O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing....

Discussion in 'Music Ministry' started by hamricba, Nov 28, 2005.

  1. hamricba

    hamricba
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    A pastor friend and I were discussing this hymn, and we found we had 2 different views of what is meant by this title that opens the first verse.

    1) "A Thousand Tongues to Sing" refers to 1,000 voices- 1,000 people gathered together to praise God. My friend noted that especially at the time of this hymn's writing, a gathering of 1,000 people would have been especially significant in the minds of worshippers. He also noted the references to worship in Revelation, of people from every tribe and tongue worshipping God.

    2) "A Thousand Tongues to Sing" is the desire of the singer to offer even much more praise to God, for He is worthy. In this case, it is one person who wishes that he (or she!) had so much praise to give God. The imagery is a bit absurd (intentionally), but very powerful. There is some textual evidence in the hymn that supports this; the writer uses first person singular pronouns rather than plurals. This does not necessarily require the 1,000 tongues belong all to one person. This is how I grew up thinking about the song- that God is worthy of all of my praise for redeeming me in Jesus, and how I long to give Him even more praise.


    What do you guys think? I'm planning to ask Mr. Wesley one day when I see him just what he meant... but maybe some of you have thoughts or background info. Thankfully, either of these messages glorify God greatly, whichever he meant by these words.
     
  2. rsr

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    No. 2 would be my pick; it was written for the one-year anniversary of a deep religious experience, of which he wrote, "I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ... I saw that by faith I stood, by the continual support of faith... I went to bed still sensible of my own weakness...yet confident of Christ's protection."

    It was published with the recommendation it be sung "on the anniversary of one's conversion."
     
  3. rlvaughn

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    I agree that the hymn is (most probably) an expression of Wesley's desire to praise God more than he is humanly able - agreeing with point 2 in the OP.

    A bit more on the song's history: according to cyberhymnal, "The stanza that be­gins 'O for a thou­sand tongues to sing' is verse seven of Wes­ley’s orig­in­al po­em. This work first ap­peared in Hymns and Sac­red Po­ems in 1740."
     
  4. nate

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    I would also agree with #2.
     
  5. Johnv

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    As a music minor, I side with option 2.

    Wesley's words first appeared in the 1740 publication "Hymns and Sac­red Po­ems". The line "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" is actually the the 7th verse of the poem. The lyrics honor the 1 year an­ni­ver­sary of Wesley's acepting of the Lord (see the verse that reads "On this glad day the glorious Sun of Righteousness arose; on my benighted soul he shone, and filled it with repose").

    My favorite verse is "My gracious Master and my God, assist me to proclaim, To spread through all the earth abroad the honors of Thy name."

    BTW, the hynn tune to which it is commonly set is an 1839 arrangement (done by Low­ell Ma­son) of a tune called "Az­mon", written in 1828 by Carl Glaser.

    There is also a hymn text to the same tune written by Ma­til­da Ed­wards in 1873:

    "God make my life a little song that comforteth the sad; That helpeth others to be strong, and makes the singer glad.
    God make my life a little hymn of tenderness and praise; Of faith that never will grow dim in all His wondrous ways."
     
  6. tenor

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    IMHO, it's mosty likely #2. This is indeed a very powerful hymn of praise and celebration of God's grace.

    Actually, I prefer to to call "O For a Thousand Tongues" the ice cream lover's hymn. (Ha, Ha)
     

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