Daily Devotion 14 April 2021
Genesis 9:16-17 ‘Rainbows in the Rain’
16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ 17 God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’
‘O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go’
George Matheson (1842-1906)
O love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee:
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.
O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
may brighter, fairer be.
O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee:
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.
O cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee:
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red
life that shall endless be.
This is surely one of the most beautifully poetic hymns ever written – and to modernise the language would be to diminish its impact. Its author, George Matheson was the son of a Glasgow merchant. By his late teens he had lost virtually all his eyesight but nevertheless became a minister in the Church of Scotland and had a brilliant academic career at the University of Edinburgh.
The hymn was written in 1882, when Matheson had been going through a period ‘of severe mental suffering… it was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life… I had the impression of having it dictated to me by some inward voice.’ We don’t know exactly what this was, but almost certainly it was because his fiancée, on being told that Matheson was losing his sight and would eventually become blind, broke off their engagement and left him, to his bitter grief and disappointment.
From verse 1, we are reminded that everything we possess we owe to God – even the very breath we breathe. The second verse is particularly poignant in view of Matheson’s blindness, and the same theme of indebtedness continues with the phrase ‘borrowed ray’. The third verse speaks for itself, using the imagery of ‘The Flood’, when Noah was given the rainbow as a sign of hope.
It’s the last verse that is most intriguing, however. Matheson explained that when he wrote ‘blossoms red’, he was thinking of the blossom that comes out of sacrifice – of the sacrificial life that blossoms by shedding itself. White blossoms, said Matheson, represent prosperity; red portray self-sacrifice. Jesus promised that “‘those who lose their life for my sake and the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mark 8:35). A promise indeed!
Loving God, we thank you that – however blind or short-sighted we may be – the light of your divine truth follows us all our lives. Help us to trust in your love that will never let us go, nor to fear the future, knowing that you are always there before us. Amen.
Reflection and Prayer © 2021 Barrie Tabraham.
Hymn Words no longer in copyright.
Images freely available online.
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All material within this order of worship is reproduced by permission under CCL 1226356