We place a great deal of emphasis, and rightly so, on studying Scripture in its original context and moving from there to our present context. That becomes an integral part to preaching and teaching from the Scriptures. It helps shed light on what God is saying, to that first audience and to us today. Hymn singing can also be viewed in that same light.
Many of the great hymns have a rich background. I have always tried, where possible, to let people know something of the background of either the hymn or the writer, or both. We are admonished to sing with understanding. With today’s emphasis on singing choruses and other contemporary music, we may be keeping God’s covenant people, including the children, from a rich heritage and experience in singing the great hymns.
I recall when I first heard about the circumstance that led George Matheson to write the hymn “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” the hymn was even further endeared to my mind and heart, knowing how though all others forsake me, God will never let me go. That story is in this book. And there are 149 other familiar hymns and stories that can be used in worship, sermon illustrations, Bible teaching in general, and with family devotions. “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” “Amazing Grace,” “O God Our Help In Ages Past,” “Like a River Glorious,” and many others are rich in biblical truth and made real and edifying to us as we learn something about the writers and their situations. For example: your heart will fill with both joy and tears as you read about Frances Havergal, who wrote “Like a River Glorious,” and see what that meant to her has she died trying to sing about God.