Hymn singing is an important aspect of worship. As a denomination, we cherish hymns and we sing them in our services. Messages in hymns can be used to praise God, lift up the spirit of worshippers, ministers to one another and what have you. Hymns also extol the power of salvation, healing, and deliverance. Hymns are powerful for overcoming despair and depression. That is why singing hymns is encouraged during church worship, family worship, as well as in personal quiet time. This month’s focus is on learning about the significance of some Easter hymns and the background story behind them.

Hymn 1: Jesus, keep me near the cross

A cross is a wooden bar intersected by another wooden bar. In Christian parlance, the cross is a long vertical bar intersected at right angles usually about two-thirds up, by a shorter horizontal bar used as a symbol of Christianity or the Crucifixion, People sometimes describe a cross to mean a problem, challenge, or difficulty, but it is not.

The cross is the tool that God used, by the death of Christ on it, to put an end to the sin of the world. It also put an end to all forms of afflictions like sickness, failure and everything that the devil uses to torment the world. The cross that Jesus died on became a means to end the works of the flesh in the lives of the believers (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6). Through, the power of the cross of Christ, believers can live victoriously over Satan, sin and self.

Background History of the Hymn: The hymn, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross was written by Fanny Jane Crosby. She was born in Panama country, New York, on March 24, 18 20, and she died in 1915. Though she became blind at age six, she possessed a natural gift for poetry. She used the natural gift of poetry to write secular verses and supplied texts for ministers to sing at cantatas. Later, she encountered

Jesus, when he turned her life around, and she began to write poetry for Sacred Poetry at the age of 44. She was truly grateful to God who saved her.

Fanny Jane Crosby spent most of her life in New York as a lifelong Methodist. She wrote over 8.500 gospel songs. One day, a popular evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, asked her if she could have one wish granted. He thought she would have asked for her sight. She said to him, if I have one wish, I would wish to be blind throughout my life. Moody was shocked, and he asked again, how can you say that? She added that her heart’s desire is to be nearer to the cross. The hymn was a prayer to God because she did not want to miss heaven. it was her friend, Deane, who wrote the music. Can you also mention some of the gifts you have discovered in your life?

Explanation of the Hymn: Let us Read and sing the hymn and bring out the meaning of each of the stanzas.

Jesus keep me near the cross,

There is a precious fountain.

Free to all, a healing stream.

Flow from Calvary’s mountain.

Refrain

In the cross, in the cross, Be my glory ever,

Till my raptured soul shall find Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,

Love and mercy found me;

There the bright, and morning star

Shed his beams around me. Hebrew

Stanza one of the hymns is a plea to the Lord. She wanted to be focused on the cross. The cross, to her, is a place where healing takes place through the precious blood of the lamb. Stanza two reveals Crosby’s experience of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. As a sinner, Christ, the bright morning star, extend His hand of love and mercy toward her and saved her.

Near the cross! O lamb of God

Bring its scenes before me;

Help me walk from day to day

With its shadow o’er me.

 

Near the cross! I’ll watch and wait

Hoping, trusting ever,

Till I reach the golden strand,

Just beyond the river.

In stanza three, Fanny Crosby enjoys a closer walk with Jesus. Early in the morning, she woke up to praise God. She read her Bible and prayed to God every day. As she got closer to Jesus in her relationship, she was divinely protected from evil attacks.

Stanza four shows that as she watched and waited, she was looking unto Jesus for instruction and guidance to run the daily Christian race. The refrain of the hymn is are reflection that she preferred the cross because it is the symbol of glory and that in Christ there is rest.

Conclusion: The hymn, ‘Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross’ opens our eyes to these spiritual truths.

  • Jesus has the power to save all sinners. No matter the sins you have committed, Jesus will forgive and save you.
  • Through the power of the cross, you have access to the throne of grace. You can communicate with God through Jesus (Hebrews 4:16).
  • The closer you are to the cross of Jesus, the farther you will be from sin, the world and Satan.

Hymn 2: Nothing But the Blood

Easter period is a time to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus paid to die for the whole world so that people can be saved. It is a time for believers to remember that the love of God for us cost Jesus His life. The blood that came out of Him was sufficient to save, not just a few persons but the world. So, anyone who approaches Jesus for the cleansing power will receive it. His blood speaks mercy rather than condemnation. Nothing can wash the sin, which is inherent in our nature, except the blood of Jesus (Titus 2:14). By Jesus’ blood, we have a new covenant with God.

Background of the Hymn: Robert Lowry wrote the hymn: Nothing but the Blood. He was born in Philadelphia on March 12, 18 26, and he died in 1899. He was a popular Baptist preacher and educator. He served churches in Pennsylvania, New York, Brooklyn, and Plainfield, New Jersey. Robert Lowry was a graduate of Bucknell University and also a Professor of Belles Leltres at the university and he received a Doctor of Divinity in 1875. He became popular as a gospel singer while he was ministering in Brooklyn.

Then, he was working with William. H. Doane in producing some of the most popular songs for Sunday school programmes during his time. Rev. Callon. R. Young as the editor of the United Methodist hymnal discovered that the hymn was sung in religious gatherings in the United States in 1957. The song was available in the Methodist hymnal and Evangelical United Brethren hymnal.

It is a classic gospel song. The song focuses on a single theme and the phrase is repeated. Nothing but the Blood of Jesus was repeated twelve times in the four stanzas. The refrain is very short, but focuses on the theme of the song. It centres on how God’s redemptive plan came to reality through the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.

Explanation of the Hymn: Teachers should divide the learners into two groups. A group should take the call and the other group should respond.

Stanzas One and Two: Stanzas one and two started with a question ‘What can wash away my sin?’ In the Old Testament, the blood of a goat, ox, or lamb could only cover the sins of the people; It could not take away sins nor help them to become sinless. But once Jesus died, He became the only One that takes away sin. It cleanses sinners thoroughly and enables believers to live a holy life. Therefore, we do not have to sacrifice anything for our redemption; Jesus paid all of our debts. We are pardoned and set free to live like Christ.

What can wash away my sin? (Group I)

Nothing but the blood of Jesus; (Group II)

What can make me whole again? (Group I)

Nothing but the blood of Jesus. (Group II)

Refrain:

Oh precious is the flow,

That makes me white as snow;

No other fount I know,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon this I see,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus;

For my cleansing, this is my plea,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Stanzas Three and Four: The author of the hymn, Rev. Lowry reminds us that nothing can be exchanged for the blood of Jesus. Nothing pleases God as the blood of His Son sacrificed for the redemption of the world. The hymn encourages every child of God to put their faith in Jesus for sanctification from sin and salvation from eternal death. The gift of Jesus is available to everyone who accepts it. The refrain shows how sinners have become saints through the power of the blood of Jesus. The blood also gives hope and peace of mind to all believers.

Nothing can for sin atone,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus;

Naught of good that I have done,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 

This is all my hope and peace,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus;

This is all my righteousness,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Stanzas three and four reveal the power in the blood of Jesus Christ. It makes a condemned sinner have eternal joy when he/she accepts Jesus as his/her personal Lord and Saviour. It speaks peace into a troubled soul and hope for the hopeless. The blood of Jesus also shields believers from all evils and calamities.

Conclusion: Beloved, through the blood of Jesus, we are saved from eternal damnation. The atoning blood of Jesus makes us enjoy a covenant relationship with God. Lowry was very useful to God and people as a Sunday school teacher and chorister. Are you useful in the house of God? You can access the part 2 hymns that can be sung during Easter here.