Welcome!  Hymns have been and continue to be a real source of inspiration to me.  My desire in this blog is to share special hymns with my readers hoping that the words will minister to them, especially in times of great personal need.  If one of these hymns ministers to you, please take time to leave a comment so that I know that my blog is helping others as much as it helps me. Sometimes I will also provide a link where you can go to hear the hymn played.  So, please join me here each week and sing along as we praise God together.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


        This week we remembered the 76th anniversary of one of the worst days in United States history, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service.  That day 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded.  All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an antiaircraft training ship, one minelayer and 188 U.S. aircraft.  I was just learning to walk when that happened and probably most of my readers weren't even born yet, but we have heard about the horrors of that day.  Most of us have a more vivid memory of  the events of 9-11.  As I again read about that tragic day in 1941, I couldn't help but think of all the men and women who died and fought that day, as well as those who have risked and given their lives over many years to preserve our freedoms.  We should remember their sacrifices with hearts of thanksgiving.

          And with that in mind, as I prepared this week's blog I was led to choose "Eternal Father", alternately titled "The Navy Hymn".  I found this hymn interesting because it was written in an era when people were willing to recognize our dependence on Almighty God.  I am surprised that the Navy has not yet been challenged by some group of atheists for using a very religious song.  Today it wouldn't be considered politically correct.
         "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" is a hymn traditionally associated with seafarers, particularly in the maritime armed services. Written in 1860, its author William Whiting was inspired by the dangers of the sea as described in Psalm 107. Whiting learned the true and terrifying power of those waves. A powerful storm blew in, so violent that the crew lost control of the vessel. During these desperate hours, as the waves roared over the decks, Whiting’s faith in God helped him to stay calm. When the storm subsided, the ship, badly damaged, limped back to port.  The experience had a galvanizing effect on Whiting. As one hymn historian put it, “Whiting was changed by this experience. He respected the power of the ocean nearly as much as he respected the God who made it and controls it.”
          It was popularized by the Royal Navy and the United States Navy in the late 19th century, and variations of it were soon adopted by many branches of the armed services in the United Kingdom and the United States. Accordingly, it is known by many names, variously referred to as the Hymn of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, the Royal Navy Hymn, the United States Navy Hymn (or just The Navy Hymn), and sometimes by the last line of its first verse, "For Those in Peril on the Sea". The hymn has a long tradition in civilian maritime contexts as well, being regularly invoked by ship's chaplains and sung during services on ocean crossings.
          Reverend Whiting's ode "Eternal Father" drew inspiration from both the Old and New Testaments. His verses referenced familiar texts such as Matthew 8:26 ("He was asleep... Then he rose and rebuked the seas, and there was a great calm") and Psalm 65, ("who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations"). Whiting also cited as an impetus to the work his survival during a ferocious Mediterranean storm.  Rev. John B. Dykes wrote the music in 1861.  Rev. Dykes is also known for the composition of such popular hymns as "Nearer, My God, to Thee" and "Lead, Kindly Light." Dykes based the tune for "Eternal Father" on an earlier tune he had written entitled "Melita" (the ancient name for the Mediterrean island of Malta). Malta is associated with the biblical shipwreck of the Apostle Paul (Acts 28:1).
         In 1879, Lieutenant Commander Charles Jackson Train (later a Rear Admiral), then director of the Midshipmen's Choir, instituted the practice of singing the first verse of "Eternal Father" at the conclusion of the U.S. Naval Academy's Sunday Services. Because of this practice, "Eternal Father" became an integral part of Navy tradition, and gained increasing popularity among U.S. Navy personnel.   
         There exist a myriad of alternate verses to the hymn.  Certain verses have been changed in modern hymnals for various reasons. The first verse refers to God the Father's forbidding the waters to flood the earth as described in Psalm 104. The second verse refers to Jesus' miracles of stilling a storm and walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The third verse references the Holy Spirit's role in the creation of the earth in the Book of Genesis, while the final verse is a reference to Psalm 107.    What an amazing testimony of the work of the Trinity.  Reflect this week with gratitude for those who've served to gain and protect your freedoms, including our freedom to worship. And thank God for His omnipotence, omniscience and love.  
The original words of the 1861 version are:

1.     Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

2.     O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

3.     Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

4.     O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren's shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

Listen to a very inspiring rendition here.  LISTEN

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