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The Heavens Declare Your Glory (Psalm 19)

Full Text

1 The heavens declare your glory,
the firmament your power;
day unto day the story
repeats from hour to hour.
Night unto night replying,
proclaims in every land,
O LORD, with voice undying,
the wonders of your hand.

2 The sun with royal splendor
goes forth to chant your praise,
and moonbeams soft and tender
their gentler anthem raise.
O'er every tribe and nation
the music is outpoured,
the song of all creation
to you, creation's Lord.

3 All heaven on high rejoices
to do its Maker's will;
the stars with solemn voices
resound your praises still.
So let my whole behavior,
each thought, each deed I do,
be, LORD, my strength, my Savior,
a ceaseless song to you.

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Scripture References

Quoted or directly alluded to:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Following the example of Psalm 19:1-6, this text takes as its theme the praise that all creation gives to its Creator. In typical nineteenth-century fashion Birks provides a moral: just as the physical universe around me praises the Lord God, so I must praise the Creator with all my thoughts, words and deeds (st. 3).

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Beautifully declaring how we learn of God’s glory through his creation, this song is consistent with Belgic Confession, Article 2, which explains that the “creation, preservation and government of the universe…is before our eyes like a beautiful book.”
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The Heavens Declare Your Glory (Psalm 19)

Call to Worship

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
Let them praise the name of the Lord ,
for he commanded and they were created.
He established them for ever and ever;
he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!
Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the Lord !
—Psalm 148, NRSV
The Worship Sourcebook, A.1.2.1
— The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/420021/the-worship-sourcebook.aspx)

How magnificent for us to ponder, triune God of grace,
how your Word spoke creation into being,
how your Spirit breathed life into every living creature.
Receive now our praise in concert
with the symphony of praise
and saints and angels in heaven—
all offered through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with the useful—
with granite, with gravity, with grapes.
And God gave us minds and hands
to engineer the granite,
to probe the forces of gravity,
to squeeze the grapes.
At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with the beautiful—
with marble, with molds, with marigolds.
And God gave us compassion and imagination
to shape the marble into sculptures,
the molds into medicines,
the marigolds into tapestries of yellow and bronze.
At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with the comic—
with croaking bullfrogs, with the buoyancy of water,
with duck-billed platypuses.
And God gave us, as imagebearers of God,
a sense of humor and different ways of seeing
in order to delight in the world.
At the beginning of time and space,
God gave us a world.
And God filled it with mystery—
with living cells and dying stars,
with black holes and the speed of light,
with human beings.
And God gave us dominion over the earth,
to till it and to nurture it with curiosity and creativity.
At the beginning of time,
God gave us a world.
Let us give praise and thanksgiving to God, our Creator.
[Reformed Worship 40:24]
The Worship Sourcebook, A.1.4.11
— The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/420021/the-worship-sourcebook.aspx)

Confession

Glorious God,
your creation sings of your might.  
Yet, we ignore the song, deny the melody, and cry out our dissonance.  
Forgive us, Great God, for our attempts
to limit or distract from the beauty of your power.
Transpose our lives so that every thought and deed
becomes an endless song to you
through our Lord Jesus, Amen.
 
 
— Carrie Steenwyk

Assurance

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, 2.4.41
— The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/420021/the-worship-sourcebook.aspx)

Blessing/Benediction

The Eternal God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth,
is your strength, your song, your Savior.
The same God who is proclaimed by the heavens
loves you and carries you in to God’s world.
Go in God’s power and grace.
— Carrie Steenwyk

Additional Prayers

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.
The Worship Sourcebook, A.4.4.5
— The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition (http://www.faithaliveresources.org/Products/420021/the-worship-sourcebook.aspx)

Amazing God, your glory is revealed in your creation and law,
and your love is revealed in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
You have freed us from sin and death.
You have given us wisdom and joy.
Now, by the power of your Spirit,
make our words and thoughts worthy offerings of praise.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

A Prayer of Acclamation
 
Yours is the night, O God, to beam like the moon. Yours is the day, O God, to shine like the sun. Yours is the night, yours is the day, yours is the light on my path. All yours, always yours, only yours, for Jesus’ sake. 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
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The Heavens Declare Your Glory (Psalm 19)

