O Worship the King (Psalm 104)

Full Text

1 O worship the King all-glorious above,
O gratefully sing his power and his love:
our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

2 O tell of his might and sing of his grace,
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is his path on the wings of the storm.

3 Your bountiful care, what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;
it streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
and sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

4 Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in you do we trust, nor find you to fail.
Your mercies, how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!

5 O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
whom angels delight to worship above!
Your ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
in true adoration shall sing to your praise!

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Scripture References

Quoted or directly alluded to:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Rather than being a paraphrase or versification, the text is a meditation on the creation theme of Psalm 104. Stanzas 1-3, which allude to Psalm 104:1-6, focus on God’s creation as a testimony to his “measureless Might.” More personal in tone, stanzas 4 and 5 confess the compassion of God toward his creatures and affirm with apocalyptic vision that the “ransomed creation, with glory ablaze” will join with angels to hymn its praise to God.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

God’s “bountiful care,” as mentioned in stanza 3, is pregnant with meaning. Confessional statements on the providence of God speak to the comprehensiveness of this care. Belgic Confession, Article 13 calls this “fatherly care;” and Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10, Question and Answer 27 professes that “all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.”


Frail and feeble children (stanza 4) do trust him and this trust in God’s bountiful care is, according to Belgic Confession, Article 13 an “unspeakable comfort.” Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10, Question and Answer 26 says “I trust him so much that I do not doubt...” In Question and Answer 28 the Catechism says this trust leads us to be patient when things go against us, to be thankful when things go well, and to have good confidence for the future.


O Worship the King (Psalm 104)

Call to Worship

God is King: Let the earth be glad!
Christ is victor: his rule has begun!
The Spirit is at work: creation is renewed!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
—from Our World Belongs to God, st. 2
The Worship Sourcebook, A.1.2.2
— The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/420021/the-worship-sourcebook.aspx)

God is King: Let the earth be glad!
Christ is victor: his rule has begun!
The Spirit is at work: creation is renewed!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
—from Our World Belongs to God, st. 2
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things.
—Psalm 107:1-9, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

Prayers of Invocation
We gather in your presence, King of the universe,
to acclaim your great salvation.
You have done marvelous things.
You rescued your people from sin and death,
through the mighty work of Jesus, your Son.
You send missionaries to the ends of the earth.
You raise up prophets to witness to justice.
You reveal your righteousness to the nations.
Send forth your Spirit, Lord;
renew the face of the earth.
The whole earth rejoices.
Waves crash over waves in echoes of praise.
Rivers proclaim your goodness as they cascade against their beds.
Mountains, standing together as a chorus, declare your faithfulness.
Wind whispering through the leaves makes music to you.
Creatures of all shapes and sizes join in the song.
Into this glorious harmony
send forth your Spirit, Lord;
renew the face of the earth.
We too raise our voices, almighty God.
With all the earth, we shout for joy.
We burst into jubilant song
for the marvelous things you have done.
For your faithfulness, for your love, for your salvation,
for the promise of your return in glory,
we make music to you, our Lord and King.
While we wait for your coming,
send forth your Spirit, Lord;
renew the face of the earth. Amen.
—based on Psalm 98; 104:30
The Worship Sourcebook, A.1.4.10
— The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/420021/the-worship-sourcebook.aspx)

In you, infinite God, we live and move and have our being.
You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
We praise and adore you, everlasting God.
But we are creatures of dust who return to dust.
In the morning you wake us up into the thunder of life.
In the evening you sweep us away in the sleep of death.
We are only mortals, mere transients in the world.
Our days quickly pass, and we fly away.
We bow before you, everlasting God.
Our times are in your hands, because
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
So teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
We need your guidance, everlasting God.
You could condemn us with just cause.
Because of our sin, you could consume us with your anger,
yet you surround us with compassion.
Your unfailing love is all we need.
We thank you, everlasting God.
May we sing for joy all our days.
Bless our work and our lives
so that they may testify to your glory.
We worship you, everlasting God,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
—based on Psalm 90
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


Creator God, we confess that all too often
we have ignored and denied your lordship of the land entrusted to us
by assuming the right to do with it as we please,
by taking more from it than we have returned to it,
by taking for granted its productivity,
by denying justice to many who have labored on the land,
by wanting food for less than it costs to produce.
We confess that material values, rather than kingdom realities,
have often determined our relationships.
We have indulged our appetites with little consideration for others.
We have been more interested in our neighbor’s land than in our neighbor.
We have harbored bitterness and resentments
because of economic problems.
We are not reconciled to some who have hurt us,
even members of your body.
Lord of the church, have mercy on us.
Grant us peace with you and with each other in Christ. Amen.
[Reformed Worship 10:24]
 The Worship Sourcebook, A.2.2.3
— The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/420021/the-worship-sourcebook.aspx)


