glory, glory in the LORD.”) and two spoken parts, based on vv. 1-3 and vv. 10-12.

The PFAS responsorial is “Teach Us, Lord, the Measure of Our Days” (PFAS #49A).

The gray Psalter Hymnal’s Psalm 49 setting is “Listen, All People Who Live in This World” (PH87 #49), another original (non-rhyming) versification by Helen Otte. It is set to JULIUS. The earlier Psalter Hymnals have two settings from the 1912 Psalter: “Hear This, All Ye People, Hear” (PH57 #90/PH34 #96), set to FISK, and “Dust to Dust, the Mortal Dies” (PH57 #91/PH34 #97), set to WATCHMAN.

Psalm 149 Hymns

Psalm 149, like Psalms 45 and 17, turned up in a worship service I planned this summer (not as part of last year’s Psalms for All Seasons Sunday School class). The prayer book I use—Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer—has Psalm 149 one of the seven laudate psalms (145-150 with 147 split in half) assigned for each morning office so it feels to me like a stalwart psalm despite its rare appearance in the lectionary and in CRC hymnals.

Praise the Lord.
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
let the people of Zion be glad in their King.
Let them praise his name with dancing
and make music to him with timbrel and harp.

After the opening call the praise, this short psalm anticipates God’s victory over his enemies and calls for his people “to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples.” Psalms for All Seasons includes a long note (reprinted here) discussing the imprecatory nature of the psalm. It offers three interpretive options: (1) spiritualizing the warfare imagery; (2) “a prophetic call to ensure that every military action is done in light of and in praise for God’s longing for justice, peace, and reconciliation”; and (3) “an example of OT experience that is challenged by the NT’s call for peacemaking and reconciliation.”

The lectionary assigns Psalm 149 to a Sunday after Pentecost (Sept. 4-10, Year A) as a response to the institution of Passover (Exodus 12:1-14) and to All Saint’s Day (Year C) as a response to Daniel’s dream of four beasts (Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18).

The only Psalm 149 hymn in Psalms for All Seasons, Lift Up Your Hearts and the gray Psalter Hymnal is “Give Praise to Our God” (PFAS #149B/LUYH #566/PH87 #149/PH57 #306/PH34 #323).

The hymn appeared in the 1912 Psalter and first two Psalter Hymnals as “O Praise Ye the Lord.” The lyrics were revised for the gray Psalter Hymnal. The most interesting change is in the fourth stanza (covering vv. 6-9): “For this is His word:/His strength shall not fail,/But over the earth/Their power shall prevail” becomes “For this is God’s word:/the saints shall not fail,/but over the earth/the humble prevail.” Here’s the revised first stanza:

Give praise to our God, and sing a new song.
amid all the saints God’s praises prolong;
a song to your maker and ruler now raise,
all children of Zion, rejoice and give praise.

The 1912 Psalter set the hymn to HOUGHTON, the three Psalter Hymnals use HANOVER, and LUYH and PFAS use LAUDATE DOMINUM. (We sang it as an opening song to HANOVER-sound-alike LYONS [“O Worship the King”].)

The first two Psalter Hymnals also include another Psalm 149 hymn from the 1912 Psalter, “Ye Who His Temple Throng” (PH57 #306/PH34 #324), which has three stanzas covering verses 1-5.

Ye who his temple throng, Jehovah’s praise prolong, New anthems sing;
Ye saints, with joy declare Your Maker’s loving care, And let the children there Joy in their King.

The responsorial setting in Psalms for All Seasons is an abbreviated version of “Holy God, We Praise Your Name” (PFAS #149A), which is based on the Te Deum. [The full version is LUYH #540/PH87 #504.] The alternative is “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia” (PFAS #149A-alt).

(This is the 28th post in my continuing series on the Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class I co-teach with Andrew Friend. Each week we sing psalm settings from Psalms for All Seasons, Lift Up Your Hearts, and other CRC hymnals. Previous posts is the series focused on Psalm 121, Psalm 122Psalms 2/99Psalm 72Psalm 95Psalm 147,  Psalm 112,  Psalm 29,  Psalm 40Psalm 23Psalm 27Psalm 130Psalm 15Psalm 51,  Psalm 6Psalm 32,  Psalm 143,  Psalms 38/102Psalm 31Psalm 116Psalm 16Psalm 22Psalm 118Psalms 47/93Psalm 66Psalm 45, Psalm 104, and Psalm 17.)

Psalm 17 Hymns

Psalm 17 is another bonus Psalm. We didn’t cover it during our Psalms for All Seasons class, but I looked over the handful of Psalm 17 settings in CRC hymnals while planning last week’s service.

