Worship the King
Sir Robert Grant, 1779-1838
O worship the King, all glorious above, O gratefully sing his
power and his love; Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of
Days, Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.
LAST ast winter on a rainy weekday I wheeled my cart out of the
Safeway. It was 5:00 P.M., not my usual time to shop or be at
this busy plaza intersection, and I wasn't expecting a forceful,
sensual reminder of the God who owns the air we breathe. As if
it ruled the dusk, the carillon of some nearby church broadcast
the melody of "O worship the King, all glorious above, O
gratefully sing his power and his love."
Knowing the words, I smiled and joined the praises.
Thy bountiful care what tongue can recite? It breathes in the
air, it shines in the light; It streams from the hills, it descends to
the plain, And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.
Robert Grant's hymn—-based on themes and images of Psalm
104—describes a Creator God who, though not nature itself, is
intricately connected to and obviously evident through the
created world. Martin Luther described Psalm 104 as "a praise
of God from the book of Nature." God is great; you can see it's
in his ancient but enduring creative work. God, says the
wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the
heavens like a tent. . . . He makes the clouds his chariot and
rides on the wings of the wind.
The psalm is long, thirty-five verses, and with a few digressions
follows the Genesis progression of creation: God is the Lord of
the light; his fountains water the flora; the animals, the sea
creatures—-including the mysterious leviathan—all look to
God for sustenance and breath. This is a mighty God, worthy of
O tell of his might, O sing of his grace, Whose robe is the light,
whose canopy space; His chariots of wrath the deep thunder-
clouds form, And dark is his path on the wings of the storm.
That afternoon as I walked through the Safeway parking lot, in
the.wake of a storm, the witness of Grant's airborne music was
particularly powerful because it took me by surprise. To me the
song feels so Protestant, so Anglo (written by a member of the
British parliament eventually knighted), so "establishment" (in
several old hymnals it is printed as hymn number 1, as if it were
the mother of all songs). Considering its British, regal aura, its
distilling presence felt disconcertingly uncharacteristic of my
community. I do not live in a white, Anglo neighborhood.
Within a mile of my home you'll find Vietnamese, Korean, and
Spanish-speaking churches. Within two miles there's a
traditional black Baptist congregation, the Ethiopian Coptics,
and, over near the Safeway, a Muslim mosque. This is not to
say that most of my neighbors gather for worship. They don't.
That afternoon the carillon's music descended on shoppers and
commuters who didn't recognize the song; they didn't smile at
the first ascending notes and eagerly join in with praises to the
"Ancient of Days." And yet at any moment of any day God
invites them-—-and you and me again and again—to look to
the heavens and the earth, the Kght and night, the rain and dew,
the created world, and catch a glimpse of the wonder of the
work of God's hand.
The earth with its store of wonders untold, Almighty, thy power
hath founded of old; Hath stablished it fast by a changeless
decree, And round it hath cast, like a mantle, the sea.
O measureless Might, ineffable Love, While angels delight to
hymn thee above, Thy humbler creation, though feeble their
lays, With true adoration shall sing to thy praise*
Lord, open my eyes—and my neighbors'—to see you in your
creation. Prompt me to worship you for your creation, but
remind me that you are the Eternal Being beyond creation
who set it all in motion.
These Grant verses are are generally missing from modern hymnals. The last verse, "O measureless Might," is reminiscent of Psalm 103: God knows we are dust; angels and all God's works—praise him.
FROM THE BOOK "SPIRITUAL MOMENTS WITH THE GREAT HYUMNS" by
IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHO YOU ARE, MALE, FEMALE, WHITE, BLACK,
BROWN. RELIGIOUS CREED, WE CAN RELATE TO THESE TRUE WORD TO
THE ETERNAL GOD WHO CREATED THIS UNIVERSE AND UPHOLDS IT
WITH THE POWER OF HIS MIGHT.
WITH THE POWER OF HIS MIGHT.