Our world, broken and scarred, still belongs to God,
who holds it together and gives us hope.
With the whole creation we join the song:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth
and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
He has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God,
and we will reign on earth.
God will be all in all, righteousness and peace will flourish,
everything will be made new, and every eye will see at last
that our world belongs to God. Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus!
—from Our World Belongs to God, st. 17, 58
 The Worship Sourcebook, A.2.4.2
— The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/420021/the-worship-sourcebook.aspx)

Additional Prayers

God who spoke creation into being,
astonishing the angels with galaxies and sunsets,
all your creatures proclaim your majestic power and playful wisdom.
Send forth your renewing Spirit, that we might discover your purpose for us
and live for your glory and delight. Amen.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

A Prayer of Acclamation
God of grace and God of glory, we sing to you with all our hearts. You made us and keep us. You shelter and protect us. You forgive and renew us. Your mercies are tender and firm to the end. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

The heavens declare your glory, great God.
Thank you for the works of your hands,
for the moon and the stars,
for the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea.
Thank you for crowning us with glory and honor
and for making us rulers over the works of your hands.
Help us to care for your creation.
May we respect the land and animals
as we use resources carefully and gratefully.
Thank you too, God our Father, for creating humanity in your image,
for knitting us together in our mother’s wombs.
Thank you for knowing us so intimately
that you know when a hair falls from our heads.
May our love for others reflect your love for us.
Help us to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless,
support the sick, and comfort the lonely. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Almighty and ever present God,
you uphold heaven and earth and all creatures.
All things come from your generous hand:
You send the nourishing rain, the refreshing wind,
the warming sun, the blustering snow.
You make buds appear, flowers bloom,
fruit grow, and harvests mature.
Through each day of our lives,
whether in sickness or health,
prosperity or poverty, joy or sorrow,
you are in control.
Help us to be patient when things go against us,
thankful when things go well,
and always confident that nothing
could ever separate us from your love.
For your unending faithfulness, we thank and praise you.
To you be glory, now and forever. Amen.
—based on Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A’s 27-28
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

O Worship the King (Psalm 104)

Tune Information

G Major
Alternate Tune


Recommended External Arrangements/Resources

Recommended Congregational Singing Resources:
Lau, Robert. O Worship the King. Alfred 4222 [1992] (SATB, Congregation, Organ and optional Trumpet)
Alternate Harmonizations for Organ
Fedak, Alfred V. Hymn Intonations Preludes and Free Harmonizations. Vol III. Selah 160-723 [1992]
Noble, T. Tertius. Free Organ Accompaniments to One Hundred Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Alfred AP.FE 08175
Alternate Harmonizations for Piano
Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano. vol. 2 Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]
Hopson, Hal H. The Creative Use of the Piano in Worship. Hope 8392 [2008]
Recommended Service Music Resources:
Harmon, Neil. God Reigns Above - Six Familiar Hymn Settings for Organ. Morningstar MSM-10-765
Larson, Lloyd. O Worship The King. Agape 1322 [1988] (2-5 octaves with organ, E-M)
McChesney, Kevin. O Worship the King. Beckenhorst BP207 [2001] (3-5 octaves, level 3)
Congregational Singing Resources:
Alternate Harmonizations for Organ
Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings General. Set 3 Morningstar MSM-10-615 [2001]
Wyton, Alec. New Shoots from Old Roots. SMP KK 279 [1983]
Service Music Resources:
 Shaw, Timothy. All Praise for Music. AugsburgFortress ISBN 9781451401127 [2010]
Carter, John. Hymns for Piano II. Hope 8197 [2003] (E-M)
— Norma de Waal Malefyt

O Worship the King (Psalm 104)

