He Bore Our Griefs – J. Revius (1586-1658)

JRevius-dutch-poetAs we mark National Poetry month (April) and Good Friday this week, we may well ponder this poem by Dutch Calvinist Jacobus Revius (1586-1658), “a Protestant Baroque poet of the Netherlands.” The title is “He Bore Our Griefs” and is based on Isaiah 53.

No, it was not the Jews who crucified,
Nor who, Lord Jesus, spat into your face,
Nor who betrayed you in the judgment place,
Nor who with buffets struck you as you died.

No, it was not the soldiers fisted bold
Who lifted up the hammer and the nail,
Or raised the cross on Calvary’s cursed hill,
Or cast the dice to win your seamless robe.

I am the one, O Lord, who brought you there,
I am the heavy cross you had to bear,
I am the rope that bound you to the tree,

The whip, the nail, the hammer, and the spear,
The bloody, thorny crown you had to wear:
It was my sin, O Lord, it was for me.

by Jacobus Revius (Translated by Henrietta ten Harmsel)

This poem can be found in multiple places in print and online. It was published in The Reformed Journal, as well as in Leland Ryken’s collection of poems, titled The Soul in Paraphrase: A Treasury of Classic Devotional Poems (Crossway, 2018). At that link you may also find Ryken’s helpful commentary on this poem, which includes these words:

The poem is a confession of guilt addressed directly to Christ in a prayer-like stance. …Jesus’ death was an atoning substitutionary death for sinners, so that every sinner for whom Christ died can be said to be the one who killed him. In this poem, Revius does what his contemporary Dutch artist Rembrandt did when he painted himself at the foot of the cross as Christ is raised on it (in Raising of the Cross).

Below is an image of the original poem in Dutch.

Revius-poem-he-bore-our-griefs-Dutch

Published in: on April 17, 2019 at 11:03 PM  Leave a Comment  

Christmas Eve 2018 in Poetry and Song

On this Christmas Eve 2018 we share a couple of edifying items – one a classic Christmas poem and the other a beautiful choral piece we heard in a program recently. The latter is not strictly speaking a Christmas song and, yet, is certainly appropriate for the gospel of Christmas. The lyrics really point us to the second coming of our Lord, and from our perspective as NT Christians that is now our hope and prayer.

First, then, is this classic Christmas poem, penned by Welsh poet Henry Vaughn (1621-1695) and titled “Christ’s Nativity.” It may take you a few times to go through to get the sense, due to the seventeenth-century-style English, but the poem is a powerful tribute of praise to the Christ of Bethlehem and to the power of His person as the Savior.

Awake, glad heart! get up and sing!
It is the birth-day of thy King.
Awake! awake!
The Sun doth shake
Light from his locks, and all the way
Breathing perfumes, doth spice the day.
Awake, awake! hark how th’ wood rings;
Winds whisper, and the busy springs
A concert make;
Awake! awake!
Man is their high-priest, and should rise
To offer up the sacrifice.
I would I were some bird, or star,
Flutt’ring in woods, or lifted far
Above this inn
And road of sin!
Then either star or bird should be
Shining or singing still to thee.
I would I had in my best part
Fit rooms for thee! or that my heart
Were so clean as
Thy manger was!
But I am all filth, and obscene;
Yet, if thou wilt, thou canst make clean.
Sweet Jesu! will then. Let no more
This leper haunt and soil thy door!
Cure him, ease him,
O release him!
And let once more, by mystic birth,
The Lord of life be born in earth.

Secondly, the song we wish to feature is “E’en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” and was written by Paul Manz (a Lutheran). The lyrics go like this (and to learn more about the context in which it was written, visit the link provided):

Peace be to you and grace from him
Who freed us from our sins,
Who loved us all and shed his blood
That we might saved be.

Sing holy, holy to our Lord,
The Lord, Almighty God,
Who was and is and is to come;
Sing holy, holy, Lord!

Rejoice in heaven, all ye that dwell therein,
Rejoice on earth, ye saints below,
For Christ is coming, is coming soon!

E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come,
And night shall be no more;
they need no light nor lamp nor sun,
For Christ will be their all.

This is a glorious performance of it I found on YouTube – by a famed British Boys Choir! Rejoice in Jesus’ second coming, even as we celebrate His first!

