Sometimes old words are the best words.
I recently acquired a new bookshelf to house all of the beautiful, old books I was given as a gift from dear friends several weeks ago. I have been thoroughly enjoying exploring each volume–reading the words written in the covers by previous owners, and in the margins as well. Turning the brittle pages and finding all sorts of treasure within. Imagining who may have owned the books when they were first published; who may have held them as they sang the words contained within (many are hymn books).
One of my favorite so far, is a book from 1867. It’s compact and lengthy–well over 650 pages long (the pages stop being numbered before the appendices). The title is Lyra Britannica, and it is a collection of British hymns, printed from the original texts, with biographical sketches of the authors. It was compiled by a Rev. Charles Rogers.
It is a wealth of treasures.
One section recently caught my eye while pouring over the pages, because I was familiar with the songwriter’s’ name: Robert Murray McCheyne. I don’t know much about him, really, except that his name is associated with a popular Bible Reading Plan. The biographical sketch in this book gave me little more than the locations in which he served and ministered.
Reading his works, though, I came across this song, titled Jehovah Tsidkenu. And, consequently, found myself a bit wrecked by it.
I had never heard of the Hebrew word “Tsidkenu”. I looked it up, and it means “righteousness”. So, I think this name given to God means something akin to “God is Righteous.” Or something like that.
Regardless, the words of this song are not nothing.
I could have written them; they are so familiar to my soul.
I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.
I oft read with pleasure, to sooth or engage,
Isaiah´s wild measure and John´s simple page;
But e´en when they pictured the blood sprinkled tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.
Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul;
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu””´twas nothing to me.
When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see””
Jehovah Tsidkenu my Saviour must be.
My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life giving and free””
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.
Jehovah Tsidkenu! my treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne´er can be lost;
In thee I shall conquer by flood and by field,
My cable, my anchor, my breast-plate and shield!
Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath;
For while from life´s fever my God sets me free,
Jehovah Tsidkenu, my death song shall be.
~Jehovah Tsidkenu by Robert Murray McCheyne