Hymn History: Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah November 16, 2022

Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah

“Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.  And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” – Psalm 107:6-8

Behind today’s hymn is a fascinating tale of how our God is always at work among His people. Wales in the early to mid-18th century was a very dark place. If we were to look back on that day from the surface it would seem that the churches were healthy, perhaps thriving churches. Various new parishes were popping up and scores of new members were across the land. However, as Jeremy Owen, who is our most reliable voice from that era, described the situation:

“True and sincere zeal for pure religion, and an ardent love for God’s ordinances, have been wholly extinguished. Since being allowed unbounded freedom, churches, which blossomed in the times of persecution, have declined almost to nothing.”

It was in the midst of this spiritual darkness and fruitless religion, God’s great reviving work began to advance. Thundering voices for truth begin arising all over the world. The Wesleys, George Whitefield, and the Moravians Count Von Zinzendorf are among the most notable. It is during this time, in Wales, God was stirring the heart of a young school teacher named Howell Harris.

At age 21, Harris became passionate about seeing his generation transformed by the gospel of Christ. Many within the Established Church implored him to be more moderate, but he would not hear them. He became one of the greatest voices for truth for his nation at that time.

Early on in the ministry, he came into contact with a young man by the name of William Williams. Williams was wonderfully converted at the age of 20. He immediately became passionate about the Lord Jesus. A staunch Calvinist Methodist, he began traveling by horseback all across Wales singing, preaching, and strengthening believers. He quickly rose to become one of the leaders in that movement and more opportunities arose for him to minister.

Williams traversed over 100,000 miles in his ministry. We easily can imagine the many times he had to stop to ask for guidance and direction from others. As he traveled on horseback for 43 years, no doubt he came across many difficulties and hardships. Thankfully, his deep faith in God is what brought him to write the mighty prayer/hymn that we know and love today. Based heavily upon God’s guidance to the children of Israel, William’s words capture the cry of a searching heart.

Dwell on these words this hour. Think about his life today. Reflect on how God has faithfully guided you. Determine that you will surrender your will to His perfect leading.

Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah

1. Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy pow’rful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me till I want no more,
feed me till I want no more.
2. Open now the crystal fountain
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fiery, cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.
Strong deliv’rer, strong deliv’rer,
be thou still my strength and shield,
be thou still my strength and shield.
3. When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death and hell’s
destruction,

land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to thee,
I will ever give to thee
.

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