O Worship The King: Hymns Of Praise And Assurance To Encourage The Heart, by Joni Eareckson Tada, John Macarthur, and Robert & Bobbie Wolgemuth
Being somewhat familiar with the writing of these authors before , I found this particular book and its companion volume to be of great interest when I happened to see them beside my bed. Given my interest in music history and my general familiarity with Christian hymns specifically , this book seemed like an obvious one to read. Having read it, I must comment that if you have an interest in music history specifically as far as it relates to sacred music, then there is a great deal that you will appreciate about this particular short volume. The extent to which the book will be enjoyable to you depends both on your fondness for the songs chosen, and your tolerance or fondness for the personal musings about the trials and tribulations of co-author Joni Eareckson Tada, who feels it necessary to remind us several times about her being paralyzed from the neck down and about her efforts to cheer up others who suffer from trials. Those who are interested in knowing a bit about the lives of the people who wrote the hymns included here will find much to enjoy, though, apart from the writing skill of the book’s authors.
The contents of this book take up less than 150 pages, and consist of a well-organized set of material. The three co-authors of the book, Joni Eareckson Tada, John MacArthur, and Robert Wolgemuth divide up the (up to) three sections for each song respectively: “At The Heart Of The Hymn,” “In The Light Of The Word,” and “From Out Of The Past,” although sometimes the second part is missing and there is some variation in who writes which section. The following songs are discussed after a brief foreword and introduction: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, It Is Well With My Soul, O Worship The King, I Know Whom I Have Believed, O The Deep, Deep Love Of Jesus, Man Of Sorrows! What A Name, O Sacred Head, Now Wounded, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise, Breathe On Me, Breath Of God, O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, Be Thou My Vision, and My Faith Has Found A Resting Place. After the various discussions of the hymns and their personal meanings to the authors, as well as a discussion of the biography of some of the songwriters, an alarming number of which had immensely difficult lives or tragically early deaths, the hymns are included so that musically literate readers can sing along with the hymns in whatever part they know best.
There were a few odd patterns that are worth discussing here that, if they do not detract from the worth of the book, point out some of the elements that connect these hymns together in the mind of the author. Many of these particular people intersect with others in odd ways–they knew the same preachers or were involved in the same congregations of others, showing just how small the world of hymns is given how many hymns were made by the same people who interacted with others in somewhat narrow social circles. Additionally, the authors make several comments in this book that can be judged as being somewhat anti-intellectual in praising the solid faith and lack of education of some of the hymnwriters. It should also be noted that the writing of this book had surprisingly dodgy demonology, such as one of the book’s authors quoting a missionary that claimed that Satan could not bear the sound of music, which, if you listen to the sort of music that is popular nowadays, clearly is not the case at all. Despite some flaws, this is a worthwhile book that manages to provide a thoughtful reflection on and examination of the context of a dozen well-regarded hymns.
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