One thing I’m starting to pay more attention to is what Old Testament readings the Psalms are paired with. (The RCL selects the psalms as responses to the OT readings, which isn’t how we typical use them during our services.) Psalm 17 is a prayer for protection and vindication that ends with the psalmist’s belief that “I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.”

Last week (Year A, July 31-Aug. 6) Psalm 17 was paired with the weird and wonderful story of Jacob wrestling with God. (Says Jacob: “I saw God face to face and yet my life was spared.”) The other OT passage paired with Psalm 17 in the RCL ( Year C, Nov. 6-12, alternate stream) is Job 19:23-27a, which includes Job’s declaration that “I know that my redeemer lives… I myself will see him with my own eyes.”

The contemporary CRC hymnals include only two Psalm 17 hymns. “LORD, Listen to My Righteous Plea” (PFAS #17C/LUYH #888/PH87 #17) was versified for the gray Psalter Hymnal by Helen Otte and set to ROSALIE MCMILLAN. A sample is here.

The Psalter Hymnal version is a succinct versification of the entire Psalm. Here is stanza 1, which versifies vv. 1-5:

LORD, listen to my righteous plea;
you will not find deceit in me
as my prayers rise.
Examine me and probe my heart
to see that I have kept apart
from ways of sin.

The version of the hymn in Lift Up Your Hearts and Psalms for All Seasons is just three stanzas. The first and final stanzas are the same; the middle stanza combines the second half of the original stanza 2 with the first half of the original stanza 3. The lines about enemies pursuing the psalmist have been dropped.

The other Psalm 17 setting in PFAS is “Lord, Bend Your Ear” (PFAS #17B) by Jeffrey Honoré.  Here is a sample. The song, which is probably works better as a choral piece than a congregational hymn, is based on vv. 1, 8 & 15. According to the PFAS performance notes these are “the traditional verses recited in the service of night prayer. It is appropriate to sing and meditate on these verses at times when we must put our trust in God. In fact, each night when we go to sleep we place our lives in God’s care, confident that we will awaken in God’s presence, whether in this world or another.”

The PFAS responsorial setting, “Lord, Bend Your Ear” (PFAS #17A) uses the stanza (“Lord, bend your ear and hear my prayer”) of Honoré’s hymn.

The Psalm 17 setting in the red & blue Psalter Hymnals is “Lord, Hear the Right” (PH57 #24/PH34 #24), which appeared in the 1912 Psalter and is set to LONGFELLOW. Psalm 17 is another example of the creators of the gray Psalter Hymnal replacing a catchy psalm setting with an original one set to a more difficult tune. Here is the seventh and final stanza:

When I in righteousness at last
Thy glorious face shall see,
When all the weary night is past,
And I awake with Thee
To view the glories that abide,
Then, then I shall be satisfied.

(This is the 27th post in my continuing series on the Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class I co-teach with Andrew Friend. Each week we sing psalm settings from Psalms for All Seasons, Lift Up Your Hearts, and other CRC hymnals. Previous posts is the series focused on Psalm 121, Psalm 122Psalms 2/99Psalm 72Psalm 95Psalm 147,  Psalm 112,  Psalm 29,  Psalm 40Psalm 23Psalm 27Psalm 130Psalm 15Psalm 51,  Psalm 6Psalm 32,  Psalm 143,  Psalms 38/102Psalm 31Psalm 116Psalm 16Psalm 22Psalm 118Psalms 47/93Psalm 66Psalm 45, and Psalm 104.)

Psalm 104 Hymns

We looked at 34 psalms during this past year’s Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class. I’ve blogged about 28 of them so far. I hope to cover the remaining six before our next class starts this fall. I’m teaming up with Andrew Friend again to explore music in CRC hymnals. This time we plan on using some classes to look at psalms (as we did last year) and some to look at sections of Lift Up Your Hearts.

We covered Psalm 104 in class on April 27. Psalm 104 is song of praise for God’s creation and sustenance of the natural world. The lectionary assigns the second half of the psalm to Pentecost Sunday all three years.

Psalms for All Seasons includes five hymns based on Psalm 104, four of them using traditional hymn tunes.

“O Worship the King” (PFAS #104F/LUYH #2/PH87 #428/PH57 #315), by far the most well-known of the Psalm 104 hymns, is described by the Psalter Hymnal Handbook as “a meditation on the creation theme of Psalm 104. Stanzas 1-3, which allude to Psalm 104:1-6, focus on God’s creation as a testimony to his ‘measureless Might.’ More personal in tone, stanzas 4 and 5 confess the compassion of God toward his creatures and affirm with apocalyptic vision that the ‘ransomed creation, with glory ablaze’ will join with angels to hymn its praise to God.” The song, which is one of the perennial hymns that appear in all four main CRC hymnals, is set to LYONS.

