Our help is ever, Lord, in Thee, Who madest earth and heaven! Martin Luther (1483-1546) knew the Psalms by heart from his time in the monastery. He wrote hymns to confess and teach the faith and spread the newly-rediscovered Gospel in the Reformation. He used the Psalms as the basis and inspiration for some of his hymns. Luther’s theological writings also show his familiarity with the Psalms.
Luther envisioned a plan to write a hymn for each of the 150 Psalms. He encouraged other pastors to follow his example and write hymns on the Psalms. None of them followed his request. However, Luther did write paraphrases of five Psalms:
- 12 “O Lord, Look Down from Heaven, Behold” (The Lutheran Hymnal 260)
- 14 “Although the Fools Say with Their Mouth”
- 46 “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” (656)
- 124 “I God Had Not Been on Our Side” (The Lutheran Hymnal 267)
- 130 “From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee” (607)
The HYMN OF THE DAY is Luther’s paraphrase of Psalm 124. It was written in 1524. The tune is by Luther’s kantor, Johann Walter (1496-1570).
Had Christ, who once was slain, Not burst His three-day prison, Our Faith had been in vain: But now has Christ arisen! “This Joyful Eastertide” (482) was written by George Woodward (1848-1934), a priest in the Church of England. He served in London, Norfolk, and Suffolk. It was published in a collection Carols for Easter and Ascension in 1894. The tune is a Dutch melody from the seventeenth century first used for setting the Psalms to music in David’s Psalmen in 1685.
The PRELUDE is based on this hymn by Jan Bender (1909-1994), a composition student of Hugo Distler (1908-1942). Born in the Netherlands, Bender served as organist and kantor in German churches in Lübeck, Aurich, Ostfriesland, and Lüneberg from 1934 to 1960. He concluded his career as professor at Concordia University—Seward, Nebraska (1960-1965) and Wittenberg University—Springfield, Ohio (1965-1976).
In festal spirit, song, and word, To Jesus, our victorious Lord, All praise and thanks be rendered. “Lo! Judah’s Lion Wins the Strife,” today’s ENTRANCE HYMN, is part of a larger Easter composition from Bohemia around 1660. The tune is also Bohemian. Bohemia is a region that roughly corresponds to modern Czech Republic. This triumphant tune and text recalls Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament accounts (Judah’s Lion) and figures (Samson and David).
“Judah’s Lion” recalls Jacob’s blessing of Judah, calling him a lion’s cub (Genesis 49.9). The lion signifies might and bravery, fulfilled in David, and ultimately in Christ, the Messiah. The Lord describes his might and bravery as a lion in Hosea 5.14, when the rebellious nations of Israel and Judah rightly feared Assyria’s might, they overlooked the Lord—the real power they should have feared. The Lord is the lion who leads, gathers, and defends Israel (Hosea 11.10). In Revelation, Christ—while depicted as a Lamb—is described as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and loose its seven seals” (5.5).
Jesus is “Judah’s Lion” who has defeated Satan to win the strife over sin and death. He reigns over death to give us life. Oh, let us sing His praises!