Few hymn writers have had a greater impact on Christian worship than Isaac Watts. With more than 750 hymns to his name, Watts has been dubbed the Father of English Hymnody for good reason, penning some of the most beloved worship refrains in the English-speaking world.
From the triumphant “Joy to the World,” celebrating the Savior’s birth, to the moving “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” reflecting on the Savior’s death, Watts packs profound gospel truths into memorable poetic phrases with every lyric he writes.
Watts’ gospel truth packed into poetic phrase is on bright display in today’s hymn. As the title indicates, Watts wanted to deepen our worship of God by growing our understanding of true blessing and reflecting on the nature of repentant faith.
“Blessing” is a word we throw around a lot. We get a promotion at work, or a new healthy baby is born, and we say we are blessed. As a kid in Sunday School, I remember having to list out my blessings: my baseball bat, hot dogs, the swimming pool, and yes, even my sister. I was taught that every good thing in my life was, in some way, a blessing from God.
What I didn’t understand then was that the concept of “blessing” is far more than physical or material favors from God. In fact, blessing lies at the center of God’s redemptive purpose. In Genesis 12:3, God tells Abraham that through him the blessing of salvation will extend to all the families of the earth. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul tells us this blessing to Abraham extends to us through the person and work of Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:13-14).
Watts, in this hymn, reflects on the blessing of salvation and how we receive it through repentant faith in Jesus Christ. Repentant faith begins when “sins with sorrow are confessed.” When truly grieved and broken over our sin, we come out of hiding. We must step out from behind the trees and the fig leaves (Genesis 3) and acknowledge our sin before God (Psalm 32:5).
If we do this, scary as it is, God will give us grace. We will be “covered with the Savior’s blood.” In a paradox that lies at the heart of the gospel, Watts teaches us that we must disrobe in order to be robed. We must own our guilt before God in order to know “how glorious is that righteousness that hides and cancels all my sin.”
When we begin to experience the power of God’s grace covering our shame and guilt, a new life takes hold. We become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and “the bright evidences of grace” begin to “appear and shine” in every facet of our lives. This is what it means to be blessed.
Blest is the man who knows the grace of our God.
Written By Nate Shurden
Blest is the Man, Forever Blest
Isaac Watts, 1719
Blest is the man, forever blest,
Whose guilt is pardoned by his God,
Whose sins with sorrow are confessed
And covered with his Savior’s blood.
Blest is the man to whom the Lord
Imputes not his iniquities;
He pleads no merit of reward
And not on works but grace relies.
From guile his heart and lips are free;
His humble joy, his holy fear,
With deep repentance well agree
And join to prove his faith sincere.
How glorious is that righteousness
That hides and cancels all his sins,
While bright the evidence of grace
Thro’ all his life appears and shines!
For an added layer of worship during reading plan, we’ve created a Spotify playlist for Hymns. You can find the complete HRT Hymns Playlist here, or listen to the first track on the player below. Enjoy!