A HYMN OF GLORY LET US SING
In the Old Testament, the kings of Israel were anointed to their office. We read of how Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon as king by pouring oil on his head (1 Kings 1:34, 39). This ceremony of anointing publicly identified Solomon as the one whom God Himself had chosen and endowed with the Holy Spirit to be the ruler of His people.
The anointing of Israel’s kings also served an even more important purpose. It pictured something about the coming of the promised Savior. His titles of Messiah (Hebrew) and Christ (Greek) mean “the Anointed One,” God’s own choice to be the world’s Redeemer.
Psalm 72, attributed to Solomon, foretells the coming of this Anointed One, God’s own Son, the good and righteous King sent to conquer the enemies of the devil, sin, and death and to rule in the hearts of His believing people. The psalm prophesies the glory of His universal and everlasting reign.
This great psalm moved English poet James Montgomery (1771-1854) to write the hymn “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed.” It is perhaps the best of a collection of his Psalm-based hymns titled Songs of Zion (1823, available online at archive.org).
It is a hymn fitting for the season of Advent, for it announces the arrival of the Savior foretold in the psalm and greets Him as the Lord’s Anointed. It gives us a powerful description of Christ’s kingdom, with details drawn from the psalm.
The hymn hails the appearance of the long-expected Christ “when the fullness of time had come” (Galatians 4:4). Hail to the Lord’s Anointed / Great David’s greater Son! / Hail in the time appointed / His reign on earth begun!
The Messiah King is no respecter of persons. He brings deliverance to the poor of the people and the children of the needy. And this is not just the giving of daily bread, but especially the deliverance of the soul from sin and death. To give them songs for sighing / Their darkness turn to light, / Whose souls, condemned and dying / Were precious in His sight.
The blessings of the Messiah are described in terms of rain that produces a bountiful harvest. He shall come down like showers / Upon the fruitful earth, / And joy and hope, like flowers, / Spring in His path to birth.
King Messiah’s reign extends to all parts of the world and to people of every ethnic group. Arabia’s desert ranger / To Him shall bow the knee. / The Ethiopian stranger / His glory come to see. It extends even to those in the highest places. Kings shall bow down before Him / And gold and incense bring; / All nations shall adore Him, / His praise all people sing.
Unlike earthly rulers, the Christ will reign forever. No one will be able to overthrow Him and His kingdom. The passage of time which means decline for the kings of this world will mean only increase in Messiah’s kingdom as more and more people hear the Gospel and come to believe in Him and praise Him as Lord and Savior. O’er every foe victorious / He on His throne shall rest, / From age to age more glorious / All blessing and all-blest.
The assurance that Christ’s reign will never end gives us hope and confidence for this life and the life to come. The forgiveness of sins that Christ won for us by His sacrifice on the cross and the eternal life that is ours because of His resurrection are gifts that will not be taken from us. The tide of time shall never / His covenant remove; / His name shall stand forever, /–That name to us is Love.
Our hymnals have paired this hymn with a stirring melody by Lutheran church musician Leonhart Schroeter (1540-1602), who composed it for a Christmas hymn. It is a fitting tune for us to sing to welcome and praise our Lord as we celebrate His coming into the world to save us.
John Klatt is a retired pastor. He lives in Watertown, South Dakota.