Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.
From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.
Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.
Words by Daniel C. Roberts, 1876
Music by George W. Warren, 1888
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
I love to learn about historical events and items. It is always so amazing learn about how things were done, where we are today compared to then and what can be learned from history that can apply to today. After all, what happens if we do not remember history? George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There is truth in this. If we can not remember the mistakes that were made in the past, we are simply going to continue to make the same mistakes.
But there is a slightly different view of this subject that Winston Churchill proposed. In his speech before the House of Commons, on November 16, 1948 Churchill worried not so much that those who forget the past are condemned to relive it, but that the loss of the past would mean “the most thoughtless of ages. Everyday headlines and short views.” If we do not remember the things that have happened before, we find ourselves living in a vacuum, not being able to see beyond the here and now. That is, if we do not look backward, we can never truly look forward. This is the theme found in Daniel Roberts, “God of Our Fathers.”
Roberts picks up on a theme that God himself gave to Israel. God commanded that when ever Israel came together they were to “Remember how the Lord” had cared for them throughout history. This was one of the very purposes behind the festivals. Passover, the Harvest festival, even the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) were intended to help Israel to remember God’s faithfulness.
In this same vein, Roberts begins with the words, “God of our fathers, whose almighty hand.” One of the greatest mistakes made by Christians is forgetting that we are not the first ones to follow Christ. We are not the first ones to have struggles with theological questions. We have not the first ones to have struggled with our place in society. The God whom we now follow, is the same God of our “fathers”, that is those who came before.
He is the same God who “ Leads forth in beauty all the starry band.” Since the very creation, he has held everything together. How can we live in the vacuum of today and forget what he has done in the past.
His faithfulness reaches to more than just the world, but personally to those who follow him. Psalm 119:90 declares, “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” So the hymn continues, “Thy love divine hath led us in the past.” Do we remember the roads God has led us down? Do we appreciate the true faithfulness of God?
When we understand all that God has done in the past, we can begin to understand who He is today and that we can trust Him for the future. It is to this point that the hymn continues, “Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay, Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.” God has shown us His faithfulness, and so we can trust in Him for as Isaiah 58:11 says, “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”
When we see what He has done, when we know that we can put our trust and faith in Him, we can trust Him to “Lead us from night to never ending day.”
For it is to those who put their trust in God, that Isaiah writes in chapter 60 verse 19, “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.”
So let us take time to reflect on all that God has done. Let us remember his faithfulness to those who have come before that our prayer might be for God to “Fill all our lives with love and grace divine, And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.”
Read more about “God of Our Fathers.”