50. The Mighty God and Sovereign Lord

Text Information
First Line: The mighty God and sovereign Lord
Title: The Mighty God and Sovereign Lord
Reviser: Marie J. Post (1985)
Meter: 88 88 88
Scripture: Psalm 50
Topic: Judge, God/Christ as; Profession of Faith
Source: Psalter, 1912
Language: English
Copyright: Text © 1987, CRC Publications
Tune Information
Name: ST. PETERSBURG
Composer: Dimitri S. Bortnianski (1825)
Meter: 88 88 88
Key: B♭ Major


Text Information:

The LORD calls the people to covenant account.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-3
st. 2 = vv. 4-6
st. 3 = vv. 7-8
st. 4 = vv. 9-11
st. 5 = vv. 12-15
st. 6 = vv.I6-17
st. 7 = vv. 18-21a
st. 8 = vv. 21 b-23

Psalm 50 is the first of twelve psalms (the others are 73-83) ascribed by tradition to Asaph, head of one of the Levitical choirs (1 Chron. 6:31-48). It is unusual among the psalms in that, for the most part, it represents God's address to Israel rather than Israel's address to God.

For Christians who sing this psalm, the LORD appears in Zion to confront the people (st. 1), to call them to covenant account. After summoning the covenant witnesses–the earth (v. 1) and the heavens (v. 4)–the LORD calls for an assembly of all "who made a covenant" with him (v. 5; st. 2). First God instructs them with warnings against false notions about sacrifice, exhorting them, "Call upon me" (v. 15; st. 3-5). Then God turns to the wicked with indictments and rebukes, making clear that God desires people's complete trust and a wholehearted commitment to his moral will (st. 6-8).

Marie J. Post (PHH 5) prepared this versification in 1985 for the Psalter Hymnal using the 1912 Psalter as her starting point.

Liturgical Use:
Times of self-examination; beginning of worship; service of confession of sin.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

Dmitri Stephanovich Bortnianski (b. Gloukoff, Ukraine, 1751; d. St. Petersburg, Russia, 1825) was a Russian composer of church music, operas, and instrumental music. His tune ST. PETERSBURG (also known as RUSSIAN HYMN) was first published in J. H. Tscherlitzky's Choralbuch (1825).

The tune is supposedly from a Mass composed in 1822, though that work is not extant. Tchaikovsky included ST. PETERSBURG as the setting for a Russian hymn in his 1884 edition of Bortnianski's compositions for church use. The tune is named after the city where Bortnianski studied, worked, and died. Shaped in to a strict bar form (AAB), this tune has a third line that brings a fine climax and resolution to the entire melody.

Bortnianski began his musical study as a chorister in the imperial chapel choir at the age of eight. With financial aid from Catherine the Great, he went to Venice in 1768 to study music; he also studied in Rome and Naples. After returning to Russia, he assumed the directorship of the imperial chapel choir in St. Petersburg. His choral music was published by Tchaikovsky (c. 1884) and continues to be used both in the Russian Orthodox Church and in western churches.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook


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