The Awe-Full Psalm

A dear friend and brother in Christ wrote this recently. It is a wonderful reminder of how awesome is our God and how much we have to be thankful for, regardless of our station or circumstances in this age.

psalms1188

My favorite hymn is, “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place” written by Issac Watts. Some modern versions use alternate words like awesome, awe-filled, or sacred, but the word was originally used in a way that literally meant, “full of awe.”

This hymn paints a picture of God’s elect worshipping Him in spirit and in truth, something we also see portrayed in Psalm 118. Take a look at them in parallel:

How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Oh let Israel say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Oh let the house of Aaron say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Oh let those who fear the Lord say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.” (Psalm 118:1-4)

The everlasting love of God has been shown to His people since Eden. All those who fear the Lord, regardless every generation, find solace in Christ alone.


While all our hearts and all our songs
Join 
to admire the feast,
Each of us 
cry, with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?”

From my distress I called upon the Lord;
The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.
The Lord is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:5-9)

Dining with rulers is hard enough, but having a seat at the Lord’s table? How much better is that refuge than trusting in man, his princes, or temporal promises?


“Why was I made to hear thy voice,
And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

All nations surrounded me;
In the name of the 
Lord I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me;
In the name of the 
Lord I will surely cut them off.
They surrounded me like bees;
They were extinguished as a fire of thorns;
In the name of the 
Lord I will surely cut them off.
You pushed me violently so that I was falling,
But the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation. (Psalm 118:10-14)

Salvation only comes through the Lord, yet we do not call to Him on our own. We were among the wretched who looked to God’s people with disdain! Why, oh why, did God choose to save us from that state of pure rebellion against Him?


‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
The right hand of the Lord is exalted;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
I will not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the Lord.
The Lord has disciplined me severely,
But He has not given me over to death. (Psalm 118:15-18)

The love of God is far greater than any man could tell. He sweetly drew us in, His right hand holds us fast, and we are now destined not to die, but live in His presence forever!


Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
I shall give thanks to You, for You have answered me,
And You have become my salvation. (Psalm 118:19-21)

Asking Christ to constrain His arrival seems terrible at first – why delay such a wonderful event? Consider how the gates swung open for us when we did not deserve it. Does this motivate you to ask for more time to share that news?


We long to see thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing thy redeeming grace.

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief 
corner stone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O Lord, do save, we beseech You;
O Lord, we beseech You, do send prosperity!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God, and He has given us light;
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I give thanks to You;
You are my God, I extol You.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Psalm 118:22-29)

Christ was the stone rejected by man, exalted by God. The number of elect God granted Him is entirely the Lord’s doing, which should be marvelous to our eyes. Such everlasting lovingkindness makes us want to sing of that redeeming grace with our fellow believers for all eternity.

Issac Watts did not relate this hymn to Psalm 118 when he penned these beautiful words. Yet, through the same providence he described, we still hear the truths of Scripture burst out of the pages several hundred years later. The message is clear in both texts: God’s plan will succeed, and we must praise Him in response!

Do justly. Love kindness. Walk humbly. Stay tuned.

In Christ,

CK Hicks

“I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.” (2 Peter 1:12)

3 thoughts on “The Awe-Full Psalm

  1. This is a beautiful hymn! I know of Isaac Watts and have read his biography. I also knew he wrote hymns but have never heard this one before. Thanks for sharing and what your friend said is very encouraging.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Violet – we sang that song fairly regularly in a church we belonged to for several years. It is beautiful and the tune is a lament. How I cherish hymns that glorify our Lord rather than declare what we will do.

    Like

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