“My Soul, Praise the LORD!” (PFAS #104E/PH87 #104/PH57 #206), set to the similar (to LYONS) sounding HANOVER, is a versification of the entire psalm that appeared (in some form) in three Psalter Hymnals but is not in Lift Up Your Hearts. [HANOVER is the tune of “You Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim” (LYUH #582/PH87 #477) and also an alternative tune for “O Worship the King.”]

The lyrics—twelve stanzas and a refrain—are derived from three songs in the 1912 Psalter: “My Soul, Bless the Lord” (#285), “He Waters the Hills” (#286) and “Thy Spirit, O Lord” (#287), each versifying part of the psalm for a total of 13 stanzas. The 1934 & 1957 Psalter Hymnals turned these 13 stanzas into two hymns of eight and seven stanzas (two stanzas are repeated). These hymns are “My Soul, Bless the Lord!” (which is set to HOUGHTON) (PH57 #206) and “The Seasons are Fixed by Wisdom Divine” (PH57 #207).

The gray Psalter Hymnal combines these two hymns into “Your Spirit, O Lord, Makes Life to Abound” (PH87 #104) (also set to HOUGHTON), moving the stanza based on vv. 30-31 to the beginning of the hymn (and suggesting it be repeated three times) but putting the others in order.

Psalms for All Seasons turns the “Your Spirit, O Lord…” stanza into the refrain of the song.  According to the performance notes: “This versification leaves nothing out. Groups of stanzas can be selected to create shorter hymns of praise for creation and God’s providential care. The optional refrain is inserted at several points to suggest stanza groupings. (When following the text of the psalm, the refrain text should come only after st. 10.) When preaching or teaching about creation, select stanzas that correspond to the particular facets of creation.”

Your Spirit, O LORD, makes life to abound.
The earth is renewed, and fruitful the ground.
To God be all glory and wisdom and might.
May God in his creatures forever delight.

“We Worship You, Whose Splendor Dwarfs the Cosmos” (PFAS #104C/LUYH #11) is set to TIDINGS with lyrics by Martin Leckebusch that, as the titles suggests, modernize some of the images from the psalm. Instead of setting the earth on its foundations, God “made the earth, determining its orbit.”

We worship you, whose splendor dwarfs the cosmos,
whose very clothes are robes of dazzling light;
on wind and cloud you ride across the heavens;
your word bids fiery angels soar in flight.
Lord, God, our voices gladly we raise,
joining creation’s unending hymn of praise.

[TIDINGS is also the tune for the perennial Psalm 103 setting, “O Come, My Soul, Sing Praise to God” (PFAS #103B/LUYH #672/PH87 #297/PH57 #204), but “O, Christians Haste” (PH87 #525), AKA “Publish Glad Tidings” is one of the notable mid-19th Century hymns not included in LUYH.]

“The Mountains Stand in Awe” (LUYH #104B) has lyrics by Ken Bible set to LEONI, tune of “The God of Abraham Praise” (LUYH #39/PH87 #621).

The mountains stand in awe.
The thunder speaks your name.
Creation waits to serve its God with wind and flame.
The heavens know your power.
None question what you do.
The oceans riot unrestrained but bow to you.

The fifth song in Psalms for All Seasons, “Send Forth Your Spirit, O Lord” (PFAS #104D), is a modern hymn with a short refrain based on verse 30 (“Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth” X 2) and three short stanzas based on vv. 1-2, v. 24 & vv. 27-28.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
wrapped in a garment of glory and might,
clothed in light as in a robe.

The responsorial settings in Psalms for All Seasons is “Lord, Send Out Your Spirit” (PFAS #104G), which is based on verse 30 and includes the text of vv. 1-9, 24-34 and 35b.

Psalms for All Seasons also includes “A Litany of Praise” (PFAS #104A) based on the psalm.

Although it isn’t designated as a Psalm 104 setting, David Haas’ hymn “Send Us Your Spirit” (LUYH #228/SNC #163) has a chorus derived from verse 30 (“Come, Lord Jesus, send us your Spirit; renew the face of the earth” X 2) with three stanzas that build on the theme of receiving God’s Spirit. The refrain is used in Sing! A New Creation as a responsorial setting (SNC #174). (We used this responsorial setting in our Pentecost service.)

The blue Psalter Hymnal includes three settings of Psalm 104, two of which were described above. The third is “O Lord, How Manifold the Works” (PH57 #208).

