In Colossians 3:16, Paul writes, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Hymns are another way of teaching the Bible. Almost every hymn is directly tied to a specific Bible verse. When we sing hymns, we are actually reminding ourselves of God’s teachings and to know whether we have been walking on the correct path that God wants us to tread. Hymns, in a sense, are a sermon set to music. But in order to get anything out of them, we need to make sure that we understand the words that we are singing.
One of my favorite hymns of all time is Abide with Me.
Henry Francis Lyte was a minister that lived in Brixham, England with his wife, Anne. Dying from tuberculosis, he approached the pulpit for the last time at age 54 before leaving for Italy. That afternoon in 1847, after a long walk in prayer, he returned to his home and began to pack for his trip. He found in his desk drawer a poem he started years prior. Sitting down to finish the poem, he penned the words to “Abide with Me.” Three weeks later on their way to Italy, Henry’s lungs gave out in France. When the news of his death reached Brixham, England, Henry’s son-in-law was asked to hold the memorial service. It was then that “Abide with Me” was first sung.
Though there are eight verses to this great hymn, here is a look at the three most commonly sung:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
*Eventide literally means “evening.” In this instance, it is referring to the evening of life, which is death. People and things cannot always comfort us, but the God of all things can.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
* Realizes the brevity of life and that earthly things fade away. We can’t take them with us in death. Nothing in life is constant. Everything changes except for the love, grace, and mercy of God.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
*The words to this verse are incredibly powerful. Death is near and he can see nothing but Heaven. It is, again, a call for us to remember that in both life and death, the Lord is with us.
This hymn is a prayer for God to be with us in life, through every trial, and also in death. Each verse ends in the plea “abide with me,” making this hymn a sustained call for God’s personal presence in every stage and condition of life. It is a reassurance that God will never leave us. Throughout this year, I pray that you will remember this.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
John 15:7 (NKJV)
Interesting facts about this hymn:
- For over a century, the bells at his church have rung out with “Abide with Me.”
- It was used in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
- It was a popular hymn in the trenches of World War 1.