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Importance of Philosemitic Hymns Part 1

In the 18th and 19th century, there was an abundance of philosemitic hymns in the United Kingdom. Since so many hymns from that era have been written, I narrowed my search to survey ‘Grace & Glory Hymn Book’ which was collated by Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel. At that time in our history there were many believers who had a serious interest in biblical prophecy and who anticipated and longed for the return of the Jewish people to Israel and for Messiah to return. We derive our theology not only through reading and listening to sermons but also through songs. Hymns, songs and choruses are purposefully memorable and they not only help us to praise and worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but also inform and influence us and to some degree shape our thinking.

Subjects related to philosemitic hymns include scattered Israel being regathered, Israel as a chosen nation, a love for Israel and the Jewish people and a desire to bless them, a recognition that the Lord has neither forgotten nor cast off His ancient people and the setting of psalms to music, often referred to as metric psalms.

Scattered Israel Regathered

The Scriptures speak frequently of the dispersion and regathering of the Jewish people and that when they return they will never again be uprooted (Deuteronomy 30:4-5; Isaiah 43:1-7, 60:1-22; Jeremiah 31:10; Amos 9:11-15). Hymns from the 18th and 19th century preceding the re-establishment of Israel as a nation in 1948, recognised and eagerly anticipated the same. In addition, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) also famously preached his powerful and memorable sermon, ‘Scattered Israel to be gathered’. Charles Spurgeon was also certain that Jewish people would return to their homeland. Concerning hymns expecting Jewish people to be regathered and returning to Israel, consider the following examples.

William Shrubsole (1759-1829) composed a hymn, ‘Arm of the Lord, awake, awake’ . The third and fourth verses read.

Let Zion’s time of favour come;

O bring the tribes of Israel home;

And let our wondering eyes behold

Gentiles and Jews in Jesus’ fold.

Almighty God, Thy grace proclaim

In every clime, of every name;

Let adverse powers before Thee fall,

And crown the Saviour Lord of all.

William Hammond (1719-1783) wrote ‘God of eternal truth and grace’ . The third and fifth verses include the following.

Hast Thou not pledged Thy word of power,

The tribes of Israel to restore?

From east to west and south to north

To bring Thine outcast people forth.

See where, like withered bones and dry,

The chosen heirs of promise lie;

Great God, Thy quickening Spirit give,

And bid the House of Israel live.

Hymn 130 in Grace and Glory hymn book did not state the author of ‘Scattered wide thro’ stranger countries’ although the first and fifth verses are especially of interest.

Scattered wide thro’ stranger countries

Driven far by wind and wave-

Zion’s sons are still beloved!

Zion’s God still strong to save!

Oh dear day of earth’s rejoicing!

What shall with thy bliss compare-

When Jerusalem the blessed

Shall be named “The Lord is there! “

On reflection it is apparent that those preachers and hymn writers were cognizant of the Lord’s plans and purposes for Israel and the nations. Philosemitic attitudes also meant that Evangelical Christians would both assist and work hand in hand with Jewish people seeking to make Aliyah. Ultimately when one considers the almost two thousand years from the dispersion to regathering, it is axiomatic that this is a sovereign act of God that we ought to acknowledge and give Him praise for.