(This is the 26th post in my continuing series on the Psalms for All Seasons Sunday school class I co-teach with Andrew Friend. Each week we sing psalm settings from Psalms for All Seasons, Lift Up Your Hearts, and other CRC hymnals. Previous posts is the series focused on Psalm 121, Psalm 122Psalms 2/99Psalm 72Psalm 95Psalm 147,  Psalm 112,  Psalm 29,  Psalm 40Psalm 23Psalm 27Psalm 130Psalm 15Psalm 51,  Psalm 6Psalm 32,  Psalm 143,  Psalms 38/102Psalm 31Psalm 116Psalm 16Psalm 22Psalm 118Psalms 47/93Psalm 66, and Psalm 45.)

Minor Prophets Art: Zechariah

In Simply Jesus, N.T. Wright places Zechariah, one of three post-exilic minor prophets, with Isaiah and Daniel as the three books most important for Jesus as he worked out his vocation. Zechariah is the source of the oracle about a king arriving on a donkey (9:9-10) that Jesus enacted during the triumphal entry; that oracle is followed by a promise of the Lord coming to save his people (9:11-17) and warnings about false teachers.

“Putting together this strange, apparently jerky and disjointed set of oracles, we begin to see a pattern emerging,” writes Wright. “Israel’s exile is to be reversed under the rule of the anointed king, who will end up ruling the world world. The pagan nations will do their worst, but God himself will come to fight against them, but he will be king over all the earth.”

zechariah

The passages discussed by Wright are all from the second half of the book. The first half contains a series of visions, many of which Naomi used in her drawing. These include the man among the myrtle trees (1:7-17), the man with the measuring line (2:1-13), clean garments for Joshua the high priest (3:1-10), the gold lampstand and two olive trees (4:1-14), the flying scroll (5:1-11), and the four horses—red, black, white and dappled (6:1-8). These are mostly hopeful messages for the remnant living in Palestine.

The drawing is unfinished; I believe the space in the upper left was reserved for the prophet himself. As with all the other drawings in this series, Naomi drew it during our hour-long Sunday school class with input from class members.

This is the eighth (and penultimate) post of Naomi’s art from our Minor Prophets Sunday school class. Previous posts were on JonahAmosHoseaZephaniah and Nahum & ObadiahHabakkuk and Haggai. Naomi’s professional art is available at naomifriend.com

Minor Prophets Commentaries

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably thought about leading a minor prophets Sunday school class. If so, step one is finding an artist to create a series of minor prophets-themed pieces of art. Step two is getting some good commentaries. These are the four I used for my class.

The only commentary I bought myself, Exploring The Minor Prophets (1998) by John Phillips, was the weakest. (The remaining commentaries were all borrowed from my pastors.)  Philips has some useful things to say, but he interprets the books from a dispensationalist perspective. When you least expect it, he starts in on Russia and the anti-Christ. I don’t recommend it.

The Hebrew Prophets (1984) by James D. Newsome Jr. is  an excellent overview for a general audience of all the writing prophets (major and minor) albeit one with mainline assumptions about issues like authorship (with chapters on three Isaiahs and two Zechariahs).

Micah-Malachi (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 32) (1984) by Ralph L. Smith is another standout volume in the Word Biblical Commentary series, which is written from an evangelical perspective and at an academic-level. (I’ve read six volumes now. The two volumes on Genesis by Gordon Wenham were two of the best commentaries I’ve ever read. I also liked the three volumes on the Psalms, which I’ll review separately. On the other hand, Simon DeVries’ commentary on First Kings was a disappointment.) Each entry in one of these commentaries includes a bibliography, an original translation followed by translation notes, a discussion of “form/structure/context,” a “comment” discussing the passage verse by verse, and an “explanation” that gets right to the heart of the Scripture. Smith’s Micah-Malachi commentary was the most useful commentary for leading my class. If I taught the class again, I’d also get the Hosea-Jonah volume.

Minor Prophet Commentaries

Finally, I used The Minor Prophets: A Exegetical & Expository Commentary, an  insanely detailed, three-volume, 1,400-page commentary, written by nine authors and edited by Thomas Edward McComiskey. The series proved useful in class because it addresses just about any question about the text a class member could pose. On the other hand, it can be a tough read. The most annoying feature was that the entire thing is written in two parallel sections (exegesis & exposition) separated by a horizontal line running across each page (but at varying heights). The authors didn’t use these sections consistently. For some books, the top (exegesis) section is mostly over questions about the meaning of the Hebrew text and is best skipped by a lay reader. However, some of the authors included a lot of useful information there. The bottom (exposition) section read like other scholarly commentaries, but was much longer.