Now Thank We All Our God

Now Thank We All Our God

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Written in 1600’s and translated into English by Catherine Winkworth in the 1800’s, the background to this hymn is rather interesting.  Martin Rinkart served as a pastor of a Lutheran church during the “30 Years War” dating from 1618-1648 in Germany.  Some have described this war as the most devastating in all of history.  Pastor Rinkart arrived in the city of Eilenberg, Germany just as the war had begun and he ministered to the people of this city for 32 years.  Germany’s population during this war dropped from 16 million to 6 million, and the walled city of Eilenburg became a refuge for many.  Unfortunately disease, famine, and war all impacted this city, and also impacted Pastor Rinkart and his family.  After the death of all of the other pastors in the town, Pastor Rinkart was left to conduct funeral services for many of the city’s deceased.  At one point, he was conducting as many as 50 funerals a day, and in one year conducted over 4,000 funerals, including the funeral of his own wife.

Can you even fathom the pain and devastation this one man experienced during his pastorate?  How can one even think about being thankful in the midst of such despair, death and despondency?  I can’t explain it.  I can’t begin to understand it.  But I am thankful today this Pastor left the words of this hymn for generations after him.  That this pastor left us a hymn that is a testimony of God’s goodness, even in the midst of dark times.  His hymn is a written testimony of an Ephesians 5:20 mindset “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;”  Pastor Rinkart gave thanks.  Thanks always for all things.  I pray that we all can learn to have a Thanksgiving mindset for all seasons, not just these few days in November.

Couple of comments on the lyrics:

  • “With heart and hands and voices” – I really thought about these words and the use of them together.  Can one be thankful with one or two of these things, but not all three?  Can one truly be thankful with heart and hands, but not the voice?  A thankful heart speaks to our motives and our true feelings – are we truly grateful for what God has done for us?  To me, the hands represent action.  Has our thankfulness resulted in a change in behavior – to put feet to what we believe?  And the voice represent a vocalization of our praise.  Can we truly be thankful to God and keep it to ourselves?  Would a true sports fan sit quietly when his favorite team is accomplishing great things, or is there excitement and praise?  The point I believe Pastor Rinkart is trying to emphasize is that true thankfulness will impact all parts of our lives – our motives, our actions, and our words.
  • “Guide us when perplexed” – If anyone in history who would be justified in asking the question “Why?” I think Pastor Rinkart would qualify.  Why do bad things happened to God’s people?  Why did God allow such pain and devastation?  Why isn’t their anyone to help me share the burden and load of this city? Why? Why? Why?  The answer that we find in verse two is that we need God to guide us when perplexed.  We need Him to be near us (sentence 1 verse two).  We need him to bring peace to cheer us (sentence 2 verse two).  We need Him to give more grace during these perplexing “why” moments.  The same is true for you and me today.  We need Him when we wonder “Why.”  We need Him when we are perplexed.  We can pray like Jehosophat prayed in 2 Chron. 20:12 – “We do not know what to do.  Our eyes are upon you.”

In the United States, we are entering the holiday season.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.  Black Friday and Last minute seasonal sells.  “Season,” however, is not a word of permanence.  It is something that is temporary.  We will decorate our houses for a season.  We will focus on gift giving for a season.  We will enjoy some wonderful food for a season.  The season will come and the season will go.

But as Christians, we should not have a “seasonal” mindset when it comes to giving thanks to God.  An attitude of gratitude should be part of our daily walk.  During the mountain top experiences, we rejoice and are thankful. During “divers temptations,” we count it all joy and give thanks.  We can, like Pastor Rinkart, give thanks for the life that God has given because we recognize that life is short and can be taken away.  We can thank God like Pastor Rinkart for many years of opportunity to minister to others.  For the opportunity to share in the fellowship of His sufferings because we will one day share in the power of His resurrection.

I hope that this hymn today reminds you that you and I have many things to be thankful for.  That you will pause today, and give thanks to God.  To praise Him.  But I would also encourage you to not let this be “seasonal” gratefulness.  But that as Christians we can have an attitude of thankfulness in all kinds of situations.  The world will notice that kind of gratefulness.

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