New Hymn Text: Prophet, Priest, and King

I had some unexpected free time tonight, so I did some hymn writing. It’s been a while! I was encouraged today by Eric J. Alexander’s discussion (in John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology) of Jesus’ threefold ministry as God’s anointed Prophet, Priest, and King—a grand topic! The result of my meditation is the following (unfinished) text. It came together really quickly, which may be good and may be bad. I’m not sure yet.

I always seek input to help me improve a text, but I usually do so in private. I thought it might be enjoyable and profitable to run this one by the readers of MTC, though. Please advise (with the understanding that I can’t take all suggestions and probably won’t list multiple authors for the suggestions I do take). :) Thoughts on the concept? Doctrinal content? Word choices? Flow? Overall artistry? Weak points?

SDG (Psalm 115:1)


Prophet, Priest, and King

Blind and lost, we need a Guide—
With thund’ring voice—“Thus says the Lord!”
A voice to cry “Thus says the Lord!”
So God as man with man abides:
Our Prophet, God’s incarnate Word.

Vile and shamed, we need an Aid
To mediate ‘tween God and man.
The sinless Son atonement made:
Our great High Priest and spotless Lamb.

Bound and damned, we need a Prince
To crush our Foe and loose our chain.
Our Savior lives, and He shall win:
The perfect King with endless reign!

Praise our promised Sacrifice
Whom sages saw, Whom angels sing,
Whom God anointed—Jesus Christ!
Exalt our Prophet, Priest, and King!

(c) ChurchWorksMedia 2009. All rights reserved.


21 Responses

  1. Saw this on your FB status, so thought I would take a look. Take this from the “what it’s worth” dept. :)

    Word choices:
    Why “damned” instead of “judged”?
    Why “sages” instead of “wise men?”
    Why “and He shall win:” versus “He has won”?

    Praise the Lord and thanks, Chris, for your efforts in aiding us in godly music and worship!

  2. Thanks for the help, Dan. Let’s see:

    Why “damned” instead of “judged”? No particular reason. It’s a strong description of our helplessness, but not essential. There may very well be a better word for that spot.

    Why “sages” instead of “wise men?” Well, “wise men” could sound like I’m referring to Christ’s birth narrative. I’m actually (and apparently unsuccessfully) trying to describe OT prophets (hence the “promised” line in the preceding verse). Besides, I like the sound of “sages” and “angels.”

    Why “and He shall win:” versus “He has won”? Great question. I’m emphasizing the “not yet” of Christ’s Kingly reign with this verse as opposed to the (ducking) “already” of it. But you’re right—there’s a sense in which He’s already won. That’s just not the thrust I’m making. Make sense? Of lesser importance, obviously, is that “win” is a second-level (imprecise) rhyme with “Prince.”

    Thanks, pal! Great to hear from you!

  3. Chris,
    I add a tentative second to the damned vs condemned.
    On the other hand, I like the use of sages instead of wise men.
    I hope you’ll let us know when it is set to music.

  4. Here are some things I’ve wondered about:

    1. I originally had the first two lines as follows:

    Blind and lost, we need a Guide,
    A voice to cry “Thus says the Lord!”

    Is that clearer? Preferable?

    2. Would “resides” be better than “abides” in verse 1, line 3?

    3. Would “with man as man” be better in that same line, or shall I keep “as man with man”? (I like it either way, I think.)

    4. Dan, I could avoid the timing thing and say something like “Our Savior lives, and Mercy wins…” That would improve the rhyme with “Prince,” as well.


  5. Thanks for chiming in, Jason.

    So I understand, what’s the concern about “damned”? Does it sound irreparable? I’d tend to say an unconverted sinner is damned, I think, on the basis of passages like Eph 2:3, where being under wrath is the default but not necessarily permanent condition of the lost. But you’d be more comfortable saying that one is condemned (now) and will ultimately be damned (in the future) if not converted. Am I understanding you correctly?

  6. Chris,

    I like this very much! You asked if the first two lines could be clearer with the different phrasing you mention in your comment above….I would vote “yes” to that. I wasn’t sure where you were going as it is currently written.

