Carolyn Wood’s Devotional for September 11, 2021
“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY! LORD GOD ALMIGHTY” – 1826
And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come! Revelation 4-8
Reginald Heber was born April 21, 1783, to a minister and his wife in an English village. After a happy childhood and a good education in the village school, he enrolled at Oxford where he excelled in poetry and became fast friends with Sir Walter Scott. Following graduation, he succeeded his father as vicar in his family’s parish, and for sixteen years he faithfully served his flock.
His bent toward poetry naturally gave him a keen and growing interest in hymnody. He sought to lift the literary quality of hymns, and he also dreamed of publishing a collection of high-caliber hymns corresponding to the church year for use by liturgical churches. The Bishop of London, however, would not go along with it, and Heber’s plans were dashed.
He continued writing hymns for his own church, however, and it was during the sixteen years in the obscure parish of Hodnet that Heber wrote all 57 of his hymns, including the great missionary hymn, “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains,” which exhorted missionaries to take the gospel to faraway places like “Greenland’s icy mountains,” and “India’s coral strand.”
From Greenland’s icy mountains, / From India’s coral strand, /
Where Afric’s sunny fountains / Roll down their golden sand; /
From many an ancient river, / From many a palmy plain, /
They call us to deliver / Their land from error’s chain.
This hymn represented an earnest desire for Reginald, for he felt God was calling him as a missionary to “India’s coral strand.” His desire was fulfilled in 1822, when, at age 40, he was appointed to oversee the Church of England’s ministries in India.
Arriving in Calcutta, he set out on a 16-month tour of his diocese, visiting mission stations across India. In February of 1826, he left for another tour. While in the village of Trichinopoly on April 3, 1826, he preached to a large crowd in the hot sun, and afterward plunged into a pool of cool water. He suffered a stroke and drowned.
It was after his death that his widow, finding his 57 hymns in a trunk, succeeded in publishing his Hymns Written and Adapted to the Weekly Service of the Church Year. In this volume was the great Trinitarian hymn based on Revelation 4:8-11, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.” Many people from numerous denominations claim this hymn as their favorite.
During the days I spent researching and listening to this hymn a few scriptures came before me pulled from the pages of an old “The Heart of the Bible Daily Devotional” which contains only scripture. The following are the scriptures I found on the page I visited on that day:
God Is Holy
“For I am the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy.”
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings with two he covered his face , with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another:
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts;
His glory fills the whole earth.
For the High and Exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy says this:
”I live in a high and holy place,
and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit,
to revive the spirit if the lowly
and revive the heart of the oppressed.
For I will not accuse you forever,
and I will not always be angry;
for then the spirit would grow weak before Me,
even the breath of man, which I have made.”
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance but, as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct, for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.
Leviticus 11:45; Isaiah 6:1-3; 57:15-16; I Peter 1:14-16
The start of a new school year for me was always exciting. I always found new friends in the form of my new text books. Each one was lovingly carried home at the end of that first day and shared with my parents and anyone else who might be around at the time. Leafing through the history books as well as the geography books was especially exciting as they opened up doors in my mind as they told the stories of exotic, faraway places. In my youth it was seldom that I encountered anyone who was well-traveled, but the beginning of my third grade year I was blessed to meet such a person. We had a new classmate named Cindy who immediately became a great chum. Cindy was bright and cheery and her countenance simply shone. I didn’t realize at the time of our first meeting why, but after meeting her parents and learning that they had served as missionaries in Africa for the past ten years, it became clear to me. Cindy’s parents had bestowed on her the gift of Christ in her life. They taught her to share with others in demonstrative ways.
As Cindy’s father talked about Africa his face would light up too. Oh, how I wanted to do something big with my life that would make a difference for God. I have learned over the years that even the small things He asks of us are important in His kingdom. He asks for our willingness, but everyone is not given the BIG tasks. He asks that we do well the tasks he does give us. May you find joy in the assignments God gives you every day and may the Peace of Christ and the Joy of his Love fill you today and always as you listen. Carolyn Wood
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge