Lord, Our Lord, Thy Glorious Name

David; trans. by the Joint Committee on a Uniform Version, 1909
Based on Psalm 8
Addressed to God
Lord, our Lord, thy glorious namePs. 8:1; Ex. 3
all thy wondrous works proclaim;Ps. 75:1 KJV; 148:13
in the heav’ns with radiant signsPs. 19:1
evermore thy glory shines.
Infant lips thou dost ordainPs. 8:2; Matt. 21:16
wrath and vengeance to restrain;
weakest means fulfill thy will,Judg. 7; 1 Sam. 17; Zech. 4:10; 1 Cor. 1:27
mighty enemies to still.
Moon and stars in shining heightPs. 8:3
nightly tell their Maker’s might;Is. 40:26
when thy wondrous heav’ns I scan,Ps. 111:2
then I know how weak is man.Ps. 144:4; Eccl. 3:19
What is man that he should bePs. 8:4; Heb. 2:5–9
loved and visited by thee,Gen. 8:1; Job 7:17–18; Ps. 65:9
raised to an exalted height,Ps. 8:5
crowned with honor in thy sight?
With dominion crowned he standsPs. 8:6; Gen 1:28; 9:2; 1 Cor. 6:3; James 3:7
o’er the creatures of thy hands;
all to him subjection yield
in the sea and air and field.Ps. 8:7–8
Lord, our Lord, thy glorious namePs. 8:9
all thy wondrous works proclaim;
thine the name of matchless worth,Neh. 9:5; Phil 2:9
excellent in all the earth.

This useful hymn deals impressively with several doctrines that, although key, are not frequently touched upon in other hymns: God’s covenantal name and self-disclosure, the perspicuity of creation, the smallness of humanity, the dignity of humanity, and even—if the congregation is prepared to think along these lines—the perfect humanity of Christ (1 Cor. 15:27 and Heb. 2:6–8). Psalm 8 not only teaches these doctrines, it shows how they interrelate. The connections it draws are of a wonderfulness that is perhaps best acknowledged through poetry and song. If you are going to say something about the beauty of God’s ways (that is, of his “name”), the formal limitations of your speech will interfere least with the content of your message if you make the most of the best beauties God has bestowed on human speech (productive meter, rhyme, alliteration, melody, harmony, and, above all, an abundance of meaning).

Consider the first four lines of stanza 2. The catalectic trochaic tetrameter and solidly rhyming couplets delight both tongue and ear in much the same way that the “shining height” of the moon and stars do the eye. The resonant, alliterative Ms of lines 1–2 give way to weaker Ws in lines 3–4 as we contrast the grandeur of the creator with the weakness of the creature who merely beholds that grandeur. And yet the last word of line 4, “man,” sounds so much like the first word of line 1, “moon,” that it rounds out the quatrain nicely and foreshadows some of the grandeur about to be conferred on man in subsequent lines.

It is wonderful that human beings can come to understand themselves only by looking beyond themselves to the work of God’s fingers. Such study humbles humans and teaches them the absolute difference between Creator and creature (stanza 2, lines 4–5) even as it teaches them the magnitude of God’s goodness in loving them and exalting them despite this difference (stanza 2, line 6, through stanza 3, line 4). Stanza 1 prepared us to accept this paradox by noting the glory God receives from the mouths of babes. The lesson as a whole is framed by God’s covenantal name (note the fourfold repetition of “Lord,” the English word for Yahweh) because it is by covenant that God redeems fallen man and restores him to that dominion to which he was called. In Christ, weakest means (stanza 1, line 7) can glorify God’s matchless worth (corresponding line in stanza 3).

The CRC sings “Lord, Our Lord, Thy Glorious Name” to the tune EVENING PRAISE, the PCUSA to GOTT SEI DANK DURCH ALLE WELT—both fine settings. But we believe neither tune improves on the one to which this text was first set in 1912. The fit with THANKSGIVING (GILBERT) is so nearly perfect that one is surprised to discover the tune was composed years earlier for another text (“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”). Lines 3–4 are sung to the same melody as lines 1–2 but with a wonderful new harmony in line 3 for “radiant signs” (D7 applied as the dominant of the submediant). “Wrath and vengeance” (stanza 1, line 6), “loved and visited” (stanza 2), and “all thy wondrous works” (stanza 3) occur on the highest, climactic pitch, reached via heightened repetition. “Restrain” (stanza 1, line 6) takes us back to the same melody as in the first half of the tune (line 7) only to achieve a second climax—and a different kind from that in line 6—with an expansive slowing down on high “do” at “enemies to still” (stanza 1) and “in all the earth” (stanza 3).