244. God Himself Is with Us

1 God himself is with us;
let us now adore him,
and with awe appear before him.
God is in his temple;
all within keep silence,
prostrate lie with deepest reverence.
Him alone do we own
as our God and Savior;
praise his name forever.

2 God himself is with us;
hear the harps resounding!
See the crowds the throne surrounding!
"Holy, holy, holy,"
hear the hymn ascending,
angels, saints, their voices blending!
Bow your ear to us here;
hear, O Christ, the praises
that your church now raises.

3 Fount of every blessing,
purify my spirit,
trusting only in your merit.
Like the holy angels
who behold your glory,
may I ceaselessly adore you,
and in all, great and small,
seek to do most nearly
what you love so dearly.

Text Information
First Line: God himself is with us
Title: God Himself Is with Us
Author: Gerhardt Tersteegen (1729, tr. composite)
Publication Date: 1987
Meter: 668 668 666
Scripture: Psalm 95:6; Isaiah 6:3; Habakkuk 2:20; Revelation 4:8-11; Revelation 4:11
Topic: Will of God; Opening of Worship; Angels (2 more...)
Language: English
Tune Information
Composer: Joachim Neander (1680)
Meter: 668 668 666
Key: G Major

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st.1 = Gen. 28:16-17, Ps. 95:6, Hab. 2:20
st.2 = Isa. 6:3, Rev. 4:8-11

Gerhardt Tersteegen (b. Mörs, Prussia, Germany, 1697; d. Mühlheim, Germany, 1769) wrote this hymn (“Gott ist gegenwärtig”) in eight stanzas after his conversion experience in 1724. designing it to fit this tune by Neander. The hymn was first published in Terteegen’s Geistliches Blumengärtlein (1729) with the heading “Remembrance of the glorious and delightful presence pf God.”

Stanzas 1 and 2 summon worshipers to praise and adore God, and stanza 2 (with an allusion to Isa. 6) begins a prayer for sanctification that continues through stanza 3. Though judged inadequate when compared with Tersteegen’s mystical original, the translation (with the current selection of stanzas) is a favorite in many hymnals. While many of Tersteegen’s hymns may be more suitable for private meditation, this one is a fine vehicle for public praise of God.

Tersteegen was a renowned representative of the Christian tradition of mysticism in German Reformed hymnody. He received a gymnasium (high school) education, but after his father’s death, family poverty kept him from university training. He became a merchant and then a weaver, producing silk ribbons. Reared in the Reformed Church, Tersteegen was influenced by a Pietist group but experienced a spiritual depression until 1724, when he dedicated his life to God in a confession written in his own blood.

After this he began to conduct prayer meetings. Attracted to mysticism, Tersteegen became an important spiritual leader to many, and from 1727 until late in his life, he ran a retreat center in Otterbeck, near Mühlheim. He preached in Prussia and the Netherlands and kept up an extensive correspondence. When it was necessary, Tersteegen was supported by his followers, and in turn he shared his goods and simple medicines with the poor, becoming known as the “physician of the poor and the forsaken.” Because his ministry was outside the established church, he often experienced the displeasure of church and civic authorities. His writings include translations into German from Latin and French mystics, sermons and meditiations, and over one hundred hymns published in Geistliche Blumen-Gärtlein (1729 and later editions).

The composite translation in the Psalter Hymnal is mostly the work of Frederick W. Foster (1760-1835), John Miller (1756-1810), and William Mercer (1811-1873); see PHH 357 for more information on Mercer.

Liturgical Use:
Beginning of worship (useful as a choral introit); stanza 3 fits well after the service of confession and assurance.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

ARNSBERG (also known as GOTT IST GEGENWÄRTIG and WUNDERBARER KÖNIG) was composed by Joachim Neander (b. Bremen, Germany, 1650; d. Bremen, 1680) and published in his Glaub- und Liebesübung (1680) forhis hymn “Wunderbarer König.” This bar-form (AAB) tune has undergone both rhythmic and melodic change in earlier hymnals. Keep it rhythmic, with a moving tempo. Observe the full length of the whole notes at the ends of the first two long phrases and extend the final chord into a whole note. For stanza 2 try a solo registration on the melody line with a lighter accompaniment – or unaccompanied – and with the congregation singing in harmony.

Before writing this hymn, Neander had scoffed at his religious upbringing and led a careless, licentious life as a student in Bremen. One Sunday in 1670 he and his friends attended a service at St. Martin’s Church – mainly to criticize and mock the preacher. However, he came under the spell of Theodore Under-Eyck’s preaching and was converted from his wayward life. Enamored with Pietism, Neander associated with the Pietist leader Spener in Frankfurt. In 1674 Neander became headmaster of the Latin School in Düsseldorf and conducted pastoral duties in the Caqlvinistic congregation.

But his Pietist leanings prompted him to organize separate church services and to abstain from the Lord’s Supper. These practices forced the authorities to suspend him in 1677. After recanting his views, Neander returned to his ordinary duties. But he was no longer happy in Düsseldorf, and he gladly accepted the opportunity to become Under-Eyck’s assistant at St. Martin’s Church in Bremen in 1679. He died soon afterward of tuberculosis. Neander loved nature and would often go for long walks. In fact, the valley of Düssel near Mettmann was named Neanderthal after him; in 1856 a skeleton of a “Neanderthal man” was found there, and that coincidence has produced a number of apocryphal stories about Neander. He wrote about sixty hymn texts and some tunes, published in Alpha und Omega (1680, expanded posthumously, 1689).

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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