Hymn Story/Background

Rather than being a paraphrase or versification, the text is a meditation on the creation theme of Psalm 104. Stanzas 1-3, which allude to Psalm 104:1-6, focus on God’s creation as a testimony to his “measureless Might.” More personal in tone, stanzas 4 and 5 confess the compassion of God toward his creatures and affirm with apocalyptic vision that the “ransomed creation, with glory ablaze” will join with angels to hymn its praise to God.
LYONS, named for the French city Lyons, appeared with a reference to “Haydn” in volume 2 of William Gardiner’s Sacred Melodies. However, the tune was never found in the works of Franz Joseph Haydn or those of his younger brother Johann Michael Haydn. Recent research revealed that the tune was composed by Joseph Martin Kraus, a German composer who settled in Sweden and who traveled widely throughout Europe. Die Werke von Joseph Martin Kraus systematisch-thematisches Werkvereichnis, by Bertil H. Van Boer, Jr. (Stockholm, 1988), includes information on Kraus’ “Tema con variazioni (Scherzo),” a work composed around 1785 in London with an incipit that clearly matches the opening measure of LYONS. The work was published as a set of twelve variations for piano and violin in London in 1791. The violin part may have been an addition by another composer, perhaps “G. Haydn,” since a subsequent London edition (c. 1808) was entitled “Sonita with Twelve Variations for the Piano Forte with Violin Accompaniments, composed by G. Haydn.”
A bright melody, LYONS is much loved by many congregations. Lines 1, 2, and 4 are similar in shape; lines 2 and 4 are identical. The climbing melody and dominant pedal-point of line 3 provides contrast. Sing stanzas 1, 3, and 5 in solid unison and stanzas 2 and 4 in harmony. Use clear, bright accompaniment. Maintain one pulse per bar. LYONS’ opening figure is similar to that of HANOVER, a good alternate tune.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Robert Grant (b. Bengal, India, 1779; d. Dalpoorie, India, 1838) was influenced in writing this text by William Kethe’s paraphrase of Psalm 104 in the Anglo-Genevan Psalter (1561). Grant’s text was first published in Edward Bickersteth’s Christian Psalmody (1833) with several unauthorized alterations. In 1835 his original six-stanza text was published in Henry Elliott’s Psalm and Hymns (The original stanza 3 was omitted in Lift Up Your Hearts).
Of Scottish ancestry, Grant was born in India, where his father was a director of the East India Company. He attended Magdalen College, Cambridge, and was called to the bar in 1807. He had a distinguished public career a Governor of Bombay and as a member of the British Parliament, where he sponsored a bill to remove civil restrictions on Jews. Grant was knighted in 1834. His hymn texts were published in the Christian Observer (1806-1815), in Elliot’s Psalms and Hymns (1835), and posthumously by his brother as Sacred Poems (1839).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Joseph Martin Kraus (b. Miltenberg am Main, Germany, 1756; d. Stockholm, Sweden, 1792) spent his youth in Germany, but in 1778 moved to Stockholm. He was elected to the Swedish Academy of Music and became the conductor of the court orchestra and eventually the best-known composer associated with the court of Gustavus III. On his travels, Kraus did meet Franz Joseph Haydn, who considered Kraus “one of the greatest geniuses I have met.” Kraus wrote operas as well as many vocal and instrumental works.
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

The first line of this beloved hymn immediately reveals its appropriateness for the festival of the Ascension. We know a good deal about the text, but the source of the tune was always a puzzle. Our "final" draft of the handbook included the usual indication that no one had been able to discover the origins of the tune. Though hymnals have always indicated "attributed to Haydn," no one could trace it to Haydn.
Now comes the fun part. Last summer at the Hymn Society Conference in Savannah, Georgia, I was talking with Daniel McKinley, then choirmaster and organist at First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, and learned that his assistant, Margaret Dinsmore, had just dug up some new information about this tune. Their congregation was in the process of producing its very own hymnal, a very big task! They wanted to be accurate in listing authors and composers, and since no one had ever uncovered the real source of this tune, Margaret Dinsmore went to work. She was researching Haydn sources in the University of Indiana library when a title popped up: "The Sonatina with Twelve Variations by J. Haydn (sic). It was the "sic." that intrigued her. After some more sleuthing, she got the title of a German book by Bertil H. Van Boer, Jr., who wrote about the Swedish composer Joseph Martin Kraus. That book listed the Sonatina, and the first few measures included in the book were obviously the same opening notes to the tune LYONS!
Mystery solved! In fact, the tune was written for piano with an added violin part. Dinsmore kindly faxed me the information; I went to the library, got some biographical information on Kraus, and quickly added the new information to the first page proofs of the handbook. The Psalter Hymnal Handbook is probably the first one to list Kraus as the composer, thanks to the impressive library research skills of Margaret Dinsmore.
What a rich testimony this hymn is to the communion of the saints: the hymn text is rooted in Scripture as well as the devotional life of someone with Scottish roots living in India and set to a tune by a German/Swedish composer living in England. And the hymn is still sung around the world a hundred and fifty years later!
(From Reformed Worship, March 1998)
— Emily Brink

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” These may be some of the best-known words in the Bible, but in 1835, Robert Grant wrote a text that helps us see the creation story in a new light. His meditation on the creation theme of Psalm 104 consists of six verses that parallel the six days of creation. But rather than simply paraphrase the psalm or the first two books of the Bible, Grant focuses on how creation is a testimony to God’s “measureless Might.” And Grant’s beautiful text doesn’t stop at Genesis Two. Rather, in the fourth and fifth verse we celebrate God’s saving grace to his creation. When God took that seventh day of rest, he was not signaling an end. He continued to bless His creation, even those as feeble and frail as us. In the last verse, Grant points to Christ as the ultimate reconciler of a broken, but still beautiful creation. An original last stanza that we no longer sing reads, “The humbler creation, though feeble their lays, with true adoration shall lisp to Thy praise.” 
— Laura de Jong
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