Archive for April 6th, 2007

For the past two or three weeks I’ve really grown fond of the hymn:
It Is Well With My Soul.

Here are the lyrics:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Some contemporary worship starts off joyful but when I occasionally don’t feel joyful. In contrast this song, by reflecting on theology, and using vivid imagery can bring tears to my eye because of the meditation on ideas so powerful and moving: My salvation and Christ’s Return.

The first stanza really sets the stage that all may not be going well in life saying, “When sorrows like sea bellows roar.” The length and emphasis on the word, “roar” causes you to hear the storm, making the singer/reader feel like a boat on stormy waters with thunder and waves crashing into the boat, over the rails, and seemingly on the verge of sinking the ship. It really contrasts with the first verse, “when peace like a river attendeth my way.” For in the first verse peace sounds calming, like the constant soft trickling of water on rocks- sort of like the trickle of a water filter creating bubbles in a fish tank.

And I love how the stanza ends with the phrase, “Whatever my lot, you have taught me to say,” really emphasizing that regardless of the situation, God teaches to consider Christ crucified so that you will say, “It is well, it is well, with my soul.” The repetition of “it is well” really emphasizes what one ought to be thinking and meditating on during trials and tribulations.

In the second stanza, the phrase, “Though Satan should buffet”, continuing to use the ocean in a storm metaphor the lyrics emphasize the idea that the wind is striking repeatedly and forcefully– the idea of being battered around, or “tossed to and fro” like in Ephesians 4:14. The second stanza reminds one that Christ died for us, bringing to mind many aspects of Romans:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Ro 5:6-11

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Ro 8:31-32

In the next stanza, notice how the 3rd stanza shifts from thinking about one’s own personal troubles and shifts the focus to God, I love how the hymn as a whole is working up in fervor and building on each joyful meditation on the precious doctrines that give us peace and joy. The 3rd stanza move now to Christ’s complete atonement. I actually didn’t know what verses supported the verse, “My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more” but I think this scripture is similar in Hebrews 10 is similar:

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
Hebrews 10:10-14

And finally the 3rd stanza ends with a celebratory tone loudly reminding oneself whom has forgotten to “Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

The epitome of emotions and theological depth, concludes boldly in the 4th stanza: Christ’s return!

The verse, “And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,” refers not to suicide but to seeing Jesus. “When my faith shall be sight,” is playful use of 2 Cor 5:

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”
2 Cor 5:6-8

However this last stanza not only brings to mind scripture, but also vivid imagery of Christ’s return- giving one the sense of awe and majesty of his return with the phrase, “The clouds be rolled back as a scroll.” Our church has been going through Revelations, so I immediately think of Revelations 6 whenever I hear the lyrics:

“The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.”
Rev 6:14

The context may refer to the stars striking the earth not Christ’s return, but its the imagery that comes to mind when thinking of the clouds being “rolled back as a scroll.” Perhaps Rev 6:14 may be appropriate because the context of the following verse, “The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.” The verse uses the phrase, “even so,” seeming to offer reassurance to the one who is afraid.

Plus, the fear and reverence at Christ’s return is biblical:

“Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
Rev 6:16-17

Lastly this majestic stanza not only piles a multitude of scripture and theology, not only imagery of clouds being rolled back, but sound: “The trump shall resound”, and finally the image of the Lord descending to earth in Mark 13:

“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”
Mark 13:24-2

The combination of sound of the trumpet, the majesty of the sky being rolled back, and the image of Jesus descending on a cloud is what usually brings one to tears of joy.The story explained a lot about the lyrics as well:

Words by Horatio G. Spafford, 1873
– Music by Philip P. Bliss, 1876

The words to this hymn was written after two major traumas in Spafford’s life. The first was the Great Chicago Fire of October 1871, which ruined him financially. Shortly after, while crossing the Atlantic, all four of Spafford’s daughters died in a collision with another ship. Spafford’s wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram: “SAVED ALONE.” Several weeks later, as Spafford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daughters died, he was inspired to write these words.

Bliss originally named the tune “Ville de Havre” after the ship on which Spafford’s four girls perished, the SS Ville de Havre. Ironically, Bliss himself died in a tragic train wreck shortly after writing this music.

Read Full Post »