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Appreciating Our Lutheran Hymns

Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain

An Easter Hymn

#204 in The Lutheran Hymnal

This Easter hymn is based on the Song of Moses in Exodus 15. As he contemplates the resurrection of Christ, the author recalls the events of the Exodus which foretold the work of Christ in picture and type.

In the Passover the believing children of Israel were saved from the plague of death when they painted the blood of a sacrificial lamb on the doorposts of their houses. They left Egypt in triumph, set free from the yoke of slavery, only to find their lives threatened by Pharaoh’s army as they approached the Red Sea. God divided the sea and brought them across on dry land, drowning the pursuing Egyptian army. With this mighty act God made the deliverance of the children of Israel complete.

The true Passover Lamb was slain when Christ died on the cross. By His sacrificial death He delivered us from the plague of death, for He took our sin and sinfulness on Himself and endured the punishment for it. But the work of Christ appeared to end in defeat when He died and was buried. Only with His resurrection on the third day was His victory over death declared openly. With this mighty act God made our deliverance complete.

It is appropriate that on Easter we sing the refrain that both begins and ends this hymn: “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain Of triumphant gladness. God hath brought His Israel Into joy from sadness.” We and all who believe in Jesus Christ are the Israel of God, who have been set free from the bondage of sin and death.

The author is John of Damascus, the Greek theologian and hymnwriter of the eighth century. The translation in The Lutheran Hymnal is by John Mason Neale, the nineteenth century poet and classical language scholar. It is through his gifts and efforts that we have in English translation many fine, ancient Latin and Greek hymns, such as Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel (#62); A Great and Mighty Wonder (#76); and All Glory, Laud, and Honor (#160).

–Pastor John Klatt