    Keep up the good work, brother!

  7. I agree Ellis. Changed. Thanks!

  8. From my perspective, I was not trying to make a distinction in the terminology as you have done in your comment, Chris. I was trying to a different word to communicate the same idea. I am not as much of a fan of older terminology in this regard. In other words, this is not the normal language of our church members or even preaching to communicate this concept. I don’t have a problem with using this terminology in preaching, it is not preferred from my persptive. Even more so, I don’t know that in singing it is the “best” word choice. Subjective on my part? Sure. If you choose the word “damned” that is your call, your song. However, would I make a “mistake” in putting that word in a PowerPoint… when we sing it…I might. :)

  9. Very good, Dan. Makes sense. I’ll think on it. I’m open to great alternatives. :) And again, thanks!

  10. Pastor Chris,
    I think your second option for the first verse–A voice to cry “Thus says the Lord!”–is much clearer. When I first read the song, that second line seemed awkward to me.

    Also, I’d leave the 3rd line–So God as man with man abides– as it stands.

    Based just on the sound of it, I think “damned” is better than “judged.” And “damned” keeps the pattern you’ve established–[one-syllable word] and [one-syllable word]. Of course, I realize there’s more to consider than just the sound.

    So now you have my two cents–for what it’s worth.

    Looking forward to hearing the final product.

  11. Chris,

    I’ve learned the hard way never to do art by committee. So you’re a brave man opening yourself up on this. =P

    I like the concept and the theology.

    I think it was Mac Lynch who told me he felt it’s better to have a word that’s totally different than to have a word that almost rhymes, but doesn’t. FWIW.

    Hope it comes together for you.


  12. Chris,

    I agree with Jason… you’re a brave man! But since you ask, how about in the chorus add “to” in the first line. “Praise to our promised Sacrifice” I think it will give all lines the same rhythm. Chorus: 2nd line “Whom sages saw AND angels sing”

    And I’m struggling with first line of 2nd verse. “Aid” seems to downplay what we really need, but I can’t think of what else to put in there. Love the 3rd verse!

    Can’t wait to here the finished product at Camp.

  13. Your hymn text meter is for each verse and for the chorus. To me, that meter doesn’t flow as well as other hymn texts.

    So that you can see an example, consider the meter and text of “Jesus Loves Me” (a meter of I could change the text to have a meter of like your hymn, and the text would flow like this:

    Jesus loves me this I know (7)
    Because the Bible tells me so (8)
    The little ones to Him belong (8)
    They all are weak but He is strong (8)

    For your hymn, maybe a would flow better:

    Blind and lost we need a Guide (7)
    A voice to cry, “Thus says the Lord.” (8)
    God as man, with man abides (7)
    Our Prophet, God’s incarnate Word. (8)

    Vile and shamed we need an Aid (7)
    To mediate ‘tween God and man (8)
    God’s own Son atonement made (7)
    Our great High Priest and spotless Lamb. (8)

    Bound and damned we need a Prince (7)
    To crush our foe and loose our chain (8)
    Jesus lives, and He shall win: (7)
    The perfect King with endless reign. (8)

    Praise our promised Sacrifice (7)
    Whom sages saw, whom angels sing (8)
    God’s anointed – Jesus Christ (7)
    Exalt our Prophet, Priest and King! (8)



  14. Chris,
    I love the line that you crossed out “with thundering voice. ” We need people to understand that this is much needed. As to the word damned, it is perfectly acceptable to use here as we see our Lord using it especially in John 3 in this context. As a pastor, I have no problem with that. Hope this helps. Keep writing. Sincerely
    John Goldfuss

  15. Thanks, all. Quick thoughts on a too busy day:

    Jill and Bryan, I’ll think on the meter. It probably depends on the music. We’ve used effectively before, essentially starting each verse with a downbeat, and each other line with a pick-up note. We’ll see. I like your ideas, Jill. Thanks for chiming in!

