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WS 798 “God We Praise You”


Years ago, pastors would sometimes introduce the Creed in the Sunday service with words such as these: “Let us unite with the whole Christian Church on earth in confession of the Christian faith.” That formula, repeated week after week, was a worthwhile reminder of something easily forgotten. When we participate in a worship service, we may be only two or three gathered together in the name of Jesus Christ, but we are part of the Holy Christian Church, the total number of those who believe in Him.

Our hymn reminds us that in our Christian worship we are part of a multitude even larger than the whole Christian Church on earth. When we sing, “God, we praise You! / God, we bless You! / God, we name You sov’reign Lord!” (v.1), we are joining with the Church both on earth and in heaven. It is not only believers the world over who praise the one true and living God: “Heav’n and earth draw near Your throne, / Singing, ‘Holy, holy, holy, / Lord of hosts and God alone!’” (v.1) It is not only believers in this life who sing God’s praises with us: “True apostles, faithful prophets, / Saints who set their world ablaze, / Martyrs, once unknown, unheeded, / Join one growing song of praise. / While Your Church on earth confesses / One majestic Trinity / Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, / God, our hope eternally.” (v.2)

This is a setting of the ancient Christian hymn, Te Deum Laudamus, “God, We Praise You.” Dating back to the 4th century, its origins and authorship are uncertain. Still very much in use today, it appears in The Lutheran Hymnal in the Order of Matins (page 35) and in the hymn, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.” (#250) The Lutheran Service Book has two additional settings, including one to a fittingly majestic melody by Gustav Holst. (#941)

Verse 3 lauds Jesus and what He accomplished for us. After proclaiming the glory of God the Father and the Holy Trinity, the hymn praises Jesus Christ as true God: “Jesus Christ, the King of glory, / Everlasting Son of God. ” He came down from heaven and took on our human nature: “Humble was Your virgin mother.” He paid the terrible price for our redemption: “Hard the lonely path You trod / By Your cross is sin defeated, / Hell confronted face to face.” He won for us the victory over sin and death and gained for us eternal salvation: “Heaven opened to believers, / Sinners justified by grace.”

The last stanza of the hymn is a prayer addressed to the victorious Christ enthroned on high and who will come again in glory: “Christ, at God’s right hand victorious, / You will judge the world You made.” It is a plea from us believers still living in this sinful world for His help to bring us safely to eternal life: “Lord, in mercy help Your servants / For whose freedom You have paid: / Raise us up from dust to glory; / Guard us from all sin today. / King enthroned above all praises, / Save Your people, God, we pray.”

When we gather for worship, it is often in congregations that are small. And even when our numbers are greater, we know that we are still Jesus’ “little flock” outnumbered in the midst of an unbelieving world (Luke 12:32). But God’s Word also teaches that we are part of that “great multitude which no one could number” that the apostle John saw (Revelation 7:9). We are a mighty band because we are disciples of the living and reigning Christ and redeemed children of the one true and living God.

John Klatt is a retired pastor. He lives in Watertown, South Dakota.