Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured

1 Let thy blood in mercy poured,
Let thy gracious body broken,
Be to me, O gracious Lord,
Of thy boundless love the token:
Thou didst give thyself for me,
Now I give myself to thee.

2 Thou didst die that I might live;
Blessed Lord, thou cam’st to save me;
All that love of God could give
Jesus by his sorrows gave me: (Refrain)

3 By the thorns that crowned thy brow,
By the spear wound and the nailing,
By the pain and death, I now
Claim, O Christ, thy love unfailing: (Refrain)

4 Wilt thou own the gift I bring?
All my penitence I give thee;
Thou art my exalted King,
Of thy matchless love forgive me: (Refrain)

Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured

This hymn is an ancient Greek communion hymn, often sung in preparation to receive the Eucharist. It was unknown in the west until translated by John Brownlie, a Scottish Presbyterian, who published it in 1910.

A “token”, mentioned in the first verse, is something that represents, symbolizes or points to something else. In the first verse, it is the body and blood of Christ, shed on the cross for sinners, which is that token. How could the blood of Christ be merely a token? It was the demonstration of the “boundless love” that Christ has for His people. More than His suffering on the cross alone, as if that were not enough, He gives His whole life for us.

The “Great Exchange” is referenced in the second verse, that Jesus died so that we might live. It is right for the believer to personalize the work of Christ here just as the hymn does, that Jesus came not just to save sinners in the abstract, but that He came to save me individually. Jesus had me personally in mind when He went to the cross, not in the wishful thinking of hoping that someone might benefit from what He did, but with the specific intent of rescuing me from my ruined condition, an intent which He accomplished.

And what a thought expressed in the second half of verse two- Jesus, by His suffering and sorrows, gave me “all the love of God”. Nothing is held back! Every good thing conceivable for us as human beings is given to us in Christ, through His death. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Rom 8:32 NKJ)” Those sorrows are detailed more in verse three, and those sorrows are the basis for the writer’s “claim” to the love of Christ which never fails. This is a strong statement- that we know, by faith in God’s word, that because of Christ’s suffering and death on our behalf, we have a right to the love of God. Jesus earned it for us and we can now enter boldly before the throne of grace. Jesus’ death worked not just the potential for our salvation, but a firm right to it and assurance of it.

Therefore, the writer presents, as is said in the refrain throughout, himself as a living sacrifice. He dedicates himself to repentance and the service of Christ as his glorious king, a rule and authority always founded on grace and forgiveness.

The hymn as a whole then draws out and explicates its own very simple theme, seen in the refrain- Jesus gave Himself, and all of Himself, to us. The only appropriate response is the giving of ourselves in return to Him. There would be nothing of ourselves to give, nothing but misery and corruption and ruin had not Jesus done what He did, and so all that we give to Him is merely the giving back of the gift of our own lives which He gave us.

Beauty in Worship

“Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.” (Psa 33:3 KJV)

A big part of being creatures made in the image of God is that we are called to be in dominion- dominion over the creation, our bodies, our minds. Being in dominion means understanding what is put under our stewardship and using it according to its nature, as effectively as we can, to God’s glory. The Scriptures call us to do with our might whatever is given to us to do- that is, with effort, to do a good job. We should not be content with mediocrity in our lives. The carpenter expresses the image of God by excelling in his craft.

Clearly this principle should carry into our worship- perhaps especially our worship. We should not be content to do anything badly- the teaching, music, and everything else should be well done. As the Psalm above says, our desire should be that we are skilful in our worship music, to play instruments effectively and to sing well. This will differ obviously across different congregations and people, depending on the resources available. Some are naturally better singers than others, and some congregations have more experience and resources for worship than others. But with whatever skill, ability and resources we have, we should strive to do as good and beautiful job as we can. Our worship is an offering to God, and the offerings were always to be without blemish or spot of the firstborn of the flock.

We have to keep in mind however what the purpose of worship is. Some churches in their drive for musical excellence unfortunately lose track of the purpose of worship music, turning it into something more resembling a concert. The music in the church is not intended to be a performance, but rather a participatory congregational activity- we are to “teach and exhort one another in the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Within that framework we should strive to do as good a job as we can.

As a church, we strive to choose music which is pleasing, singable and enduring in quality, music with broad and lasting appeal over the generations. In addition to being doctrinally sound, the words should be poetically effective. The church has a tremendous wealth of hymnody at its disposal and it should make use of it, but songs should be sung often enough that they become familiar. Accompaniment should be done skillfully and with instruments appropriate to the use. The Scriptures give us no guidelines as to which instruments to use or which musical styles to employ; these should be chosen in a manner appropriate for the purpose, to accompany congregational singing and to reflect a right view of who God is and what we are doing in worship. Styles appropriate for a child’s birthday party would not be appropriate for a funeral; the church should strive to reflect the truth of its theology in the music it selects.

As individuals, we should work to learn the hymns so as to sing them effectively. Ability is not the question here, but doing the best we can with what God has given us. Remember that in worship we are all encouraging and exhorting one another; when someone looks at you during singing, what impression will they get about your view of worshiping God? Is it a cause for joy and awe to you, or a chore to endure? Those with some level of ability can make use of the musical notation to sing in harmonies which greatly beautify the singing.

God invented musical structures and gave them to us as a great gift to beautify our lives. It is only right that we use these gifts that He has given us as effectively as we can to His praise and glory, and never be content with mediocrity in anything we do.