63. O LORD, My God, Most Earnestly

1 O LORD, my God, most earnestly
I seek your holy face,
within your house again to see
the glories of your grace.
Apart from you I long and thirst,
and naught can satisfy;
I wander in a desert land
where all the streams are dry.

2 The loving-kindness of my God
is more than life to me,
so I will praise you all my days
and pray continually.
In you my soul is satisfied,
my darkness turns to light,
and joyful meditations fill
the watches of the night.

3 Beneath the shadow of your wings
I sing my joy and praise.
Your right hand is my strong support
through troubled nights and days.
All those who seek my life will fall;
my life is in your hand.
God's king and people will rejoice;
in victory they will stand.

Text Information
First Line: O LORD, my God, most earnestly
Title: O LORD, My God, Most Earnestly
Meter: CMD
Language: English
Publication Date: 1987
Topic: Evening; Lord's Supper; Opening of Worship
Source: Psalter, 1912; Psalter Hymnal, 1987, rev.
Tune Information
Composer: George C. Stebbins (1878)
Meter: CMD
Key: E♭ Major

Text Information:

A profession of longing for God when hindered by enemies from communing with God at the temple.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-2
st. 2 = vv. 3-6
st. 3= vv. 7-11

Like Psalm 42, Psalm 63 uses the metaphor of thirst to express the longing for security in God's presence. Traditionally ascribed to David "when he was in the Desert of Judah," this song expresses the psalmist's yearning for God while forced to wander "in a desert land" far from the LORD's sanctuary (st. 1; see also Ps. 84). There the psalmist thinks of God's soul-satisfying love through "the watches of the night" (st. 2) and of the sense of security he enjoys from God's sheltering wings (st. 3). Though explicit mention of the king (v. 11; st. 3) identifies the speaker as the LORD's anointed, and references to enemies (vv. 9-10; st. 3) suggest that they are the ones who have forced the king from the temple, Christians can sing this psalm today whenever we yearn for the security that only God provides. The versification comes from the 1912 Psalter; with alterations mainly in stanza 3.

Liturgical Use:
Preserved in the early church for use in daily public prayers, this psalm fits well at the beginning of worship or whenever the church seeks to express its longing for God's presence and saving power.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

George Coles Stebbins (b. East Carlton, NY, 1846; d. Catskill, NY, 1945) composed THE GREEN HILL in 1877 to accompany Cecil F. Alexander's hymn “There Is a Green Hill Far Away.” The tune was published in Gospel Hymns No.3 (1878). The slow harmonic rhythm and mostly stepwise melody build to a climax in the last line. This music bears an animated tempo, but organists must be sure to tie over many of the bass tones.

Stebbins grew up on a farm and attended a small country school. At the age of thirteen he enrolled in a singing school and became so enthralled with music that he decided to make it his career. In 1869 he moved to Chicago, where he worked at the Lyon and Healy Music Company and became music director at the First Baptist Church. There he also became acquainted with famous gospel musicians Root (PHH 93), Bliss (PHH 479), and Sankey (PHH 73). In 1874 he moved to Boston and became music director of the Clarendon Baptist Church and later of Tremont Temple Baptist Church.

Associated with Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey from 1876 until 1899, Stebbins traveled on their evangelism campaigns throughout England and the United States as well as in India, Egypt, and Palestine. Along with Sankey and McGranahan, he edited and published three editions of Gospel Hymns (1878-1891). He also edited The Northfield Hymnal (1904) for Moody's Bible Conference in Massachusetts. Stebbins composed some fifteen hundred songs, many of them under the pseudonym "George Coles." His Reminiscences and Gospel Hymn Stories (1924) are a helpful account of gospel music in the urban revivals of the late nineteenth century.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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