While looking for ways to change up my devotional time with God recently, I dusted off an old hymnal (that was published 40 years ago!) and sang aloud some of the old songs I remembered from growing up in church during the 1970s. These songs reminded me of some precious truths I rarely hear sung on the radio today.
Some brought comfort, some brought confidence, and some brought me closer to my Savior. See if any of these bring you back to your younger years. Or, if they’re new to you, you just might see why they still resonate with my heart today.
Here are just five old songs I never want to forget (along with some of their lyrics in italics) and why they are still important to all of us today.
- “A Mighty Fortress is our God” – a song of victory in spiritual battle.
This old classic, written by Martin Luther, is based on Psalm 46 and speaks of the confidence we can have in God as our defense against Satan and his attempts to thwart us. Besides the majestic descriptions of God as a bulwark never failing and our helper… amid the flood, this hymn reminds us of the victory we have, through Christ (whom Luther calls the right Man on our side).
Do you ever feel nearly crushed under spiritual attack? Do you tend to forget that you are on the winning side? Remember that you have a mighty fortress in Christ Jesus that is impenetrable by Satan and though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.The battle is already won in Christ and this hymn reminds us of it in a powerful way.
2. “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” – a reminder of immense grace.
Although the refrain in this hymn has been repeated in the contemporary worship song “You Are My King” written by Billy James Foote, Charles Wesley was the first to pen the lyrics: Amazing love! How can it be That Thou my God, shouldst die for me? Besides the rich theology in this song about the atoning blood of Jesus, based on Romans 5:8, there is also the presence of joy as the lyrics describe God’s pursuit of our hearts.
Do you ever feel your past precludes you from being wanted or used by God? Then meditate on these words:
He left His Father’s throne above, So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free; For O my God, it found out me.
This hymn is also a battle cry as the writer motivates us to follow wholeheartedly the Lord Jesus: My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
3. “It is Well with My Soul” – a song of peace during heartache and loss.
The story behind Horatio Spafford’s writing of this hymn puts us into perspective when we think we’ve had it rough. The traumatic events in Spafford’s life – including the loss of his son at the age of 2, followed by his financial ruin as a result of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 – came to a head when he received a telegraph from his wife who had been travelling on a ship ahead of him, with his family. His wife’s telegraph informed him that all four of his daughters had been killed when their ship sunk and his wife was one of the few survivors. Shortly after, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write this famous hymn as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.
Knowing that story makes his lyrics all the more powerful as he entrusted his life and circumstances to His Savior and sang: 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. Can you, too, in whatever catastrophic circumstance comes your way, turn it into a testimony of the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7) as Stafford did? What a testimony. And what a comfort to anyone who wants to know the Source of your peace.
4. “Crown Him with Many Crowns” – a reminder that Jesus reigns.
Every Easter Sunday we sing about Christ conquering the grave and reigning as King. But the other 51 weeks of the year we tend to think that Satan is ruling this earth and we long for the day when Christ will have the victory. But this hymn is about “Jesus victorious!” not “Jesus, come rescue us!” The lyrics remind us that not one day hence, not just on Easter, but today, now, and forever Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus said, after rising from the dead “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Sing it, remember who is wearing the many crowns, and hail Him as thy matchless King thro’ all eternity.
5. “How Great Thou Art” – a song that emphasizes Him, not us.
In a day and age when we can so easily slip into a “me-perspective” and feel that we are the ones who are great, this old Swedish hymn, originally titled “O Store Gud” by Carl Boberg, gets the focus off of us and helps us consider all the worlds Thy hands have made. It forces our eyes onto the One whose power is displayed throughout creation, through what Christ did on the cross, and through the return of our Savior.”
Some of the more contemporary worship songs today can focus on us, our feelings, our needs, and even our desires for Jesus to hold us close, but this song puts all the emphasis on the One who bled and died to take away my sin. It is an echo of Psalm 48:1: “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.”
Which of these old hymns still resonate with you today? And if I didn’t list one of your favorites, it just might show up in next week’s blog called “5 More Old Songs We Can’t Forget.”