The God of Abraham Praise
By: Thomas Olivers (1725-1799)
Commonly sung to: Leoni
Here is a YouTube recording: http://youtu.be/IDzjmW25HTg
The God of Abraham praise, who reigns enthroned above;
Ancient of everlasting days, and God of Love;
Jehovah, great I AM! by earth and Heav’n confessed;
I bow and bless the sacred Name forever blessed.
The God of Abraham praise, at Whose supreme command
From earth I rise—and seek the joys at His right hand;
I all on earth forsake, its wisdom, fame, and power;
And Him my only Portion make, my Shield and Tower.
The God of Abraham praise, whose all sufficient grace
Shall guide me all my happy days, in all my ways.
He calls a worm His friend, He calls Himself my God!
And He shall save me to the end, thro’ Jesus’ blood.
He by Himself has sworn; I on His oath depend,
I shall, on eagle wings upborne, to Heav’n ascend.
I shall behold His face; I shall His power adore,
And sing the wonders of His grace forevermore.
Tho’ nature’s strength decay, and earth and hell withstand,
To Canaan’s bounds I urge my way, at His command.
The wat’ry deep I pass, with Jesus in my view;
And thro’ the howling wilderness my way pursue.
The goodly land I see, with peace and plenty bless’d;
A land of sacred liberty, and endless rest.
There milk and honey flow, and oil and wine abound,
And trees of life forever grow with mercy crowned.
There dwells the Lord our King, the Lord our righteousness,
Triumphant o’er the world and sin, the Prince of peace;
On Sion’s sacred height His kingdom still maintains,
And glorious with His saints in light forever reigns.
He keeps His own secure, He guards them by His side,
Arrays in garments, white and pure, His spotless bride:
With streams of sacred bliss, with groves of living joys—
With all the fruits of Paradise, He still supplies.
Before the great Three-One they all exulting stand;
And tell the wonders He hath done, through all their land:
The list’ning spheres attend, and swell the growing fame;
And sing, in songs which never end, the wondrous Name.
The God Who reigns on high the great archangels sing,
And “Holy, holy, holy!” cry, “Almighty King!
Who was, and is, the same, and evermore shall be:
Jehovah—Father—great I AM, we worship Thee!”
Before the Savior’s face the ransomed nations bow;
O’erwhelmed at His almighty grace, forever new:
He shows His prints of love—they kindle to a flame!
And sound thro’ all the worlds above the slaughtered Lamb.
The whole triumphant host give thanks to God on high;
“Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” they ever cry.
Hail, Abraham’s God, and mine! (I join the heav’nly lays,)
All might and majesty are Thine, and endless praise.
Author: Daniel ben Judah (14th century) Title: Yigdal Elohim Hai
English translation (Wikipedia)
- Exalted be the Living God and praised, He exists – unbounded by time is His existence;
- He is One – and there is no unity like His Oneness – Inscrutable and infinite is His Oneness;
- He has no semblance of a body nor is He corporeal – nor has His holiness any comparison;
- He preceded every being that was created – the First, and nothing precedes His precedence;
- Behold! He is Master of the universe – Every creature demonstrates His greatness and His sovereignty;
- He granted His flow of prophecy – to His treasured, splendid people;
- In Israel, none like Moses arose again – a prophet who perceived His vision clearly;
- God gave His people a Torah of truth – by means of His prophet, the most trusted of His household;
- God will never amend nor exchange His law – for any other one, for all eternity;
- He scrutinizes and knows our hiddenmost secrets – He perceives a matter’s outcome at its inception;
- He recompenses man with kindness according to his deed – He places evil on the wicked according to his wickedness;
- By the End of Days He will send our Messiah – to redeem those longing for His final salvation;
- God will revive the dead in His abundant kindness – Blessed forever is His praised Name.
The relationship between the Christian Hymn “The God of Abraham Praise” and the Jewish Doxology “Yigdal” is reflective of the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament Church. Thomas Olivers was a man who had spent his youth in profligate living. While living in Bristol, England, miserably poor and destitute he heard the preaching of George Whitefield. Whitefield was preaching on Zachariah 3:2 “2And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” Olivers was so moved by the message that he gave his life over to God and began to make amends to all those he owed money to. He initially wanted to join with the Whitefield movement but was discouraged from doing so. He eventually joined up with Charles Wesley and the Methodist movement. During this time he continued to work as a shoe maker. As his knowledge and skills as a preacher increased, he joined the Wesleyans as an evangelist in Cornwall.
One evening, Olivers attended services at a Jewish Synagogue where he heard the Cantor, Leoni, sing his Hebrew Doxology, the Yigdal. Olivers was so inspired by the experience, he adapted the tune and elements of the text to write one of the greatest of all hymns in Christendom.
The opening stanza is full of Old Testament imagery and references. The two greatest patriarchs of the OT are referenced; Abraham and Moses. When Moses asked of God in the burning bush who he should say had sent him, God answered: Gen 3:14 14And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
Throughout the first three stanzas, Olivers draws from OT imagery, but half way through the third stanza he introduces aspects of the New Testament. The idea of God being a “friend” draws strongly from Jesus’s relationship to mankind. The phrase: “He calls a worm His friend” sets the stage for the coming act of grace through Jesus’ blood.
Through the next several stanzas the work of Christ is seen as flowing out of the Prophets and all that was spoken of in the OT. It is not seen as something separate, but rather as the ultimate conclusion and continuation of the story begun with Abraham. The story ends with the triumphant cry of “Holy, holy, holy! Almighty King, Who was, and is, the same, and evermore shall be: Jehovah – Father – the great I AM”. Abraham’s God and my God are the same! The living God, unbound by time, inscrutable and infinite. He is the first, there was nothing before Him. He is the Master of the universe, all of his creation demonstrates His glory and sovereignty. He spoke His word through the prophets and His word is unchanging. He knows all secrets and will visit upon each their due in the end. Yet, He has sent His Messiah to redeem His people, to pay the ransom for the final salvation of His people. Praise forever His Name, which is above all names. Amen.