Published in: on December 24, 2018 at 5:59 AM  Leave a Comment  

Christian Poems: “Triune Comfort” and “The Christian’s Rest”

Earlier today I was thumbing through a book of Christian poetry by local poet Nancy Moelker (Jenison, MI).

In-Gods-arms-Moelker

Her poems breathe biblical and Reformed themes: sovereignty of God, salvation in Christ alone, sovereign grace, the comfort and hope of the gospel, and more. I referenced one of her special poems before – on Q&A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism – titled “My Only Comfort.”

Tonight I give you a few more, in part because April is National Poetry month, but mostly because Moelker’s poems feed the soul and make for good preparation for the Lord’s Day.

Triune Comfort

When all around me dark thunderclouds roll,
Deep, deep inside there’s no fear in my soul,
For God, my Father, has all in control –
My Father: Creator and King.

The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. Psalm 103:19

Though in my heart I still see so much sin,
I know that Jesus is dwelling within,
And I’m washed whiter than new snow in Him –
My Jesus: Redeemer and Lord.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1

Though doubts and trials seem never to cease,
Sweet Holy Spirit brings comfort and peace,
Giving my spirit a blessed release –
My Comforter, living within.

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. Romans 8:16

O Triune God, throned on Thy mercy seat –
Holy, thrice Holy! I bow at Thy feet.
O how I thank Thee for Thy work complete –
My Father! My Savior! My Peace!

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. Revelation 4:8d

The Christian’s Rest

Resting in the arms of God –
Oh, what joy divine,
Just to know that I am His
And He is mine!

Resting in the arms of God,
I’ve no cause for fear.
Satan may assail me,
But my sovereign God is near.

Resting in the arms of God,
Submissive to His will,
Knowing He’ll work good for me
Through times of good or ill.

Resting in the arms of God,
Doubts and strivings cease.
Christ is all my righteousness,
And I have perfect peace.

Resting in the arms of God
Through life’s pilgrim way,
Trusting in His promises,
He leads me day by day.

Resting in the arms of God
At my final breath –
Christ has won the victory!
“Where’s thy sting, O death?”

Resting in the arms of God,
Heaven’s gates unfold.
Forever with my Savior
I’ll have joy and peace untold!

Resting in the arms of God –
Oh, what joy divine,
Just to know that I am His
And He is mine!

The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1,2

In-Gods-arms-MoelkerTaken from Nancy Moelker’s collection of poems published under the title In God’s Arms: Inspirational Poems for the Christian Soul (Golden Apple Greetings, 2012).

Reading the Christian Classics: Milton’s Epic Poem – L. Ryken

GuidetoClassics-LRykenOver the last few years we have been working our way slowly through Leland Ryken’s recent book, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015). Of late, we have been in chapters 7 and 8 where the author treats the great classics of literature that may be identified as Christian.

Having completed our look at Ryken’s thoughts in chap.7, we turn to some of his thoughts in chap.8. Here he continues to consider various categories of Christian literature, including one that he classifies as “the Christianized secular text.” This is how he explains it with a true Christian classic – Milton’s Paradise Lost:

…There are some Christian classics that were intended by their authors to serve the polemical or argumentative purpose of refuting a non-Christian tradition. The technical term for this is intertext – a situation in which a work is designed as an interaction with an already-existing text or body of literature in such a way that the meaning of the enterprise can be viewed as existing between the two texts. The dialogue or refutation is an important part of the meaning.

Milton’s Paradise Lost is the best example. Milton participated in a tradition that began relatively early in the Middle Ages to determine how the Christian faith related to the classical tradition in which the authors and readers had been educated. There is evidence within Paradise Lost that Milton intended his epic to refute the epic tradition that he inherited, not at the level of epic form but at the level of ideas and values.

paradise lost-milton

That last point Ryken explains and develops further in the next paragraphs:

The classical epic tradition was humanistic in orientation. Its heroes were not irreligious, nor were the gods absent from the action, but the heroes achieved their feats mainly through human self-reliance. The goals that these heroes pursued were earthly fame, success, and empire. The epic feat was winning a battle, and it was axiomatic in this tradition that the crucial events of history happened on the battlefield.

