Hymn #428: For the Healing of the Nations
Correction: In the video devotion, I mistakenly say that St. Paul wrote the book of Revelation. Actually, it is St. John. I would blame this mess-up on being a new mom, but maybe after 5 months that excuse shouldn’t work anymore!
This past Mother’s Day, my husband gifted me a subscription to Audible, an audio-book service. The first book that I bought was a lecture series about the history of the United States. Though I am 25 hours in and only up to the Civil War, I am confident in saying that our country has a remarkable history! The list of characters is vast and colorful. The drama of events is exhilarating and entertaining. And, the strong moral convictions of many of our founding fathers – the gravity with which they considered every action and decision – makes me very proud to have this story as my heritage. Well, part of it, as I’m actually a Canadian citizen too, but that’s a story for a different time!
We know that our nation’s story, however miraculous, is marred by sin. The story of the nation of Israel is no different. Israel often abandoned God for other gods. Their idolatry caused God to hand them over to captivity. This story of God’s chosen nation is often compared to a failed marriage, where Israel, the bride, abandons God instead of being a faithful wife. God loved Israel so much that He ruled them directly. However, Israel complained that they wanted to be like all other nations. Because of their hardness of heart, God gave them judges and kings. These kings often contributed to Israel’s idolatry, and eventually led the nation to division and ruin.
Thanks be to God, in His mercy He redeemed Israel from bondage and sin. He brought a remnant of his people back from captivity to the Promised Land. We know from the New Testament that many of the prophecies of Israel now apply to God’s new chosen “nation,” the church. God also delivers us when we put other gods before Him. He rules over us in love in the “kingdom of God,” which came among us with the coming of Jesus. What’s great about this new nation, the “kingdom of God,” is that it has no geographic or political boundaries! It applies to the church world-wide where God’s word is proclaimed and the powers of evil no longer have sway.
The author of hymn #428 For the Healing of the Nations, Fred Kaan, lists as inspiration for this hymn Revelation 21:1-22:5. Here we can see a beautiful picture of the new, heavenly Israel. This fulfillment of the kingdom of God will appear after Christ’s second coming. John, the writer of Revelation, does not suggest that these things will come about in a utopia on earth. He is writing it to give us encouragement during the struggles of this life. Though our nation and our world suffers many hurts and wrongs, as Christians we can look forward to the new, heavenly Israel. Ponder what beautiful things will happen there!:
- God will dwell with his people (21:3)
- There will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (21:4)
- Those who thirst for salvation and endure to the end will receive the water of life (21:6-7)
- All sin will die (21:8)
- We will not need the sun or moon, because the Lord will be our light. We will experience an everlasting day (21:23-25)
- We will eternally worship the Lord (22:3-5)
Our nation, like Israel, has often abandoned God. We put our trust in the “kings” of this day and their policies. We seek after wealth, freedom, and justice at the expense of faithfulness to God’s commands. We are not unique in any of these failings. But, that does not give us an excuse. Despite this, God’s salvation is for us and our nation, too. He forgives all of our past failings. And, through His love and forgiveness, we can work to make our nation a place that more fully reflects His divine goodness.
Our hymn for Sunday, July 5 serves as a prayer for this purpose. In stanza 1, we pray that all people may share in the abundance of the earth. We ask that the Lord grant us grace to live a life of “love in action.” That sounds like a phrase for Messiah! Stanza 2 calls for peace. I like the author’s take on freedom here. Freedom comes with responsibility. Here, the author invites us to pray for freedom from war, hatred, and despair so that we can take on the responsibilities of care, goodness, and hope. In stanza 3, the author asks God to rid our world of prejudicial sins that keep the oppressed from the abundant life that Jesus promises. And, finally, stanza 4 reminds us that we are created in God’s image to grow in his likeness. When we acknowledge God’s grace and mercy, we can be his servants in working for a better (more heavenly) world that reflects His goodness.
Fred Kaan wrote this hymn in 1965 for Human Rights Day (December 10). He lived during the Nazi occupation, where his family suffered death while fighting in the resistance movement. Later, he moved to England and became a Reformed minister. This is his most famous hymn.
Each week Dr. Katie Moss, Organist and Director of Handbells, provides us with a short devotion and closer look at a hymn we’ll sing at the Traditions Worship at 8:45 am.
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