A Look Behind the Hymns
As a follow-up to last week’s article, I share with you background information that gave rise to some of the hymns that are significant and rich in meaning. Also, after next week, I will share with you some of the feedback from last week and this week’s updates. Hopefully, you will find the information informative.
We Have This Hope
“We Have This Hope” (#214) was published in response to a request that Wayne Hooper write a theme song for the 1962 General Conference Session in San Francisco. Hooper, a member of the King’s Herald Quartet for the Voice of Prophecy Radio Broadcast, started thinking about the motto that had been chosen, “We Have This Hope.” Accordingly, he prayed to the Lord seeking to write something useful and that the Holy Spirit would impress his mind with the right combination of words and music that would be a blessing at the General Conference Session. In just a matter of half an hour, Hooper “had all the words and most of the music.” The transition section came about a week later. Needless to say, this musical piece, with its rich music and theologically sound lyrics, blessed the 1962 General Conference Session, and has been used as a theme song for several sessions since that time. Today, we continue to use this hymn, as it reawakens and reaffirms the blessed hope of our Lord’s return.
I Saw One Weary
Secondly, I proffer the hymn “How far From Home” (#441), written by another Adventist author, Annie Rebekah Smith, the only daughter of Samuel and Rebekah Spalding Smith, born at West Wilton, New Hampshire, on March 16, 1828. Annie joined the Baptist church in 1838 and became a follower of William Miller, but after the disappointment of October 1844, she lost interest in the doctrine of the Second Advent of Christ. She trained to be a teacher, later specialized in painting; and in 1851, at the request of her mother, she attended a meeting conducted by Joseph Bates. It was during that meeting she decided to join the Sabbath keeping Adventists and devoted her poetic talent to writing for the church paper, The Review and Herald. It was also during this time that she wrote numerous hymns that made a permanent impression on the early believers in the advent and brought encouragement to those who laid the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Unfortunately, she died at the early age of 27 on July 26, 1855, after less than four years of service to the church.
It is of interest to note that the first three stanzas of this hymn written in 1852 refer to three outstanding personalities in the early history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The first stanza refers to Joseph Bates whom God used to convert her. The second stanza refers to James Springer White who faced poverty, incessant labor, fanaticism, and other hardships. His courage remained steadfast because of his firm hope in the advent of Christ. He and his wife, Ellen, whom we refer to as Sister White, pioneered the development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church against much opposition. The third stanza refers to John Nevins Andrews who became the first missionary to be sent by the church from North America.
How Far From Home
Listed as #439 in the current Hymnal, the hymn “How Far From Home” is based on Isaiah 21:11 & 12. Annie penned this hymn in the form of a question to inspire early believers with a sense of confidence in the nearness of the eternal home.
Given the aforementioned information, one can understand why I am so passionate about our using hymns and knowing their background; for if we are unaware of what motivated the writing of these hymns, we are likely to miss out on their rich meaning and history. For example, the three hymns employed for this Weekly are tied to the disappointment of 1844, the early pioneers who sacrificed greatly for the church, and above all, the glorious return of our Lord which sparks daily hope. Of course, I repeat that I am not in any way advocating that we should not use contemporary praise and worship songs, but that we as pastors and elders ensure that hymns such as these are included, so that the younger ones will know their church, its history and its returning Lord.
(A few more hymns to follow next week)