    Still thinking about “damned,” Minda. If I replace it, I’ll need just the right word. “Damned” certainly says what I mean.

    I’ll lose “sages” for “prophets,” though, per my friend Larry’s insistence. :) It’s not as pretty (I like the interplay between “angels” and “sages”), but it’s clearer, which is more important.

    I’m not too worried about approximate rhymes, Jason. They’re not uncommon in our hymnody, and can be effective as long as they’re not too overt (as in the Tim Conway & Don Knotts movie, Private Eyes). I think the key is to have the hymn moved along by strong thoughts, with rhymes serving them but not being sovereign (which can have tragic and comical results).

    The key, I think, is not to settle for a quick fix. As I said, I wrote this quickly, but I can’t assume it’s right. Patience is key, I think. Something that seems to work looks awkward a week later when I’m more objective. I think you can tell when someone found a rhyme that works but doesn’t fit or advance the thought. Lines like that scream “solution” rather than “success.”

    Bryan, you’ll be waiting on this one a while. :) I may bring another. We’ll see.

    Again, thanks all. The prospect of getting input doesn’t bother me at all, probably because at the end of the day it’s not a democracy. :) Most of the hymns that have proven useful at all have lots of fingerprints on them, for which I’m grateful.

  16. Pretty isn’t everything…but I still like “sages”. If it read, “Whom angels sang” (changed to past tense) I’d be more apt to have a mental picture of the Nativity.

    I agree with the “shall win” versus “has won” debate.

    I think the power of the word “damned” is important, tho perhaps not palatable to some. Wesley employed it thus:
    “Damned, till by Jesus saved, thou art,
    Till Jesu’s blood hath washed thy heart
    Thou canst not find the gate of heaven.”

    Watts as well:
    “Go preach My Gospel,” saith the Lord,
    “Bid the whole earth My grace receive;
    He shall be saved that trusts My word,
    He shall be damned that won’t believe.

    I think this is an excellent first draft, for just sitting down and scribbling during some free moments. :)

  17. Chris,
    I also have a little problem with Aid of the 2nd stanza. It just seems to be too weak a word–as if we can do it alone; we just need a little help. I sort of have the same problem with Guide in the 1st. Although admittedly stronger, our postmodern environment keeps me thinking this is only help rather than radical change. Also, the 1st 2 lines of the 1st stanza make this Prophet seem of similar station to other OT prophets.

    Suggestions for the 1st 2 stanzas:

    Blind and lost, we need a Light–
    Revealing Truth: “Thus says the Lord!”
    Messiah comes, the Law’s delight:
    Our Prophet–God’s incarnate Word.

    Vile and shamed, we need a Way
    To life through justifying plan.
    The sinless Son atonement made:
    Our great High Priest and spotless Lamb.

    The 3rd stanza is good except I would change “with” in the last line to “of.”

    In the refrain I would change “promised” to “once-giv’n” so that it doesn’t appear as if we’re still looking for something.
    And I’d definitely keep “sages”–much better and not doubling the sound and confusing the idea with the last line.

  18. Hi, Dan. It’s been a while! Your critique is very helpful, as usual. (Dan often helps behind the scenes—my most severe and therefore helpful critic.) I’m probable looking at a fairly extensive rewrite taking into account a lot of the recommendations. I’ll post again when I have something. Thinking.

  19. Chris,

    Fair enough. I think the key is that words that seem to be intended to rhyme, but don’t, are a great potential source of distraction from the message.

    Grace to you.

  20. […] the case with “Prophet, Priest, and King,” as well. Thanks, then, to all who provided feedback on the first draft. I’ve completed a second draft incorporating several changes that were either directly […]

  21. Consider changing the refrain to incorporate “Mediator” as the catch-all term for Christ’s three-fold office and to include the resurrection and ascension (and possibly His return) as elements of His glorification:
    Our Mediator lives on high
    Whom sages saw, Whom angels sing,
    The Father raised Him—Jesus Christ!
    Anointed* Prophet, Priest, and King!

    *(or “Coming”)

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