What is the most beloved Hymn of all time? This question is like asking, “Who is your favorite athlete, actor or musician.” It’s a matter of personal taste. Your favorite hymn is possibly rooted in an emotional memory from the past. I remember being a little boy in the 60’s singing, “In the Garden.” “Amazing Grace” is the definitive tune of the past generation. In the 1800’s there was a hymn, “Down by the River,” that was generally thought of as the world’s favorite. Martin Luther in the 1500’s wrote “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” which was a tavern song he adapted with theological words.
“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “Be thou My vision” and “It is Well with My Soul” are always on the list. Denominational hymnal committees always frustrate old timers by replacing some of the long-time favorites with new submissions. Interestingly, the most requested hymn and the hymn most wanted to see gone was the same one, “How Great Thou Art.”
Mathew’s version of the Last Supper says they sang a hymn before the Disciples made their way to the Garden of Gethsemane. What hymn did they sing? Historians are confident it was the “Egyptian Hallel,” which means “praise” from Psalms 113-118. Observant Jews have sung this collection from the Psalms on the most important holidays, such as on Passover, which was the feast Jesus was sharing with His disciples.
“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere men do to me.” “The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” “I will not die, but live, and proclaim what the Lord has done. The Lord has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death.” Imagine Jesus singing those words, knowing the crucifixion and resurrection awaited Him.
Then comes “This is the day that the Lord has made…” This seems like the perfect way to greet each new morning as God gives us the gift of another 24 hours. Remember, the Lord’s mercies are new every morning. This was sung on Good Friday! Good Friday was indeed a day to rejoice in; God saved us from sin. Everyday will be better than we can imagine because what happened on that day, 20 centuries ago.
-Rev Dr William Lewis