1 Now thank we all our God
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers' arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
2 O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us,
to keep us in his grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
of this world in the next.
3 All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son and Spirit blest,
who reign in highest heaven
the one eternal God,
whom heaven and earth adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.
Psalter Hymnal (Gray), 1987
|First Line:||Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices|
|Title:||Now Thank We All Our God|
|German Title:||Nun danket alle Gott|
|Author:||Martin Rinkart (1636)|
|Notes:||Nel. Nun danket alle Gott|
Martin Rinkart (1586-1649) was the Bishop of Eilenberg, Germany during the Thirty Years' War. Since Eilenberg was a walled city it became a place of refuge for fugitives of the war, and also a place of famine and disease due to overcrowding. In 1637 at the height of their misery, Rinkart was the only clergyman left in the city who could perform the 40 or 50 necessary burial services daily -- one of which was for his wife. As if that weren't enough, the city was sacked three times by invaders, one of which imposed a large tribute payment upon the people. During this time, Rinkart managed to find the time to write 7 dramas and 66 hymns.
The hymn "Nun danket alle Gott" was originally titled "Tisch-Gebetlein," or a "little prayer before the meal." This humble prayer of thanksgiving is laid out simply and beautifully in the first verse, but it's the next two verses that expand the hymn's focus and have given it its lasting appeal. You can see the Thirty Years' War pressing on his mind in verse two:
And keep us in His grace,
And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
In this world and the next.
After a verse of thanks, and a verse that asks for strength during the trials of life, he ends with a paraphrase of the doxology as if to say, "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, may the name of the Lord be praised." --Greg Scheer, 1995
Martin Rinkart was a minister in the city of Eilenburg during the Thirty Years War. Apart from battles, lives were lost in great number during this time due to illnesses and disease spreading quickly throughout impoverished cities. In the Epidemic of 1637, Rinkart officiated at over four thousand funerals, sometimes fifty per day. In the midst of these horrors, it’s difficult to imagine maintaining faith and praising God, and yet, that’s exactly what Rinkart did. Sometime in the next twenty years, he wrote the hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God,” originally meant to be a prayer said before meals. Rinkart could recognize that our God is faithful, and even when the world looks bleak, He is “bounteous” and is full of blessings, if only we look for them. Blessings as seemingly small as a dinner meal, or as large as the end of a brutal war and unnecessary bloodshed are all reasons to lift up our thanks to God, with our hearts, our hands, and our voices.
This text was written by Martin Rinkart sometime around the Thirty Years War in the 1630s, though it wasn’t published until 1663. His inspiration for the first two stanzas comes from the Apocryphal Book of Ecclesiasticus, chapter 50:22-24, which reads in part, “Now bless the God of all, who in every way does great things.” The third stanza is a paraphrase of the Gloria Patri, originally composed in Greek in the fourth century, though some of it was written as early as 95 A.D. The second verse hints at the sickness and disease of the Thirty Years War.
Every hymnal that includes this hymn contains three verses - the words and phrasing change slightly between hymnals. For example, the third stanza is written in a variety of ways; some read in the third line, “the Son and Spirit blest, who reign in highest heaven,” while others read, “To Father and to Son and Spirit now be given.” Various ideas are switched around order-wise in certain verses, but the overall message of the verses remains the same.
NUN DANKET, named for the original title of Rinkart’s text, has been associated with this text since the two were published together by Johann Crüger in his Praxis Pietatis Melica (1647). It can also be sung to the tunes GRACIAS and ROSE ST. This tune is majestic and grand – John Rutter’s arrangement for organ and orchestra/brass speaks well to this majesty. Let the music swell and build, but to keep it from becoming a bit dull (even big and majestic can be boring when done too often), start big, pull back on the second verse and build into the final verse again.
There are many occasions that call for this hymn of thanksgiving, not the least of which is a Thanksgiving Service. It’s most commonly sung at the end of worship or as a hymn of response to a prayer of thanksgiving. It could also be sung during the offering, as we thank God for his blessings by responding with the giving of gifts. The short lines make it especially easy to remember, so this is a great hymn to teach children.
Laura de Jong, Hymnary.org