God of the Prophets

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

All the stanzas were originally cast in third person ("Anoint them") since the hymn was written for clergymen; the revised text in first person ("Anoint us") now includes all God's people as ministers or servants. The text refers to various biblical offices to depict Christian ministries: prophets, priests, kings (all Old Testament offices), and apostles (the only New Testament office mentioned in this text).


Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

To be sure, baptism provides the assurance “that God, by grace, has forgiven our sins because of Christ’s blood poured out for us in his sacrifice on the cross” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 26, Question and Answer 70). But it also involves the calling that “more and more we become dead to sin and live holy and blameless lives” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 26, 
Question and Answer 70).


“Christ places baptism in the world as a seal of God’s covenant people, placing them in ministry” (Our Song of Hope, stanza 18). Consequently, “The Spirit calls all members to embrace God’s mission” (Our World Belong to God, paragraph 41). Our vocation is broad because Christ is Lord over all: “To follow this Lord is to serve him wherever we are without fitting in, light in darkness, salt in a spoiling world” (Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 43). Our identity thus determines our vocation.


God of the Prophets

Introductory/Framing Text

Pentecost is the celebration of God's gift of the Holy Spirit to the church. In this time of the year we also find ourselves in the midst of a variety of ordinations, making "God of the Prophets" a good hymn to sing.
If you select this hymn as part of a minister's ordination service (in keeping with its original purpose), sing as many verses as you can manage, either in a long processional or scattered throughout the ordination liturgy; the prophet, priest, and king verses could be sung during or after the laying on of hands, for example. If there isn't a ministerial ordination in your plans, this hymn is appropriate for the ordination of elders and deacons, as well as for other commissioning services or celebrations of ministry.
Throughout the month you may wish to emphasize different stanzas each week by singing and praying in turn for the prophetic, priestly, and royal aspects of ministry in the congregation.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 23)
— James Hart Brumm

Additional Prayers

A Petitionary Prayer
Righteous God, you love fair wages, honest ads, right treatment.
Anoint us prophets to do justice and love kindness.
Sacrificial God, you gave up peace to create us and you gave up your Son to save us.
Anoint us priests to intercede for others and to offer up a sacrifice of praise.
Sovereign God, supreme ruler of all, you share your regency with human creatures.
Anoint us kings to reign under your reign,
loving your kingdom and making your purposes our own,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

A Petitionary Prayer
Loving God, inspire us to see deeply into the needs of the world and then to address them. If we are busy, inspire us to be busy with the needs of the world. If we are weary, let our weariness come in part from struggling with the needs of the world. If we are discouraged, inspire us to see that the world is yours and that you will in the end fulfill the needs of the world and reconcile all things through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

God of the Prophets

Tune Information

F Major



God of the Prophets

Hymn Story/Background

Denis Wortman wrote the poem "God of the Prophets! Bless the Prophets' Sons" in 1884 for the one-hundredth anniversary of New Brunswick Theological Seminary (Reformed Church in America), from which he had graduated in 1860. Wortman entitled his poem "Prayer for Young Ministers" and sent it with the following note to the seminary:
May I take the liberty of sending you the enclosed verses; a very humble attempt to express the prayer that our Class of 1860, and indeed all loyal sons of New Brunswick Seminary, lift to God at this unusual anniversary, for his blessing upon her and all who go forth from her instructions.
This hymn text was first published in the Episcopal Church Hymnal (1892) in six stanzas. Of those, stanzas 1-2 and 4-5 are retained with many revisions. Carl P. Daw, Jr. wrote the third stanza in 1981 for The Hymnal 1982.
All the stanzas were originally cast in third person ("Anoint them") since the hymn was written for clergymen; the revised text in first person ("Anoint us") now includes all God's people as ministers or servants. The text refers to various biblical offices to depict Christian ministries: prophets, priests, kings (all Old Testament offices), and apostles (the only New Testament office mentioned in this text).
TOULAN was originally an adaptation of the Genevan Psalter melody for Psalm 124. In one melodic variant or another and with squared-off rhythms, the tune was used in English and Scottish psalters for various psalm texts. It was published in the United States in its four-line abridged form (called MONTAGUE) by Lowell Mason and George Webb in The National Psalmist (1848). That version, now called TOULON, is named quite arbitrarily after the French city. TOULON is a fine tune for accompaniment by brass quartet. It should be sung and played with power and dignity.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Denis Wortman (b. Hopewell, NY, 1835; d. East Orange, NJ, 1922) was educated at Amherst College and served a number of Reformed Church in America congregations, mainly in New York State. He was the denomination's secretary of ministerial relief from 1901 to 1922 and served as president of General synod in 1901. His publications include Reliques of Christ (1888), The Divine Processional (1903), and this one hymn text.
— Bert Polman

