Alas and Did My Savior Bleed- Worship Notes

Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed

1 Alas! and did my Savior bleed,

and did my Sovereign die!

Would he devote that sacred head

for such a worm as I!

 

2 Was it for crimes that I had done

he groaned upon the tree!

Amazing pity! Grace unknown!

And love beyond degree!

 

3 Well might the sun in darkness hide,

and shut his glories in,

when Christ, the mighty Maker, died

for man the creature’s sin.

 

4 Thus might I hide my blushing face

while his dear cross appears;

dissolve my heart in thankfulness,

and melt mine eyes in tears.

 

5 But drops of grief can ne’er repay

The debt of love I owe;

here, Lord, I give myself away,

’tis all that I can do.

Isaac Watt’s moving hymn well reflects on the awe that every Christian must feel at the thought of what Christ has done for us.  Our faith is founded above all else on the truth that Jesus Christ died for us, in an act of completely unmerited grace.  The writer stands amazed at the fact that glorious God, the creator of all things, became a servant, humbled Himself and died, for our sake.   The tune is one that fits well the subject, evoking sadness, thankfulness and hope.

Verse one expresses this incredulity, and even sorrow, at the tragic sight of the cross, for that is how the truth of the cross first impresses us- “alas!”  It is such a tragedy that the glorious and righteous Messiah, so good and so innocent, should be treated in such a fashion.  Why would He do such a thing for a worthless being, “a worm, such as I?”  Though it is contemplated as a tragedy, even from the beginning the writer expresses his awareness that Jesus’ act was not something done to Him as a helpless victim, but something He chose voluntarily.

The only possible motivation for such an act is love and pity (verse 2).  If it is true that I am a “worm” as the writer says, then I certainly have nothing to offer Him in return, no way to pay Him back for such a sacrifice.  So it is only “love beyond degree” that could motivate such an act.  No matter how long we have been Christians, how many times we have heard the story of the cross, or how much progress we have made in our Christian lives, we should never trifle with the cross, never lose our awe and gratitude, our sheer amazement that Jesus did what He did on our behalf.

The book of Matthew relates three hours of darkness in the middle of the day during the crucifixion of Christ.  The death of Christ was not primarily intended as a display of some truth to man, though it does that, but rather as an act of propitiation aimed at the Father.  So the sun even hides its face for a time at the sight.  True love of a degree nowhere else seen is displayed in His sacrifice for those so much lower than He: He who is the maker of all things, who was there at the foundation of all things, the Wisdom by which the Father put the very stars in their courses, entered into the suffering and death to which we, His own creation, were subject because of our own sin.

So the writer says that if the sun itself would hide its face from the sight, he certainly might “hide [his] blushing face” as well.  One proper response to the cross is for us to abhor ourselves for our sinfulness which made such a thing necessary (Ezekiel 36:31).  If we come away from the cross with a great sense of self-esteem and appreciation for our own specialness, then we are not seeing the truth.  We are beloved of God, but not for what we are.  The only thing worthy about us is what God will do in us by His grace.  We bring nothing to the table but our own shame and worthiness for destruction.  Worms, indeed.

So the writer concludes that the only worthy response to the cross of Christ is commitment to Christ.  The believer can never do enough to repay, but the one who is truly thankful for the salvation of Christ will commit himself to giving everything.  The Christian faith simply cannot stop at the contemplation of the cross, but must proceed from there to our proper response to that great gift.  My great comfort is that I am not my own, but belong to my Savior Jesus Christ, and the Christian life, the life of the one who truly possesses faith in that salvation, will more and more reflect that gratitude by living a life true to His word and worthy of His grace, giving all glory to Him since any good thing in me is only the result of His gracious gift.

John Calvin on Forgiveness

“Lastly, it is to be observed that the condition of being forgiven as we forgive our debtors, is not added because by forgiving others we deserve forgiveness, as if the cause of forgiveness were expressed; but by the use of this expression the Lord has been pleased partly to solace the weakness of our faith, using it as a sign to assure us that our sins are as certainly forgiven as we are certainly conscious of having forgiven others, when our mind is completely purged from all envy, hatred, and malice; and partly using as a badge by which he excludes from the number of his children all who, prone to revenge and reluctant to forgive, obstinately keep up their enmity, cherishing against others that indignation which they deprecate from themselves; so that they should not venture to invoke him as a Father. In the Gospel of Luke, we have this distinctly stated in the words of Christ.”

John Calvin, Institutes, III.XX.45

Calvin on the definition of faith

“Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

John Calvin, Institutes, III.II.7

“Thus we shall behold the person of a sinner and evildoer represented in Christ, yet from his shining innocence it will at the same time be obvious that he was burdened with another’s sin rather than his own. He therefore suffered under Pontius Pilate, and by the governor’s official sentence was reckoned among criminals. Yet not so– for he was declared righteous by his judge at the same time, when Pilate affirmed that he “found no cause for complaint in him.” This is our acquittal: the guilt that held us liable for punishment has been transferred to the head of the Son of God. We must, above all, remember this substitution, lest we tremble and remain anxious throughout life– as if God’s righteous vengeance, which the Son of God has taken upon himself, still hung over us.”

–John Calvin, Institutes, 2.16.5

“The most damnable and pernicious heresy that has ever plagued the mind of man was the idea that somehow he could make himself good enough to deserve to live with an all-holy God.”

—Martin Luther

Elder Installation

We are grateful to God for the leadership He provides for His church.  After being re-elected to another three-year term, Elder Greg Hager was installed to his office, with the assistance of Elder Daniel Mettler of Menno, SD and Elder Greg Van Holland of Vermillion, SD.

 

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We Worship

From the editorial of the last Reformed Herald-

So, what do we Christians do with this supreme disappointment?  What do we do, knowing that all sorts of infringements on our religious liberty are coming?  Dear Christian, we do what God’s people have always done.  We worship.  We worship our Creator, Redeemer, and Judge.  We worship because we remember.  We remember God’s promise to His elect, like that found in Malachi 3:6: “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed.”  Though earth’s judges may change, though popular opinion may change, the Lord Who created us and the institution of marriage does not change.

Beautifully said, Rev. Sorenson.