Issac Watts (1674-1748)

English Congregationalist pastor and prolific hymn writer Issac Watts (1674-1748) wrote the hymn “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” in 1714 (the music used for it was composed in 1708 by William Croft). It was originally part of his work entitled The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament published in 1719. The hymn paraphrases Psalm 90, in particular the first five verses, that read:

“Lord you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’ For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning,” (Psalm 90:1-6, ESV).

The comfort those words bring is immeasurable. The God of all creation who is the creator of even time itself is our dwelling place and knows not only our past but our future as well. He is our faithful God to whom we can cling in times of trouble. He is, as Watts paraphrased, our shelter from the stormy blasts and storms will come.

Here are the lyrics:

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men:”
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

Not only is He our help for ages past, but He is also our help (and hope) for today as well!

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