Carl P. Daw, Jr. (b. Louisville, KY, 1944) is the son of a Baptist minister. He holds a PhD degree in English (University of Virginia) and taught English from 1970-1979 at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia. As an Episcopal priest (MDiv, 1981, University of the South, Sewanee, Tennesee) he served several congregations in Virginia, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. From 1996-2009 he served as the Executive Director of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. Carl Daw began to write hymns as a consultant member of the Text committee for The Hymnal 1982, and his many texts often appeared first in several small collections, including A Year of Grace: Hymns for the Church Year (1990); To Sing God’s Praise (1992), New Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1996), Gathered for Worship (2006). Other publications include A Hymntune Psalter (2 volumes, 1988-1989) and Breaking the Word: Essays on the Liturgical Dimensions of Preaching (1994, for which he served as editor and contributed two essays. In 2002 a collection of 25 of his hymns in Japanese was published by the United Church of Christ in Japan. His current project is preparing a companion volume to Glory to God, the 2013 hymnal of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

The Genevan Psalter is the major gift of the Reformed branch of the Reformation to the song of the church. John Calvin (1509-1564) first experienced congregational singing of the psalms in Strasbourg when serving as a pastor of French exiles there, and when returning to Geneva in 1541 he finally persuaded the city council to permit congregational singing, which they had banned entirely under the influence of Ulrich Zwingli. Just two months after returning to Geneva, Calvin wrote in his Ecclesiastical Ordinances: "It will be good to introduce ecclesiastical songs, the better to incite the people to pray to and praise God. For a beginning the little children are to be taught; then with time all the church will be able to follow." Calvin set about overseeing the development of several metrical psalms with melodies, rather than the hymns, or chorales, of the Lutheran tradition, and also in contrast to the published psalters with texts only that followed in England and Scotland. The emerging Genevan Psalter was published in instalments until completed in 1562, including the 150 psalms, the Ten Commandments and the Song of Simeon. He employed the best French poets and composers to prepare metrical settings rather than continuing to chant the psalms, since poetry in meter was the popular form of the day—and also the choice for the Lutheran chorale.
The publication event was the largest in publishing history until then; twenty-four printers in Geneva alone, plus presses in Paris, Lyons, and elsewhere produced more than 27,000 copies in the first two years; more than 100,000 copies were available in over thirty editions. The Genevan Psalter was extremely popular, and almost immediately translated into Dutch, Hungarian, and German. Due to the intense persecution of the French Huguenots in the 16th century, the center of activity of the Reformed branch of the Reformation moved away from France and especially to the Netherlands, and from there to Indonesia, South Africa, and North America. The most recent translation (2004) of the entire psalter is into Japanese. The most recent English translation of the entire Genevan Psalter is available with melodies from the Canadian Reformed Book of Praise, available at http://www.canrc.org/?page=23 .
Calvin’s goal was to provide a distinct tune for every psalm, so that each psalm would have its own identity. Every tune would then bring to mind a particular psalm. The psalter didn’t quite reach this goal: it contains 125 different tunes. Today, only a few of those Genevan tunes are in wide use, among them the psalm tune most widely known around the world, often identified as OLD HUNDRETH, or simply, “The Doxology.” 
— Emily Brink
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