The original hymn was written by a Jew from Rome (probably Daniel ben Judah) and he based his lyrics on a Jewish Creed created by Moses Maimonides. The Jewish version of this hymn is from the twelfth century. Around 1763 or 1770, Thomas Olivers, a close friend of John Wesley, heard the Yigdal (Daniel ben Judah’s hymn) chanted in the Great Synagogue of London, and he wrote a deliberately Christianized translation of that text in twelve stanzas. Depending on the hymnal, we can find this hymn with three or four verses.
We must know that Thomas Olivers was not just a close friend of John Wesley, but he served for over twenty years in the duties of an itinerant ministry.
The melody that we sang last Sunday is a Hebrew melody used for the original Jewish hymn, and its name is LIONI, because the cantor’s name of the synagogue was Meyer Lyon. He adapted the melody to Thomas Olivers’ lyrics. You can feel the Hebrew style, a minor key (a sad melody), that matches perfectly with the words.
The first verse reminds us the encounter of Moses with God in Exodus 3:6, “And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” What a powerful meeting between the creature with its Creator. And now, because of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, we can have access to the throne of God.
Use this hymn as a prayer, sing it with your family or when you are alone, and lift up praises to God the Almighty, El Shaddai.
In His service,