Seventh in a series featuring songs from my CD New Creation. For more information, read this link.
Behind the Song
This is another text by Isaac Watts, whom we’ve heard from before when we looked at “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed.” Watts is known as “the Father of English Hymnody,” but in this case, he’s technically dealing in Psalmody.
It was common practice in early Protestant churches to adapt the book of Psalms for congregational singing. Some denominations—especially 16th to 18th century Reformed churches—sang almost nothing else. The tradition of psalms in Christian worship goes straight back to the early church; recall the apostle Paul’s admonition to “encourage one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16). It’s still flourishing even today; many contemporary worship choruses are based word for word on the psalms. (Here’s a good article on psalmody that goes into more history than I have space for.)
Although Watts’s masterfully written hymn texts did much to persuade the church that there was more to worship than exclusive psalmody, he recognized the value of the psalms in church music. He wrote lyrical paraphrases of nearly all 150 psalms, some in multiple versions to fit different meters. Many of his best known hymns are in fact paraphrased psalms, including “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” (Psalm 90) and “Joy to the World” (Psalm 98).
“Give to our God Immortal Praise” is Watts’s rendition of Psalm 136. The psalm is notable for its repeated antiphon of “His love endures forever” after each line, though Watts converted it into rhyming couplets. I tried to preserve some of the original feeling with a refrain of “Alleluia.” As was his usual practice, Watts injected specifically Christian content into his paraphrase, talking the psalm’s themes of deliverance and making them overtly about salvation in Christ: “He sent His Son with power to save / From guilt and darkness and the grave.”
There are several more stanzas than I had time to include in the recording; the full thing can be found here for the curious (or those who like to sing very long songs). The final product is one of my favorites, with a simple, singable tune that makes it easy for congregations to join in.
Give to our God immortal praise,
Mercy and truth are all His ways;
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song;
Give to the Lord of lords renown,
The King of kings with glory crown,
His mercies ever shall endure
When lords and kings are known no more.
He saw the Gentiles dead in sin,
And felt His pity work within,
His mercies ever shall endure,
When sin and death shall reign no more.
He sent His Son with power to save,
From guilt, and darkness, and the grave,
Wonders of grace to God belong,
Repeat His mercies in your song!
Get the Song
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Click here to get chord charts and lead sheets for the entire album.
If you would like this song in another arrangement, feel free to contact the composer. I’m always open to new commissions, projects, and ideas.
If you use this song in your worship or other performance and make a recording, I’d love to see a copy!