Tag Archives: Isaac Watts

Hymn Meditation

Psalm 23

My shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is his name;
In pastures fresh he makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.

He brings my wand’ring spirit back
When I forsake his ways;
And leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.

Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread,
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days:
O may thy house be mine abode,
And all my work be praise!

There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger or a guest,
But like a child at home.

By Isaac Watts
In the Public Domain
Source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/watts/psalmshymns.Ps.54.html

  • This hymn is based on Psalm 23. How do verse 1 and 2 of the hymn enhance the thoughts inspired by Psalm 23:1-3?
  • Isaac Watts faces his fears emboldened and comforted by God’s presence. The psalmist relied on the shepherd’s rod and staff. What encourages Isaac Watts?
  • Enemies may be individual people, or they may be forces at work in the culture. What enemies besiege you when you are enjoying the fellowship of the Lord?
  • Surveys in contemporary culture reveal that few people consider weekly worship in a building with other worshipers to be a big priority. Compare the view of worship described by Isaac Watts with the psalmist’s description. Compare these views with comments people of your acquaintance make about worship. Why do Christians need to gather with other Christians for worship? How would you explain that need to a secular thinker?

Stop and Think About a Hymn

hymnalAm I a Soldier of the Cross?

Am I a soldier of the cross,
a follower of the Lamb,
and shall I fear to own his cause,
or blush to speak his name?

Must I be carried to the skies
on flowery beds of ease,
while others fought to win the prize,
and sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
to help me on to God?

Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported by thy word.

Thy saints in all this glorious war
shall conquer though they die;
they see the triumph from afar,
by faith they bring it nigh.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
and all thy armies shine
in robes of victory through the skies,
the glory shall be thine.

Text: Isaac Watts
License: Public Domain
Source: http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh511.sht

Isaac Watts lived in the 17th century in England, yet the words of this hymn strike a resonant chord with any Christian in the 21st century in the USA. The very first verse, for example, asks if I am willing to pay the price of standing firm in my faith and speaking or writing or singing the name of Jesus in the face of cultural pressure to be silent. Think of three instances in the past week when one or more Christians in the USA were asked to stop acting like Christians or ridiculed for refusing to stop.

Secular thinkers scorn the whole idea of heaven, because they scorn anything that is not part of the time/space continuum. They accuse Christians of doing worthless things in order to earn a heavenly reward. What two things are wrong with that accusation? Why do secular thinkers accuse Christians of things that are not part of Christian faith? Where do they get those ideas?

“Blending in” or “fitting in” are important principles of behavior for secular thinkers. On the one hand, each person is to find his own truth, but on the other hand, no person should, by his difference from others, appear to be judging the truth chosen by others. What does the hymn writer ask that expresses the dilemma of the Christian in a secular world?

How does the hymn writer expect to become strong enough and wise enough to stand firm?

What does he expect will be the outcome of his determination?

A Hymn for Meditation

Psalm 32

O Blessed souls are they
Whose sins are covered o’er!
Divinely blest, to whom the Lord
Imputes their guilt no more.

They mourn their follies past,
And keep their hearts with care;
Their lips and lives, without deceit,
Shall prove their faith sincere.

While I concealed my guilt,
I felt the fest’ring wound;
Till I confessed my sins to thee,
And ready pardon found.

Let sinners learn to pray,
Let saints keep near the throne;
Our help, in times of deep distress,
Is found in God alone. 

(Text from Watts, I. (1998). The Psalms and hymns of Isaac Watts. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 

  • Whose sins does God want to forgive? How can you find the answer to this question?
  • The hymnwriter says that people who have been forgiven mourn past behavior. He further says that they try to live in a way that proves their faith is sincere. Some people say that once sin is forgiven, it can be forgotten. What do you say? If you agree with the hymnwriter, make a statement about your own life and the way you live as a response to God’s forgiveness.
  • The hymnwriter declares that when a person is trying to hide sin from God, it is like having a “festering wound.” Have you ever tried to hide wrongdoing from a parent? From God? How did you feel?
  • Who are the sinners who need to learn to pray? Martin Luther taught that we are sinful saints and saintly sinners. It might be said that we are always on the cusp. Where do we find help to get through life despite our sinful human nature?

A Hymn for Meditation

hymnal My Heart was Fashioned by thy Hand
By Isaac Watts 

My heart was fashioned by thy hand;
My service is thy due:
O make thy servant understand
The duties he must do. 

Since I’m a stranger here below,
Let not thy path be hid;
But mark the road my feet should go,
And be my constant guide. 

If God to me his statutes show,
And heav’nly truth impart,
His work for ever I’ll pursue,
His law shall rule my heart. 

  • The first verse of this hymn is based on Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” ESV In the imagery of the hymn, what power shapes the path and guards the choices of the writer? 
  • The second verse is inspired by Psalm 119:26 – “When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes!” ESV How does the hymn writer express God’s discovery of “my ways?” Do you feel comfortable in leaving your path completely visible to God? What does the hymn writer believe is an advantage when God knows what you are doing? 
  • Verse 3 is shaped by Psalm 119:50 – “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life,”ESV and Psalm 119:71 – “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” ESV The hymn writer avoids mentioning affliction, but jumps directly to the good outcome. Think of a painful experience from which you learned a heavenly truth. How did affliction work a good outcome in your life?
  • Read Psalm 119:65-72. Are there people in your life who behave like the people who scorned the psalmist? How do you cope with conversations like this?


Psalm 119 is entirely devoted to the beauty and value of God’s teachings. Isaac Watts wrote eighteen long hymns based on this psalm. Secular thinkers call God’s teachings “outdated.” They say that history has moved past the “old rules” of religion. Why did the psalmist and Isaac Watts place so much value on God’s teachings? Do you agree with Isaac Watts or do you think the Bible is outdated? Why?

A Hymn for Meditation

hymnalOh, that the Lord Would Guide My Ways

Oh, that the Lord would guide my ways
To keep his statutes still!
Oh, that my God would grant me grace
To know and do his will!

Order my footsteps by your Word
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.

Assist my soul, too apt to stray, A
stricter watch to keep;
If ever I forget your way, R
estore your wandering sheep.

Make me to walk in your commands,
A most delightful road;
Nor let my head or heart or hands
Offend against my god.

By Isaac Watts

  •  This hymn is a prayer for guidance. What Bible verses come to mind when you read the words, “guide my ways to keep his statutes?”
  • If you order your footsteps according to biblical teaching and keep your personal integrity intact by refusing to sell out your values, you know that it will keep your conscience clear. The federal government, however, has declared repeatedly in federal court that someone who engages in business for profit has no right to assert his religious beliefs in the context of his business. How can you keep your conscience clear if the government tells you not to exercise your beliefs?
  • None of us can stay the course of faithful living without fail. Moses couldn’t, Noah couldn’t, David couldn’t, and you can’t, either. God’s perfect righteousness demands that he destroy unrighteousness. What is the hymn writer’s solution to this problem?
  • Ultimately, Isaac Watts confessed to his inability to do the right thing every time. How does he gain the courage to keep going forward?