43

Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer

Full Text

1 Guide me, O my great Redeemer,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but you are mighty;
hold me with your powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore,
feed me now and evermore.

2 Open now the crystal fountain,
where the healing waters flow.
Let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.
Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer,
ever be my strength and shield,
ever be my strength and shield.

3 When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside.
Death of death, and hell's destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever sing to you,
I will ever sing to you.

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Pilgrimage is a much-used metaphor in Williams's texts. "Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer" draws on images from the Exodus story in the Old Testament: "bread of heaven" (Ex. 16), "crystal fountain" (Ex. 17), "fire and cloudy pillar" (Ex. 13:21-22). But the New Testament, Christocentric focus of the text is equally clear in the repeated final line of each stanza: Jesus is the "bread of heaven" (or "bread of life," (John 6), the "rock" who is our "strength and shield" (1 Cor. 10:4), and the victor over "death … and hell's destruction" (Rev. 1:18). Thus the change from the original “Jehovah” of the first line to "Redeemer" makes eminent sense.
 
Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The journey of the Israelites through the wilderness is a picture of God’s children as pilgrims on a long and sometimes difficult journey. Yet, through everything God has a plan, which is revealed in the unfolding of the covenant. Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 33 testifies about a “story of God’s mighty acts in the unfolding of covenant history.” This unfolding of the covenant plan is a testimony, according to Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 18, of “the long road of redemption” for the Israelites and for God’s children living today.
43

Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer

Additional Prayers

A Petitionary Prayer
 
I am weak, but you are mighty.
Hold me with your powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
Feed me now and evermore.
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
ever be my strength and shield for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
43

Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer

Author Information

The great circuit-riding preacher/poet William Williams (b. Cefn-y-Coed, Carmarthenshire, Wales, 1717; d. Pantycelyn, Carmarthenshire, 1791) wrote the original Welsh text "Arglwydd, arwain trwy'r anialwch"–"Lord, Lead Me Through the Wilderness."
The English translation by Peter Williams (b. Llansadurnin, Carmarthanshire, Wales, 1722; d. Llandyfeilog, Wales, 1796), which began "Guide me, O thou great Jehovah," was published in his Hymns on Various Subjects (1771). That first stanza is still in use, but the remaining stanzas come from William Williams's own translation, which he prepared for The Collection of Hymns Sung in the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapels (1771).
 
William Williams and Peter Williams were contemporaries with a similar back­ground. William Williams is usually considered to be the greatest Welsh hymn writer of the eighteenth century. He had begun to prepare himself for a medical profession, but the course of his life was altered when he was influenced by the ministry of Howell Harris, an evangelist associated with George Whitefield. Williams began to study for the ministry and in 1740 was ordained a deacon in the Church of England. After being refused ordination as a priest because of his evangelical beliefs, he joined the Calvinist Methodists in 1744. He became an itinerant evangelist and for the next forty-five years served as a leading figure in the revival movement in Wales. Williams's evangelistic preaching was greatly aided by his hymns, which were sung with great enthusiasm at revival and "society" meetings. Known as the "sweet singer of Wales," he wrote about eight hundred hymn texts in Welsh and over one hundred in English. They were published in Alleluia (1744), Hosanna I Fab Dafydd (1754), Hosanna to the Son of David (1759), Y Moro Wydr (1762), and Gloria in Excelsis (1771).
 
Peter Williams was converted to Christianity by the preaching of George Whitefield and was ordained in the Church of England in 1744. His evangelical convictions soon made him suspect, however, and he left the state church to join the Calvinist Methodists in 1746. He served as an itinerant preacher for many years and was a primary figure in the Welsh revival of the eighteenth century. After being expelled by the Methodists in 1791 on a charge of heresy, he ministered in his own chapel during the last years of his life. He published the first Welsh Bible commentary (1767-1770) and a Bible concordance (1773); he was also one of the annotators for John Canne's Welsh Bible (1790). In addition Williams published a Welsh hymnal, Rhai Hymnau ac Odlau Ysbrydol (1759), as well as Hymns on Various Subjects (1771).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

The popularity of Williams's text is undoubtedly aided by its association with CWM RHONDDA, composed in 1905 by John Hughes (b. Dowlais, Glamorganshire, Wales, 1873; d. Llantwit Fardre, Wales, 1932) during a church service for a Baptist Cymanfa Ganu (song festival) in Capel Rhondda, Pontypridd, Wales. Hughes received little formal education; at age twelve he was already working as a doorboy at a local mining company in Llantwit Fardre. He eventually became an official in the traffic department of the Great Western Railway. Much of his energy was devoted to the Salem Baptist Church in Pontypridd, where he served as both deacon and precentor. Hughes composed two anthems, a number of Sunday school marches, and a few hymn tunes, of which CWM RHONDDA is universally known.
— Bert Polman

Song Notes

The notion of “the unknown” is not an idea we’re overly fond of. Part of us would love to know how the future plays out - what to prepare for, what to let go of because it won’t be successful anyway. C. S. Lewis alludes to this desire in Prince Caspian, in this conversation between Lucy and Aslan. “Please, Aslan!” said Lucy, “am I not to know?” “To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No, nobody is ever told that.” “Oh dear,” said Lucy.”
 
Not knowing what the future holds brings a certain uneasiness to our lives. And yet, in a strange kind of way, there is comfort in the fact as well. Whatever happens to us or our loved ones is out of our hands; we simply couldn’t know anything about it if we tried. There is a common phrase: “Let go, and let God.” In this hymn by William Williams, we are given the words to express our prayer that God would guide us as we walk through a life of unknowns. At the end of her conversation with Aslan, Lucy, her head previously buried into Aslan’s mane, suddenly sits up and says, “I’m sorry, Aslan…I’m ready now.” Let us pray that we are always ready to go with God wherever He takes us, songs of praises ever on our lips.
— Laura de Jong
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