Liturgy Lesson: May 16, 2021
Call to Worship: Psalm 47
Prayer of Invocation
Hymn of Exaltation: Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power (#300)
Confession of Sin: Heb. 12:1-2 and Trisagion
Assurance of Pardon: Heb 1:3; Eph 2:4-7
Hymns of Assurance: Arise, My Soul, Arise; Great is Thy Faithfulness
Reading of the Word: Luke 24:50-53 (The Ascension)
Sermon: “The Person is the Hope,” Rev. Eric Irwin
Tithes and Offerings
The Lord’s Supper: Ancient of Days; Alleluia! Sing to Jesus (w/ “Worthy is the Lamb”)
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
– Revelation 5:13
Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power
Text: Horatius Bonar (1855)
Tune: Morecambe, Frederick C. Atkinson (1870)
Horatius Bonar (let’s call him HB) was born into a comfortable middle-class family in Edinburgh in 1808 and died there in 1889. His father was a solicitor (attorney), but the Bonar family line gave many ministers to the Presbyterian Church, including his older brother John James, and the better-known younger brother, Andrew.
HB (“Horace” to his friends) graduated from the University of Edinburgh, was an assistant minister in Leith (the city’s port), served faithfully from 1837 in the Scottish Borders town of Kelso, and then was called in 1866 to the new charge of Chalmers Memorial Church in Edinburgh (named after his great professor). Here he ministered until his death in 1889. He was 80 years old.
During his life he edited various Christian magazines, wrote many outstanding tracts (he had a great heart for pointing others to Christ), and a number of best-selling books (God’s Way of Peace and God’s Way of Holiness being perhaps the best-known; they are still in print today). In 1843, at The Disruption, he was one of more than 400 ministers who sacrificed their livings and manses in the Church of Scotland to form the Free Church of Scotland.
HB requested that no biography of him should be written (although he himself wrote two biographies of others), and those who knew him best honored his request. But there is so much that could be written about his faithfulness in ministry, his friendships, and his fruitfulness. He experienced deep wounds during his life in the loss of five children; occasionally he was caught up in sharp controversy—on one occasion over his support for D.L. Moody, on another over the use of hymns (rather than only psalms, and in some instances, paraphrases) in public worship.
HB holds claim to fourteen hymns that are included in our revised Trinity Hymnal. That is more than John Newton, William Cowper, Fanny Crosby, Frances Havergal, Philip Bliss, Reginald Heber, or James Montgomery. In fact, when looking at our hymnal index, one discovers that this beloved Scottish churchman and prodigious poet is only surpassed in volume by Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, John Mason Neale, and the ancient Latin poet Maximus Lyricus Anonymous. What is it about his writing that justifies such a lion’s share of real estate in our songbook? Well, perhaps the best way to answer that question is to give you one of his best samples.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
lay down, O weary one, lay down
your head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
weary and worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one,
stoop down and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“I am this dark world’s Light;
look unto me, your morn shall rise,
and all your days be bright.”
I looked to Jesus and I found
in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I’ll walk,
’til trav’ling days are done.
HB was a lifelong pastor who expressed himself in a beautiful economy of words that always gave a clear and impassioned articulation of the Gospel. His writing is simple, but never banal. His hymns always develop a theme, make personal application, and lift the soul in praise to God. His charisma and zeal for Christ was infectious for young people. Sinclair Ferguson said that HB had “poetry in his soul”.
It was originally for children that Horatius began writing hymns. In total, he wrote around 600, which, of course, are not all of equal merit. But since his time, most hymn books—where they are still in use today—include a number of his compositions. Bonar’s hymns are usually simple, but not simplistic; poetic and yet clearly theological; and the best of them focus on the person of the Lord Jesus, his atoning work, coming to him in faith, living unreservedly for him, and anticipating future glory. In these hymns, the heart of the gospel is always found in Jesus Christ, at the cross, in substitutionary atonement. For him—as for Paul—this was a personal work of Christ, accomplished in love for us, on our behalf and in our place (“The Son of God…loved me and gave himself for me,” Galatians 2:20). And while he wanted to express all this simply and memorably for young people, he did so in such a way that the oldest and most mature are deeply moved by the profundity of it all.
I love the description that Ferguson gives of HB’s hymn writing. He goes on to say that in his hymns we find…
“…the marriage of logos (powerful biblical reasoning), with ethos (a life integrated with and illustrating the fruit of that biblical reasoning), bound up with pathos (the expression of affections and emotions that match and express the truth that is being proclaimed).”
Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Sounds like the three musketeers. Put simply, it is head, hands, and heart. Doctrine, Discipline, and Devotion. The integration of truth, goodness, and beauty. One of the best examples of this union is found in HB’s great hymn “Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power”. The title is taken from Revelation 5:13, and the hymn text invites us to enter that rapturous scene around the heavenly throne. The poetry puts that eschatological hymn on our lips and rightly places us (the congregation) in the midst of “myriads and myriads” of angels as we enter the ever-broadening circle where “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them” are praising the Lamb who was slain.
