Joy Before Jesus’ Awesome Throne

Bob RoaneChurch History, Hymn Stories, Jesus Christ, Prayer, Praise, Worship

Stained glass

(Excerpt from teaching/training classes, used also in pastoral counseling and prison ministry)

Even as a baby, Christ was fully God and fully human in one person. The Bible teaches that and I believe it and rejoice in it. Christ is my only hope in this life and in the world to come! He is the Creator God and the Sovereign Lord of the Old Testament. At Christmas and all year long, let us never forget that Jesus is God.

Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon (1834–1892) once led a worship service with 8,000 people attending. After the opening prayer, Spurgeon read through an entire hymn, before it was sung, and he explained it as speaking about Jesus. Then, as the congregation sang: “A magnificent shout of praise went up. No one was silent. The massive rolling chorus rose up on every side. We never before realized what congregational singing might be. It was an uplifting of voice and heart that you hear seldom in a lifetime.”

Here are modified words to the hymn Spurgeon’s church sang:

1. Before Jesus’ awesome throne, All nations, bow with sacred joy;
Know that the Lord is God alone; He can create and He destroy.

2. His sovereign power, without our aid, Made us of dust, and formed us men;
And when like wandering sheep we strayed, He brought us to His fold again.

3. We are His people, we His care, Our souls and all our mortal frame;
What lasting honors shall we bring, Almighty Maker, to your name?

4. We’ll crowd your gates with thankful songs, High as the heavens our voices raise; And earth, with her ten thousand tongues, Shall fill your courts with sounding praise.

5. Wide as the world is your command, Vast as eternity your love;
Firm as a rock your truth must stand, When rolling years shall cease to move.

Isaac Watts (1674–1748) wrote this hymn, paraphrasing parts of Psalm 100. Watts called it, “Before Jehovah’s Awesome Throne.” Jehovah is a Latinization of the Hebrew name YHWH, God’s personal name in the Old Testament (see Exodus 3:14). It is one of the most famous verses in the Torah and means “I Am Who I Am” or “I Will Be Who I Will Be.” Jesus rightly claimed that Moses was writing about Him! (John 5:46-47) That means Christ is God!

Watts’ song praises Christ’s sovereign majesty and tender loving care. His mercy and His might. Jesus, God’s Son, is so glorious that He stirs us to loving, joyful awe and reverence. When I use this hymn in worship, teaching, and counseling, I substitute Jesus’ name for Jehovah, since Jesus is God.

This hymn reminds me of Dr. John Dempster (1794–1863) of Chicago. Dempster sailed with his wife and other missionaries to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Along the way, they were pursued for three days by a pirate vessel. They prayed, begging Christ to rescue them from. Perhaps they recalled Psalm 95 (verses 3-5):

For Jesus is the great God, the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the depths of the earth,
And the mountain peaks belong to Him.
The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.

On the third day, after prayer and singing Watts’ hymn, the pirate ship changed its course, letting them continue undisturbed to Argentina. This hymn encourages us to seek Christ’s divine providential deliverance from all kinds of danger and death. Prayer is the most practical thing in the universe. Prayer lays hold of Jesus and Jesus can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.

Because Christ is God and all-loving, He wants the best for His believers.
Because Christ is God and all-wise, He knows the best for us.
Because Christ is God and all-powerful, He does what is best for us.

Jesus is our God and King who brings us under His power, rules and defends us, and restrains and conquers all His and all our enemies! Christ hears us and helps us. What a Friend we have in Him.

Jesus, God’s Son, is with us to the end!