GUIDE ME, O THOU GREAT JEHOVAH
William Williams, 1717–1791
Since You are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of Your name lead and guide me. (Psalm 31:3)
The need for daily guidance is one of the believer’s greatest concerns. How easily our lives can go astray without the assurance of divine leadership. Today’s featured text is one of the great hymns of the church on this subject.
It is a product of the revival movement that swept through Wales during the 18th century. This revival was led by a 24-year-old Welsh preacher, Howell Harris, who stirred the land with his fervent evangelistic preaching and his use of congregational singing.
One of the lives touched by Harris’ ministry was 20-year-old William Williams. Young Williams, the son of a wealthy Welsh farmer, was preparing to become a medical doctor. But, upon hearing the stirring challenge by evangelist Howell Harris, Williams dedicated his life to God and the Christian ministry. William Williams, like Harris, decided to take all of Wales as his parish and for the next 43 years traveled 100,000 miles on horseback, preaching and singing the gospel in his native tongue. He became known as the “sweet singer of Wales.”
The symbolic imagery of this hymn is drawn wholly from the Bible. The general setting is the march of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan. Although the Israelites’ sin and unbelief kept them from their destination for 40 years, God provided for their physical needs with a new supply of manna each day. Twice during the Hebrews’ years of wandering, they became faint because of lack of water. At the command of God, Moses struck a large rock with his wooden staff. Out of it flowed-a pure, crystalline stream that preserved their lives. God also continued to guide them with a pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.
Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, pilgrim thru this barren land; I am weak, but Thou art mighty—Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand: Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more. Open now the crystal fountain, whence the healing stream doth flow; Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through; Strong Deliverer, strong Deliverer, be Thou still my strength and shield. When I tread the verge of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside; Bear me thru the swelling current; land me safe on Canaan’s side: Songs of praises, songs of praises, I will ever give to Thee.
Psalm 16:11; Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 58:11; Romans 8:14