170

Man of Sorrows--What a Name

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

"Man of Sorrows" is a reference to the prophet Isaiah's depiction of the "suffering servant" (Isa. 52: 13-53: 12). The full text draws on that prophetic vision and on the gospel narratives of Christ's crucifixion and atoning death. While much of the text affirms objectively the redemptive work of Christ, stanza 2 makes a very personal confession (like 386): "in my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood." Stanzas 4 and 5 move from Christ's death to his exaltation at the right hand of God and to his return as "glorious King." Each stanza concludes with an "alleluia" to so great a Savior.
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This song reflects the narrative of the suffering and death of Christ on Calvary, events whose significance and purpose is deepened by the confessions of the church. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 15-16, Questions and Answers 37-44 explain the significance of each step of his suffering. Question and Answer 40 testifies that Christ had to suffer death “because God’s justice and truth require it; nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the son of God.”
 

The Belgic Confession, Article 20 professes that “God made known his justice toward his Son…poured out his goodness and mercy on us…giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.”
Consider also the testimony of Belgic Confession, Article 21: “He endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.”

Tune Information

Name
HALLELUJAH! WHAT A SAVIOR
Key
B♭ Major
Meter
7.7.7.8

Hymn Story/Background

Philip P. Bliss wrote both text and tune of this hymn that was published in The International Lessons Monthly of 1875 with the title “Redemption.” “Man of Sorrows” is a reference to the prophet Isaiah's depiction of the "suffering servant" (Isa. 52: 13-53: 12). The full text draws on that prophetic vision and on the gospel narratives of Christ's crucifixion and atoning death. While much of the text affirms objectively the redemptive work of Christ, stanza 2 makes a very personal confession: "in my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood." Stanzas 4 and 5 move from Christ's death to his exaltation at the right hand of God and to his return as "glorious King." Each stanza concludes with an "alleluia" to so great a Savior.
 
HALLELUJAH! WHAT A SAVIOR, composed by Bliss, is sometimes called GETHSEMANE. This strong tune is characterized by repeated tones and by rhythmic interest in the final phrase. Sing stanzas 1-4 in harmony in fairly strict rhythm. Sing stanza 5 in unison with some rhythmic freedom on the final phrase.
— Bert Polman

Author and Composer Information

Philip P. Bliss (b. Clearfield County, PA, 1838; d. Ashtabula, OH, 1876) left home as a young boy to make a living by working on farms and in lumber camps, all while trying to continue his schooling. He was converted at a revival meeting at age twelve. Bliss became an itinerant music teacher, making house calls on horseback during the winter, and during the summer attending the Normal Academy of Music in Genesco, New York. His first song was published in 1864, and in 1868 Dwight L. Moody advised him to become a singing evangelist. For the last two years of his life Bliss traveled with Major D. W. Whittle and led the music at revival meetings in the Midwest and Southern United States. Bliss and Ira D. Sankey published a popular series of hymn collections entitled Gospel Hymns. The first book of the series, Gospel Songs, was published in 1874. Bliss's tragic death at the age of thirty-eight happened near the end of 1876.  Philip P. Bliss and his wife were traveling to Chicago to sing for the evangelistic services led by Daniel W. Whittle at Dwight L. Moody's Tabernacle. But a train wreck and fire en route claimed their lives.
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

Ira Sankey, a good friend of Philip Bliss, the author of this hymn, wrote this about Bliss’ text: “It is said that the word ‘Hallelujah’ is the same in all languages. It seems as though God had prepared it for the great jubilee of heaven, when all his children shall have been gathered home to sing ‘Hallelujah to the Lamb!’” Laura de Jong reflects on this general idea with her own experience at Taizé, an ecumenical community in France:
“During one evening prayer service, we had turned around to face the center for the Gospel reading, after which we sang the Taizé song, “Christus Resurexit.” Right in front of me was a young woman with Down Syndrome. She hadn’t turned around, and so we were facing each other as we sang. She couldn’t figure out the unfamiliar Latin words, so simply hummed until we reached the final word of each repeated verse: “Alleluia!” at which point she sang loud and clear. At the beginning of that service, we had been given small candles, and at this point in the service, children were passing the light of Christ from the center Christ Candle throughout the church to the thousands of people gathered from around the world.  Watching this woman, so often shunned by our competitive, “perfect” society, pass the light of Christ while singing “Alleluia” was a powerful reminder that we serve a God who came to stand in the place of all of us, for we are all beautiful, but marred, children of God. It is for this that we praise the Lamb of God, our Savior.”
— Bert Polman