Year B – Proper 18 – O Let Thy Name Engraven Stand

O Let My Name Engraven Stand

A “fugue-ing” pattern is an alternating and repeating motif.  But between striving to get each note and entrance as well as our syncopation right, perhaps we have missed the great truth in the words we are singing–and if not, we may only remember something about harts, roes, and spices growing!  In order to worship God more vigorously and joyfully, let us look at each of its three verses in order.

As our hymnal places this hymn in the topical heading of “Supplication,” it is important to note at the outset that often in the Scriptures, man’s supplication (asking or pleading) to God is accompanied by rehearsing the truths known of God.  For example, in the Lord’s Prayer not only do we supplicate God to give us our daily bread and forgive our trespasses, we also reiterate our belief that His name is hallowed and that the kingdom, power, and glory are His forever.  This hymn follows much terminology found in Song of Solomon 8, to which we will as well allude.

In this hymn, verse 1 is a supplication.  It closely comports with Song of Solomon 8:6a.  Here, we ask God to remember our “name.”  Specifically, we plead that our names would be “engraven” on Christ’s “heart” and “hand,” and further that we would be “sealed” on His “arm.”  These engravings and seals are also a “pledge of love.”  In pointing out various physical characteristics, the author draws our thoughts to certain truths.  Christ, we know, suffered agony and pain because of His great love for us (Lk 22:44, 23:33, Jer 31:3, Jn 3:16) and so bears the “marks” of His sacrifice on His heart and hands.  Also, when the Bible speaks of God’s “arm,” it is often denoting His great power by which He protects, defends, and delivers His people.  Psalm 44:3 makes it clear that Israel’s own sword and arm did not save them, but God’s “right hand” and “arm.”  Likewise, we pray God that He would remember us and save us.

Verse 2, on the other hand, is a reiteration.  It follows Song of Solomon 8:6b-7.  In this verse, we rehearse truths we believe about God.  In a sense, too, this recapitulation shows our faith in the promises of God that He will indeed remember us.  We state that we know His love for His people is “stronger than death,” and recall His victory over death by His resurrection which we have so recently celebrated!  Christ’s love for us is indeed stronger than death, for when we were still bound by death as sinners, Christ Died for us (Rom 5:8), passing us “from death to life” (Jn 5:24), and the “fire” of His love is unquenchable making it sure that no one will snatch us out of His hand (Jn 10:28) though “hell and earth combine” to try to thwart His love.

We end again in supplication as we sing verse 3.  We see Song of Solomon 8:14 in this verse.  Here we term Christ our “Beloved,” a term also used by God of His Son (Mat 3:17), by God/Christ of His people (Dt 33:12, Ps 60:5), and by Christians for their brothers in Christ (Rom 12:19).  Expression of the desire of believers to see Christ finds voice in this verse, as we desire to be with Him where we will “be like Him for we shall see Him as He is” (1Jn 3:2).  Not only is our desire for presence with Christ, but also to see His kingdom come on earth as in heaven (Matt 6:10).  The last two lines of the hymn’s verse get at this idea.  The biblical imagery of a deer (hart/roe) is one of livelihood and vibrant life.  David, in giving thanks to God, says, “He made my feet like the feet of a deer” (2Sam 22:34).  God’s voice is said to “make the deer give birth” (Ps 29:9).  Isaiah, speaking before the coming of Christ, describes Him thus: “He will come and save you.  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Is 35:4-6, cf. Acts 3:7-8).  And we the Church could be said to be a place “where spices grow” as spices are a good and expensive thing, used for anointing oils and known for their pleasing aromas.  So we may truly pray “Thy kingdom come” as we are a pleasing aroma of God and to God (2 Cor 2:15, Rev 8:4, Ps 141:2) that the earth may leap for joy as a deer!

This Lord’s Day, may we rejoice in the Love of our Beloved which is stronger than death.” (Jon Herr)

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