Tune Information

Name
FAITHFUL
Key
C Major
Meter
7.6.7.6 D

Recordings

Recommended External Arrangements/Resources

Recommended Congregational Singing Resources
Instrument and Organ
Burkhardt, Michael. Five Hymn Accompaniments for Brass Quartet and Organ, set 2. Morningstar MSM-20-843
— Norma de Waal Malefyt
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The Heavens Declare Your Glory (Psalm 19)

Hymn Story/Background

This paraphrase of the opening verses of Psalm 19 was written by British scholar Thomas R. Birks (b. Staveley, Derbyshire, England, 1810; d. Cambridge, England, 1883), who published it in his Companion Psalter (1874). Birks was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. After ordination in the Church of England, he served two churches and was a professor of moral philosophy at Cambridge. He wrote about a number of biblical subjects, especially prophecy, and prepared at least a hundred versifications of psalms.
 
Following the example of Psalm 19:1-6, this text takes as its theme the praise that all creation gives to its Creator. In typical nineteenth-century fashion Birks provides a moral: just as the physical universe around me praises the Lord God, so I must praise the Creator with all my thoughts, words and deeds (st. 3). The modernized version in Lift Up Your Hearts reflects current pronoun usage.
 
FAITHFUL is an adaptation of a tune from Johann S. Bach's well-known aria "Mein gläubiges Herze" ("My heart ever faithful"), found in his Cantata 68. The tune's title is derived from the English translation of the aria's opening words.
 
A charming tune, FAITHFUL consists of repetitions and variations of just a few motives. Sing in unison with light accompaniment.
 
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Birks, Thomas Rawson, M.A., b. Sept. 1810, and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A. 1834, M.A. 1837), of which he subsequently became a Fellow. Having taken Holy Orders in 1837, he became Rector of Kelshall, Herts, 1844; Vicar of Holy Trinity, Cambridge, 1866; Hon. Canon of Ely Cathedral, 1871; and Professor of Moral Philosophy, Cambridge, 1872. He d. at Cambridge, July 21, 1883. His works, to the number of 25, include Biblical, Astronomical, Scientific, Prophetic, and other subjects. He also wrote the Memoirs of the Rev. E Bickersteth (his father-in-law), 2 vols., 1851. His hymns appeared in Bickersteth's Christian Psalmody; 1833; and, together with Versions of the Psalms, in his Companion Psalter, 1874. They number upwards of 100. [Eng. Psalters, § xx.] Very few are in C. U. in G. Britain, but in America their use is extending. They include:—
 
1. Except the Lord do build the house. Ps. cxxvii.
2. O come, let us sing to the Lord. Ps. xcv.
3. O King of Mercy, from Thy throne on high. Ps. lxxx.
4. O taste and see that He is good. Ps. xxxiv.
5. O when from all the ends of earth. Psj xiv.
6. The heavens declare Thy glory. Ps. xix.
7. The Lord Himself my Portion is. Ps. liii.
8. The mighty God, the Lord hath spoken. Ps. l.
9. Thou art gone up on high, O Christ, &c. Ps. xlvii.
10. Whom have I [we] Lord in heaven, but Thee. Ps. lxxiii.
 
Of these versions of the Psalms, all of which date from 1874, the most popular is No. 3. Mr. Birks' compositions are worthy of greater attention than they have hitherto received.
 
-John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

Composer Information

Johann Sebastian Bach (b. Eisenach, Germany, 1685; d. Leipzig, Germany, 1750) came from a family of musicians. He learned to play violin, organ, and harpsichord from his father and his older brother, Johann Christoph. Bach's early career developed in Arnstadt and Muhlhausen, particularly at the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst in Weimar. During this period he composed cantatas and most of his large organ works. In 1717 Bach became director of music for Prince Leopold in Anhalt-Cathen, for whom he composed much of his instrumental music-orchestral suites and concertos as well as The Well-Tempered Clavier. In 1723 he was appointed cantor of the Thomas Schule at Leipzig and director at St. Thomas and St. Nicholas churches and at the University of Leipzig. During that time he wrote his large choral works, 165 cantatas, and more compositions for organ and harpsichord. Although Bach's contribution to church music was immense and his stature as the finest composer of the Baroque era unparal­leled, he composed no hymn tunes for congregational use. He did, however, harmo­nize many German chorales, which he used extensively in his cantatas, oratorios, and organ works. These harmonizations were published posthumously by his son Carl Phillip Emmanuel as 371 Vierstimmige Choralgesiinge.
— Bert Polman
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