Blessing and honor and glory and pow’r,
wisdom and riches and strength evermore
give ye to him who our battle hath won,
whose are the kingdom, the crown, and the throne.
Soundeth the heav’n of the heav’ns with his name;
ringeth the earth with his glory and fame;
ocean and mountain, stream, forest, and flow’r
echo his praises and tell of his pow’r.
Ever ascendeth the song and the joy;
ever descendeth the love from on high;
blessing and honor and glory and praise-—
this is the theme of the hymns that we raise.
Give we the glory and praise to the Lamb;
take we the robe and the harp and the palm;
sing we the song of the Lamb that was slain,
dying in weakness, but rising to reign.
What a beautiful vision HB has affirmed for us. These four verses remind us that our earthly voices join the ongoing heavenly chorus. On Sunday mornings we hear dimly, but soon we will sing face to face. Now we know in part; then we shall know fully.
For over a year we have sung through masks. Someday soon we can all breathe a maskless sigh of relief that we are returning to a sense of normalcy. But the best news of all?
When one turns to the Lord, the veil (mask) is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled (unmasked) face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:16-18)
As we sing this hymn, may the Lord illumine our hearts with His glory through the power of His Spirit. May he grant that the veil be lifted. May we behold the beautiful Christ, high and lifted up. Let us gaze upon him and ready ourselves. He has unimaginably glorious music in store for us.
– Piano accompaniment (for at-home singing)
Ancient of Days
Words and Music by Jonny Robinson, Rich Thompson, Michael Farren, and Jesse Reeves, 2018
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man,
and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,
and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
– Daniel 7:13-14
This is a new hymn from the Australian songwriting team at CityAlight (“Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me,” “Christ is Mine Forevermore”). Here are some great thoughts about this song from Jon Gilmore at ABECF Ministries:
“We know from Genesis 1 that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” From the outset of Scripture we discover that there is One who stands outside of time and matter. He predates dates. He preexists the existential. He stands apart from all that is because He IS (Exodus 3:14, John 8:58).
Trying to wrap our heads around that astounding truth is an important part of what drives the Christian to worship. The prophet Daniel, when given a vision of the ‘Ancient of Days’ could barely hold his faculties together (Daniel 7:15, 28). Encountering the eternal would truly be a terrifying and awe-inspiring experience.
That is why this unique title for God—Ancient of Days—is so important to remember and repeat in our worship. Though God is wholly other than His creation, He is not distant from it. He actively and entirely controls it. Everything that has issued forth from Him belongs to Him and is controlled by Him. This means space, matter, time — everything! — is under His authority. He rules all, and all follows His sovereign will.
CityAlight has composed another biblically-rich hymn to aid in the church’s worship of the Ancient of Days. Drawing on the themes of God’s rule and reign over His creation, these verses point the worshiper to the One who in love has orchestrated a plan to redeem a fallen world and restore His creation. Whom Daniel sees as the Son of Man we recognize as God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. By His death and resurrection He has earned the glory and kingdom of His Father and sits enthroned alongside the Ancient of Days until all is finally fulfilled.
It is almost too much to imagine, the day in which all God’s redeemed will finally enter the throne room together to stand before the Ancient of Days. What awe! What fullness of joy! What wonder and worship will be ours when we finally touch the eternal and experience Him fully! But in the meantime, He is not far from us. As we join together to sing His praise and to repeat His promise to us, we can begin now what will continue into eternity.”
This wonderful new hymn is laden with scripture references. Below are the lyrics alongside the scriptures that inspired them. May you be blessed by this wonderful new addition to the contemporary canon of biblical song.
Though the nations rage, kingdoms rise and fall (Acts 4:24-26)
There is still one King reigning over all (Psalm 103:19)
So I will not fear, for this truth remains (Isaiah 43:1, John 16:33)
That my God is the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9, 7:13, 7:22)
None above Him, none before Him (Deut. 32:39, Isaiah 44:6)
All of time in His hands (Genesis 1:3-5, Psalm 90:4, Ecc. 3)
For His throne it shall remain and ever stand (Psalm 102:12, 2 Sam. 7:16)
All the power, all the glory (Jude 1:25, Rev. 4:11)
I will trust in His name (Psalm 33:21, 91:14-16)
For my God is the Ancient of Days
Though the dread of night overwhelms my soul (Psalm 91:5, 23:4)
He is here with me, I am not alone (Psalm 145:18, 34:18)
O His love is sure and He knows my name (Lam. 3:22, Isaiah 43:1)
For my God is the Ancient of Days
Though I may not see what the future brings (Ecc. 8:7)
I will watch and wait for the Savior King (Psalm 130:5-6, Rom. 8:23, Phil 3:20)
Then my joy complete, standing face to face (John 15:11, Psalm 16:11, 1 Cor. 13:12, 1 John 3:2)
In the presence of the Ancient of Days (Rev. 22:3-4)