Saturday, December 10, 2011

Robert Murray McCheyne—A man who loved and wrote poetry

As I get older, my tastes are becoming more refined. I prefer clothes of good quality and clothes that fit well. Though I drink all types of coffee, I am becoming more of a “snob” about it as the years roll on. Even poetry (which in the past seemed about as fun as “watching paint dry”) now has an inherent beauty that I never noticed before.

Robert Murray McCheyne was a literary and poetic genius. His biographer paints a promising picture of the young poet:
“He might have risen to high eminence in the circles of taste and literature, but denied himself all such hopes, that he might win souls. With such peculiar talents as he possessed, his ministry might have, in any circumstances, attracted many; but these attractions were all made subsidiary to the single desire of awakening the dead in trespasses and sins.”
The poem below is actually a hymn. In my opinion, it is McCheyne’s greatest hymn. As you read, please meditate on the obvious theme of “The Righteousness of God”.  

Jehovah Tsidkenu

“The Lord our Righteousness”

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure, to soothe or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page:
But even when they pictured the blood-sprinkled tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul;
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu—‘twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die:
No refuge, no safety in self could I see—
Jehovah Tsidkenu my Savior must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free—
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! My treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I never can be lost;
In thee I shall conquer by flood and by field—
My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath;
For while from life’s fever my God sets me free,
Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be.

It moves me every time I read it. Yet I wonder is it beautiful because of the words itself? Does its beauty lie within the flow and arrangement? Or is it the theme of righteousness that moves my heart?

I believe it is all of the above. May it move you closer to the transcendent God. 

1 comment:

  1. I realised just yesterday that each line of this poem has eleven syllables. Similarly the songs 'How Firm a Foundation' , 'My Jesus I Love Thee' and 'Away In A Manger' do too, which means it can be sung to either of these tunes.