Milton introduces aspects of this into his poem only to expose their deficiency. For example, he introduces a boastful warrior – Satan – only to show how evil he is. Overall, Milton’s anti-epic strategy… consisted of replacing the epic hero with the Christian saint as hero, and replacing military values with pastoral and domestic values. Milton made the garden rather than the battlefield the scene of his epic feat. And what is that feat? Eating an apple – not an act of glory but of shame, thereby exploding classical and humanistic illusions of human greatness. The setting for the epic feat was not the battlefield but the human soul, and it was not a physical act but a spiritual one.

And so Ryken finishes this point with these thoughts:

Epics always represent the author’s verdict on what constitutes heroic (exemplary) action. Homer assumed that human self-exertion and earthly success constitute heroic action. Milton’s version of heroic action is seen in Adam and Eve’s virtuous life in Paradise and consists of devotion to God, perfect married companionship, harmony with nature, contentedness, and living the simple life. These virtues are virtually the opposite of the virtues of classical epic [pp.74-76].

A Hymn for Christmas Day

A Hymn For Christmas Day

Almighty Framer of the Skies!
O let our pure devotion rise,
Like Incense in thy Sight!
Wrapt in impenetrable Shade
The Texture of our Souls were made
Till thy Command gave light.
The Sun of Glory gleam’d the Ray,
Refin’d the Darkness into Day,
And bid the Vapours fly;
Impell’d by his eternal Love
He left his Palaces above
To cheer our gloomy Sky.

How shall we celebrate the day,
When God appeared in mortal clay,
The mark of worldly scorn;
When the Archangel’s heavenly Lays,
Attempted the Redeemer’s Praise
And hail’d Salvation’s Morn!

A Humble Form the Godhead wore,
The Pains of Poverty he bore,
To gaudy Pomp unknown;
Tho’ in a human walk he trod
Still was the Man Almighty God
In Glory all his own.

Despis’d, oppress’d, the Godhead bears
The Torments of this Vale of tears;
Nor bade his Vengeance rise;
He saw the Creatures he had made,
Revile his Power, his Peace invade;
He saw with Mercy’s Eyes.

How shall we celebrate his Name,
Who groan’d beneath a Life of shame
In all Afflictions tried!
The Soul is raptured to concieve
A Truth, which Being must believe,
The God Eternal died.

My Soul exert thy Powers, adore,
Upon Devotion’s plumage sar
To celebrate the Day;
The God from whom Creation sprung
Shall animate my grateful Tongue;
From him I’ll catch the Lay!

Thomas Chatterton, 1752-1770 (This amazing poem was written when Thomas was but eleven years old.)
Published in: on December 20, 2017 at 11:13 PM  Leave a Comment  

Thanksgiving – Thelma Westra

Thanksgiving

I thank the Lord for countless blessings daily sent;
For circumstances notwithstanding, making me content;
For gifts of health, but also gifts of death and pain,
For pleasant sunny days, but also icy wind and rain,
For warmth and shelter, clothing, and for food in vast supply;
For mountain lake, the flow’ring tree, the butterfly.
For loving family, with joyful celebrations,
Who also share my griefs with me, and tribulations.
For scores of friends, who in my need are glad to give;
For opportunities to serve when others too need help to live.
Yet most of all, I thank my heavenly Father for His love
In sending One, His own begotten Son, from heaven above
To suffer and to die to make me free from every sin,
And give me peace and joy, and knowledge that within
The trials sent, His love for me is ever shining through.
His everlasting arms around me strengthen and renew.
And when I give Him thanks, He shows to me by divine grace
That He has placed thanksgiving in my heart – ’tis His, not mine!

PoemsofPraise-TWestra“Thanksgiving” is the opening poem in Mrs. Thelma Westra’s collection of poems, Poems of Praise (self-published). Mrs. Westra is a godly widow and fellow church member at Faith PRC in Jenison, MI. She has been writing beautiful poems of faith and hope for many years, including for our monthly church newsletter.

Published in: on November 22, 2017 at 10:43 PM  Leave a Comment  

A Godly Mother

Mothersday2011

A Godly Mother

A special gift that God prepared for me –
‘Twas given me ere I saw the light of day;
This gift was someone specially prepared
To guide my footsteps in His holy way.

