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Behind The Hymn: "Before The Throne of God Above"

You also may not know, but I didn't grow up in a church that sang "hymns". What is a "hymn"? Believe it or not, but a "hymn" is simply just a religious song or poem of praise to God or a god. Yet in our modern context, we use this word often to describe older generations of songs that have stood the test of time and usually do not contain a refrain or bridge. Yet these songs were written at their time as normal praise songs with the musical attributes of the day, just as our "modern worship songs" are now. Yet the beauty of hymns is they have stood the test of time and often have deep theological truths.

So when I went on the journey to learn more about hymns, little did I know that I would discover my favorite worship song of all time.

"Before the Throne of God Above" is an amazing hymn about the advocacy of Christ before God on our behalf. The hymn was written by the daughter of an Irish Reverence named Charitie Lees Smith and first published in 1863 originally titled "Within The Vails of Jesus".

Charles Spurgeon included this poem (retitling it "The Advocate") in his “Our Own Hymn-book“, published in 1866, set to the same melody as “Sweet Hour of Prayer” by William Bradbury. Yet this great hymn was relatively unknown until the late 20th century when Vikki Cook composed a new melody as part of Sovereign Grace Music's effort to revive old (but timeless) lyrics with contemporary melodies. So whether you knew it or not, the melody we sing is quite new, though the lyrics remain the same.

We do not know for sure why Charitie wrote this hymn, though we know her life was not perfect. She was married 4 times in life and went through multiple tough divorces with lawyers. Yet her poetry still blesses many today.

So why is this hymn my favorite worship song of all time? Though I love the melody and music, I find that the deep comfort of Christ as my advocate before the Father is a sweet truth regularly needed in my own soul. As we wrestle with our sin, we also must wrestle with the ultimate question: Why would a Holy God ever forgive us or let us be with him for eternity?

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

Here is the simple answer we stand on...because I am with Christ. What he did for me was enough and he will be there to give our "strong and perfect plea" as our great high priest. When Satan tempts me to believe God could never love me or I wonder if my good works will ever be enough, this hymn reminds me of the scriptural truth that "I know while in heaven he stands, NO tongue can be me thence depart". What is most important about me is what my Lord says about me, and he says "God the just is satisfied, to on us and pardon us"

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1)

Lyrics & Scripture

Before the throne of God above

I have a strong and perfect plea. (1 John 2:1; Hebrews 4:15-16)

A great High Priest whose name is Love (Hebrews 4:14; 1 John 4:8)

Who ever lives and pleads for me. (Hebrews 7:25)

My name is graven on His hands, (Isaiah 49:16)

My name is written on His heart.

I know that while in heav'n He stands

No tongue can bid me thence depart. (Romans 8:34)

When Satan tempts me to despair (Luke 22:31-32)

And tells me of the guilt within, (Revelation 12:10; Zechariah 3:1; the name “Satan” means “accuser”)

Upward I look and see Him there (Acts 7:55-56)

Who made an end to all my sin. (Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 9:26)

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free.

For God the Just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me. (Romans 3:24-26)

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb, (Revelation 5:6)

My perfect spotless righteousness, (1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Peter 1:18-19)

The great unchangeable I AM, (Hebrews 13:8; John 8:58)

The King of glory and of grace,

One with Himself I cannot die, (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Luke 20:36)

My soul is purchased by His blood, (Acts 20:28)

My life is hid with Christ on high, (Colossians 3:3)

With Christ my Savior and my God! (Titus 2:13)

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The King of Glory and of Grace.............all our hearts need!

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