O LOVE THAT WILT NOT LET ME GO (#458 1940 Hymnal), a Devotion. 16 August 2016 Anno Domini
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:36-39 (KJV)
The Love of God is a great and heavenly Magnet whose properties are to draw those bodies of like properties to itself and hold them fast there. We are the simple metal of mortality and have no drawing power just as the needle of the compass cannot draw the polar axis of the earth to itself but is rather drawn to it. God is the initiator and drawing power of love, for it is His innate character.
Do you truly love God? Do you wonder if God truly loves a church mouse such as you are? What is the proof of that equation of love? It is as simple as that draw of the compass mentioned above. If you truly love God, you can be certain that He loves you for He loved you first – and His love is immutable and unceasing. “19 We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (KJV) So, if you love God, you can be certain that you belong to Him in unconditional election and surety.
This hymn came about as the fruit of pain. Did you consider that pain can bear a fruitful result? The author of this hymn, about its composition, wrote, “My hymn was composed in the manse of Innelan [Argyleshire, Scotland] on the evening of the 6th of June, 1882, when I was 40 years of age. I was alone in the manse at that time. It was the night of my sister’s marriage, and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something happened to me, which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice rather than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. I have no natural gift of rhythm. All the other verses I have ever written are manufactured articles; this came like a dayspring from on high.” George Matheson, 1882 (Cyberhymnal).
There are two tunes listed in the 1940 Hymnal for this hymn – the first, Consecration by Anna Morse (1941); and the second, St. Margaret by Albert Lister Peace (1885) I highly favor the second tune perhaps due to its being the one by which I learned the hymn as a child.
O LOVE THAT WILT NOT LET ME GO
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.
O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
may brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red
life that shall endless be.
“O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.” The treasures of the earth – gold, silver, priceless gems – are pulled down to the very lowest depths of the sea when they were being transported by great sailing vessels that sank by storm or shell at sea. But the treasures of Heaven are not so – they are wafted up to the highest spires of Heaven and held there in safe keeping for the day of transport of their blessed owners. Love is the greatest of these Heavenly Treasures for love is unfailing and not subject to depreciation in value. In truth, man owns nothing to himself. His body is made of the nutrients and minerals of the earth (which belongs to God). His life is breathed into his nostrils by that same God. All of the resources man finds about him also belong to the Great Lord of Heaven and Earth. So we can give nothing in reality – EXCEPT LOVE! And even that love is an echo of the great Generator of Love – God Almighty. In “giving back the life we owe,” we are merely being good stewards of the resources of life and health that the Creator has granted us use of while on our earthly voyage. If we have turned our burdens over to our Lord Jesus Christ, it is He that bears them now and not us. We have our eternal Sabbath (rest) in Christ beginning at the moment of salvation. The love that we add to the ocean depths of God’s love is merely a tiny drop, but it is a drop that is treasured in the depths of His Sea of Love.
“O Light that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to thee; my heart restores its borrowed ray, that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day may brighter, fairer be.” You may recall that Pillar of Fire by Night and Cloud by Day that both led, and followed, the Children of Israel out of Egypt. That Pillar of Fire Light still leads for wisdom, and follows for protection, His chosen people wherever they go. We have not even a flickering light of our own, but rather that reflected light of the bright Sun of Righteousness. If we reflect the light of God’s night, and day, lights back to Him, that Light of Glory grows more abundant in its brilliance toward our path.
“O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain, and feel the promise is not vain, that morn shall tearless be.” Only a committed Christian will have the spiritual discernment to understand that there is an unbridled joy that can result from the pain of trials and tribulations. The great, converted sea captain, John Newton knew that joy. The great martyr of Czechoslovakia, Jan Hus, knew that joy as he died at the burning stake singing a Psalm to the glory of the Lord. There can be no rainbow of promise without the raindrops of sorrow. Those tears of sorrow we shed in this life will be kept by God in His tear bottle, and will feed the tear-formed pearls that cover the Gates of Splendor. The life that is turned over to our Lord – lock, stock, and barrel – will bear no tears in their pilgrim’s knapsack on the Narrow Way. Those tears will have been turned over to God. So the Psalmist sang: “. . . . . weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5 (KJV)
“O Cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee; I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red life that shall endless be.” There is not scope in a short devotion to cover, with justice, the beauty and truth of this last verse. The first three stanzas noted three distinct divine qualities: 1) Love; 2) Light (of God); and 3) Joy. But looms ahead of the Christian always that grievous image and burden of the cross. You cannot look at the cross without lifting your head and heart above the sorry circumstances of the world. In taking up our cross daily (Luke 9:23) we daily die to self and are risen in Christ. Christ is the LIFE! Without Him there is no life at all. How dare we flee from that Source of all Goodness and Life? We all alike shall lay down our mortal remains in the dust of the earth to await that sure and certain resurrection of the dead. But we must bear in mind always that there is no resurrection to the glory of Heaven without the cross which preceeds.
There is a beautiful old Scottish folk ballad my mother used to sing called, “Barbara Allen.” It speaks of a love unto death of a young lad (Sweet William) for a beautiful young lassie named Barbara Allen. But Barbara Allen understood not that love until her ‘Sweet William’ had died of love for her. She, too, than died of a lovesickness that parallels that of the Christian for his Lord. Both Barbara and William were buried in the old churchyard, and “on Williams grave, there grew a red, red rose. On Barbara Allen’s grew a briar. They grew and grew up the old church walls, and could not grow much higher. They tied into a lover’s knot – the red rose and the briar.”
I have always considered that red rose to symbolize the undying love of Christ for us; and the briar to be our meager return offering – nevertheless received and united with the rose.