Day after day she cared for me and taught
Not just the skills I’d need for daily living;
She taught me first of all to seek His face
In joy and sorrow, working, playing, giving.

She held before me God’s own word, that it
Could be a light upon my pathway ever.
She helped me learn to sing Jehovah’s praise,
And told me of the love that naught can sever.

She taught me to confess my sins, and seek
to flee from evil thoughts and words and deeds,
To follow righteousness; stand firmly in the faith;
Turn from the wrong and follow where He leads.

So through the years, her godly walk has been
A source of strength – a life to emulate.
I thank the Lord for His gift of a mother
Who taught me reverence for His name so great.

A Mother’s Day poem written by Mrs. Thelma Westra, a fellow church member at Faith PRC. They may be found in her  collection of Christian poetry titled Poems of Praise (self-published), p.44.

Today may we rise up and call our godly mothers blessed, even as we bless the God who gave them to us (Prov.31:28). I am thankful for my own godly mother, for the godly mother of our children (my wife), and for her godly mother. You are truly beautiful women and your price is “far above rubies” (v.10). May you hear God’s honor and praise through us and your children today.

For another encouraging word to godly mothers and women in Israel, read Rev. Josh Engelsma’s post on the RFPA blog yesterday. Here’s the first part of it; find the rest at the link above.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. The stores are stocked with “World’s #1 Mom” cards. The greenhouses are filled with husbands and children picking out hanging baskets and flower pots. Mothers and grandmothers everywhere are receiving hugs and text messages of thanks.

They are not likely to be forgotten.

And this is perfectly appropriate. For many of us we have had faithful, loving mothers. We are appreciative of their devotion, hard work, and self-sacrifice, and we want them to know it.

But there are some for whom this day is not one of rejoicing. Rather it’s a day of sadness. It’s a day in which they hold their pain close and pretend like everything is alright. It’s a day they wish would be over again for another year.

Sadly, these women are likely to be forgotten.

They might be forgotten because we don’t know about their struggle. It’s too private, too personal, and they aren’t ready to share it. They also might be forgotten simply because, well, we forgot. We didn’t stop to think about what they’re going through.

But they’re there. They’re present among us, shouldering silently a heavy burden.

Good Friday Poems 2017

Good Friday-1On this day the Christian church commemorates the death of the Son of God in the place of His sinful people on Calvary’s hill, we give you a couple of poems for your meditation on the wonder of the cross of Jesus Christ (and April is National Poetry month).

The first is from one of my favorites, Augustus M. Toplady (1740-1778), an Anglican divine and ardent Calvinist. He is the author of many precious poems, many of which have become well-known musical hymns (“Rock of Ages, etc.).

The following poem is taken from a small collection of his titled Hymns and Poems (Cross Publishing, 1971), the poem itself bearing the title “Refuge in the Righteousness of Christ.” You will readily see why it is appropriate for Good Friday.

    1   From thy supreme tribunal, Lord,
Where justice sits severe,
I to thy mercy seat appeal,
And beg forgiveness there.
      2      Tho’ I have sinned before the throne,
My advocate I see:
Jesus, be thou my Judge, and let
My sentence come from thee.
    3      Lo, weary to thy cross I fly,
There let me shelter find:
Lord, when thou callest thy ransomed home,
O leave me not behind!
     4      I joyfully embrace thy love
To fallen man revealed;
My hope of glory, dearest Lord,
On thee alone I build.
     5      The law was satisfied by him
Who flesh for me was made:
Its penalty he underwent,
Its precepts he obeyed.
    6      Desert and all self-righteousness
I utterly forego;
My robe of everlasting bliss,
My wedding garment thou!
        7      The spotless Savior lived for me,
And died upon the Mount:
Th’ obedience of his life and death
Is placed to my account.
   8      Canst thou forget that awful hour,
That sad, tremendous scene,
When thy dear blood on Calvary
Flowed out at every vein?
       9      No, Savior, no; thy wounds are fresh,
Even now they intercede;
Still, in effect, for guilty man
Incessantly they bleed.
   10      Thine ears of mercy still attend
A contrite sinner’s cries,
A broken heart, that groans for God,
Thou never wilt despise.
     11      O love incomprehensible,
That made thee bleed for me!
The Judge of all hath suffered death
To set his prisoner free!

