Day 4

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

from the reading plan

Genesis 9:8-17, Psalm 90:1-17, Lamentations 5:19

Isaac Watts never wanted to write hymns. In fact, he didn’t even enjoy singing. A scraggly and rebellious teenager in Southampton, England, Watts was a poet who refused to sing psalms in church because they didn’t rhyme.

Watts’ lyrical appreciation and incessant poetics were an annoyance to everyone around him, including his own preacher father, who threatened to whip his son if he continued his daily rhyming. The son replied, “O Father do some pity take, and I will no more verses make!” (McKay 67).

After his anger subsided, Watts’ father challenged his writer son to create something “better” than King David’s psalms. At just 18 years old, Watts began writing hymns that were loosely rooted in the Psalms and aligned with his own singing preferences (which, of course, included rhyming). He aimed to communicate timeless gospel truths in contemporary language, as if King David was writing in the present-day 1700s (Watts 15).

His hymn “O God, Our Help In Ages Past” is based on Psalm 90:4:

For in Your sight a thousand years
are like yesterday that passes by,
like a few hours of the night.

When Watts’ signature style is applied to this passage, it becomes a singable hymn:

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

Whether sung in original psalmic context or modern rhyming prose, the importance of recalling God’s character remains the same. When we adopt the practice of recalling His past faithfulness, we are reminded of His present kindness.

O God, Our Help in Ages Past
Isaac Watts

Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:

Under the shadow of your throne
your saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is your arm alone,
and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood
or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God,
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in your sight
are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
soon bears us all away;
we fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
still be our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home!


Post Comments (13)

13 thoughts on "O God, Our Help in Ages Past"

  1. Jared Phillips says:

    Remembering God’s faithfulness in our past is a wonderful spiritual “remedy” when we are in a time of dire need or when we forget about His faithfulness. How quickly do we forget! His grave extends everlasting to everlasting and He’s always come through!

  2. Dillon Davis says:

    Okay so God, you helped us before and you are who we hope in for the future. You are our all
    In all. Worthy of all praise. May I never forget that. Praise you today for your help and security. Praise you for your faithfulness. Be with me today as I endure. Help me when I am weak. Strengthen and embolden me. May I remember that you are my shelter from the stormy blast

  3. Gary says:

    “So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). This verse stuck out to me because generally, I am very conscious of my humanity and short life. Even if I live to 100 I don’t have much time on this earth. I pray that it’d lead me into wisdom rather than fear.

  4. Logan says:

    God is truly everlasting. More than that, the qualities that God exudes – grace, love, mercy – are also everlasting. They never fade away. As Christians, we should we have the same mindset, to display love and grace everlasting.

  5. Radell says:

    The LORD is eternal. Our days under the sun are a blink of an eye in terms of eternity. We should direct our purpose and pursuits in life towards heaven and make sure our choices honor the sacrifice and gift Christ has given us. I need to reflect on this daily and think about the big picture, being careful not to get swallowed in the chaos of this world.

  6. Caleb Combs says:

    God reigns forever. He is endless and his kingdom is endless. God, establish the work of our hands that we would make the most of our fleeting time and bring glory and honor to your name. Yes Lord, establish the work of our hands. Father thank you that we are secure under the shadow of your love and grace. Though we step on thorns as we walk through life and are afflicted by storms, we are eternally safe with you. Teach us to walk in your ways and follow you all of our days, through every trial. We love you Lord!

  7. David Williams says:

    Our God is powerful and He has been for ages. I love how this song really conveys the power and the hope we have in God.

  8. Philip Seris says:

    Before I was, HE was. After I am gone, HE is, when I rise to life, HE will be. #thegreatIAM

  9. Scott Hudson says:

    You are sure. You are there. No matter the storms or trials, you are there. It isn’t always going to be happy times, it may be times of sorrow, times of slavery, times of depression, but that doesn’t change your character. That doesn’t change your power or your will for us. You are working for our good, not our ill, and you are wise and powerful enough to make use of the enemy’s attacks.

  10. Dustin says:

    God’s Word endures. His promises are true and He will uphold. God is the same and never changes. He is faithful always. That’s a huge relief to know that the same God that forgave and protected David is the same God that forgives and protects me. The same God that provided for the Israelites in the wilderness is the same God that provides for me. He is constant and unwavering. When I think about what God has done in the past, for me and for others, it should be no question that I should trust Him. He’s my foundation.

  11. Cooper says:

    This lessons shows how God has always been there and will continue to do so for generations to come. How truly blessed we are to have such reassurance in our lives that there has been and always will be such everlasting compassion and guidance with us every step of the way!

  12. Kevin Cox says:

    You Lord are eternal – Oh God of ages past. From dust we came and dust we will return, but before the mountains were formed You remained. You have been and will be forever.
    And yet what have you done? You have made covenants with us that are based upon THIS eternal character, your eternal, unchanging, name.
    Help me to place my Hope in your unchanging ways!

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