I sought the Lord, and afterward I knewAuthor: Anonymous (1878)
Songs of Response
Published in 69 hymnals
Printable scores: PDF, SibeliusAudio files: MIDI
1. I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me.
It was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found of thee.
2. Thou didst reach forth thy hand and mine enfold;
I walked and sank not on the storm-vexed sea.
'Twas not so much that I on thee took hold,
as thou, dear Lord, on me.
3. I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole
of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee!
For thou wert long beforehand with my soul;
always thou lovedst me.
United Methodist Hymnal, 1989
|First Line:||I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew|
|Liturgical Use:||Songs of Response|
st. 2 = Matt 14:22-23
st. 3 = 1 John 4:10,19, Jer. 31:3
Said by some scholars to have been written in 1878, this anonymous text was published in Holy Songs, Carols, and Sacred Ballads compiled by the Roberts brothers in Boston (1880). Austin Lovelace says of this text: "'He first loved us.' This simple yet profound thought is the basis for the hymn. God loved us long before we knew it. We seek God, but already God is holding out a hand waiting for us to take hold of it and be rescued from the seas of life" (Lovelace, Hymn Notes).
Stanza 2 alludes to the scene in which Christ saves Peter from drowning (see Matt. 14:22-33).
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew. [He first loved us.] An anonymous and undated hymn in The Pilgrim Hymnal 1904.
--John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, New Supplement (1907)
Organist and composer Austin Lovelace wrote these words about this hymn: “’He first loved us’ (PHH). This simple yet profound thought is the basis for the hymn. God loved us long before we knew it. We seek God, but already God is holding out a hand waiting for us to take hold of it and be rescued from the seas of life.” How often do we feel like we are thrusting out a hand in every which direction, trying to find something secure to hold on to amidst the stresses and trials that life throws at us? How often do we forget that there is already a hand being extended to us, waiting for us to grab hold? Do we remind ourselves daily of the love God pours out on us each day? As we sing this hymn, may the words sink deep into our hearts: “Always thou lovedst me.”
This anonymous text is thought to have been written in 1878, and was first published in Holy Songs, Carols, and Sacred Ballads. The text has remained unaltered since its publication. There is something both quirky and elegant about the language used – the last stanza can be especially confusing, so it might be beneficial to your congregation to explain the general theme of this verse – that God loved us first, and all we can do to respond is to love Him in return.
There are a number of tunes that this text has been set to. Most popular is PEACE (Chadwick), followed closely behind by ARTAVIA, PEACE (Brandon), FAITH, and FINLANDIA. The different tunes used generally vary on denomination and tradition – more than a question of what tune is better, it’s simply a question of what tune has been handed down over the years. FINLANDIA is the only one that alters the text – it draws out the verses by repeating the last two lines.
Bifrost Arts has a beautiful, haunting new tune for this hymn. The instrumentation would be very difficult to recreate and isn’t very conducive for congregational singing, but the melody is quite wonderful.
Regardless of what tune you use, be careful to keep the tempo moving since the individual lines are long.
This is a hymn that works well during a service of confession and assurance, acknowledging our inability to act on our own and being assured that the Lord moves within us, prompting us to grow closer to Him. When focusing on God’s active work to seek us out, think about framing the hymn with a reading of Psalm 139, which echoes much of that theme. A very Reformed hymn, this could also be sung after a sermon on the doctrine of election.
Laura de Jong Hymnary.org
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|Instances (10)||First Line||Text Title||Refrain First Line||Authors||Composers||Meter||Scripture||Tune Title||Tune Key||Incipit||Languages||Publication Date|
|Common Praise (1998) #547||I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew||I Sought the Lord||J. Harold Moyer, 1927-||10.10.10.6||Matthew 6:9-15; Matthew 7:7-11; Matthew 14:22-33; Matthew 18:10-14; Mark 6:45-52; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 15:1-32; Luke 19:1-10; John 15:1-17; Romans 5:1-11; Matthew 6:9-15; Matthew 7:7-11; Matthew 14:22-33; Matthew 18:10-14; Mark 6:45-52; Luke 11:1-13; Luke 15:1-32; Luke 19:1-10; John 15:1-17; Romans 5:1-11||FAITH||d minor or modal||1998|
|Hymnal 1982: according to the use of the Episcopal Church #689||I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew||Anon.||J. Harold Moyer, b. 1927||10.10.10.6||FAITH||d minor or modal||English||1985|
|Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #685||I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew||I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew||anonymous||Jean Sibelius, 1865-1957||126.96.36.199.11.10||Jeremiah 31:3; Matthew 14:22-23; 1 John 4:10; 1 John 4:19||FINLANDIA||F Major or modal||2013|
|Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #498||I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew||I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew||Anonymous||Jean Sibelius||10.10.10.8.10.8||Jeremiah 31:3; Matthew 14:28-33; 1 John 4:10-19; Matthew 14:32; 1 John 4||FINLANDIA||E Flat Major||English||1987|
|Rejoice in the Lord #162||I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew||I Sought the Lord||Anonymous||George Brandon||10.10.10.6||Matthew 14:31||PEACE||f minor||English||1985|
|Scripture Song Database #1675||[I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew]||I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew||Anonymous||Matthew 14:32; 1 John 4||2008|
|Scripture Song Database #1676||[I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew]||I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew||Anonymous||Matthew 14:32; 1 John 4||2008|
|The United Methodist Hymnal #341||I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew||I Sought the Lord||Anon.||George W. Chadwick||10.10.10.6||PEACE||A Flat Major||English||1989|
|The Worshiping Church #440||I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew||I Sought the Lord||Anonymous||John 12:32; John 6:44; Jeremiah 31:3; Matthew 14:31; Luke 19:10||English||1990|
|Trinity Hymnal (Rev. ed.) #466||I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew||I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew||Anonymous||George W. Chadwick||10.10.10.6 with refrain||1 John 4:19||PEACE||A Flat Major||English||1990|