The second poem is by a fellow church member at Faith PRC, Mrs. Thelma Westra. It is taken from her collection of poems published as Poems of Praise and is titled “On Calvary.”

Come with me to Calvary
To see the Suffering One.
He willingly submits Himself –
Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

His pain and anguish, so intense;
Alone He bears God’s wrath;
Forsaken, though He’s done no wrong,
He walks God’s chosen path.

It is for you and me He hangs
In utmost agony;
Atoning with each drop of blood,
From sin to set us free.

The seal of God’s approval
On the sacrifice thus made
Is the glorious resurrection,
Signaling the debt is paid.

Jesus conquered over death,
The vict’ry is complete;
Eternal life for us He won;
Come, worship at His feet.

Before the Paling of the Stars – C. Rossetti

Before the paling of the stars,
Before the winter morn,
Before the earliest cock crow,
Jesus Christ was born:

Born in a stable,
Cradled in a manger,
In the world his hands had made
Born a stranger.

Priest and king lay fast asleep
In Jerusalem;
Young and old lay fast asleep
In crowded Bethlehem;

Saint and angel, ox and ass,
Kept a watch together
Before the Christmas daybreak
In the winter weather.

Jesus on his mother’s breast
In the stable cold,
Spotless lamb of God was he,
Shepherd of the fold:

Let us kneel with Mary maid,
With Joseph bent and hoary,
With saint and angel, ox and ass,
To hail the King of Glory.

~ Christina Rossetti, a 19th century English poet born of Italian parents (1830-1894).

This nativity poem may be found in The Poetical Works of Christina Georgina Rossetti, with a Memoir and Notes by William Michael Rossetti (1904), Page 217. Mr. Rossetti noted at page 474: “This was in the Lyra Messianica, 1865, named simply Before the paling of the stars. I retain my sister’s own title.”

This poem has also been set to music, a performance of which may be heard below.

Published in: on December 24, 2016 at 6:53 PM  Leave a Comment  

Zion’s Blessedness in the Covenant of Grace – John Newton

IsaacNewtonOn Sunday, April 30, 1775, John Newton preached a sermon on 2 Samuel 23:5. on God’s covenant of grace with His people in Christ Jesus. In the evening he continued his sermon on this passage and also tied it to a hymn he had written on the glory of Zion, God’s church.

On this second Lord’s Day in September – also the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 (Sept.11, 2001 – Sept.11, 2016) – he has good words for us to consider, both in sermon and in hymn.

This is part of what he had to say in his sermon:

… we can promise or perform nothing. Therefore it is called a covenant of grace… This covenant of grace was established with and in our Lord Jesus Christ… making atonement for transgression with his own blood.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but they have a sure refuge and strong consolations provided in the covenant of grace. This secures them so that their enemies have no reason to rejoice over them. When they seem to fall they shall rise again. This is a balance to all their sufferings.
Believers – rejoice in this Covenant. Walk about this Sion, consider her foundations and all the towers thereof and mark well the bulwark. See how it is fixed upon an immoveable rock, guarded by almighty power, encompassed with infinite love, and enriched with all desirable blessings, and then with a holy indifference to all the trials of the present hour, rejoice and say, Although my house be not so with God, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered and sure, etc.

During the evening service of that date, Newton tied his sermon to this hymn he had written based on Isaiah 33:20-21. We know it as “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” It is from Book 1 of the “Olney Hymns.”

Zion, or the city of God

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for his own abode:
On the rock of ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

See! the streams of living waters
Springing from eternal love;
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove:
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
Never fails from age to age.

Round each habitation hovering,
See the cloud and fire appear!
For a glory and a covering,
Showing that the Lord is near:
Thus deriving from their banner
Light by night, and shade by day;
Safe they feed upon the manna
Which he gives them when they pray.

Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God:
‘Tis his love his people raises
Over self to reign as kings,
And as priests, his solemn praises
Each for a thank-offering brings.

Saviour, if of Zion’s city
I through grace a member am;
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name:
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure,
None but Zion’s children know.