"Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies." (Psalm 27:11)
Today's lesson explores the Bible verses behind the excellent hymn, "Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord."
Hymn Author and Composer
Benjamin Mansell Ramsey wrote the text for "Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord" based on Psalm 27:11 and several additional Scripture verses. Mr. Ramsey also composed the tune, "Camacha," which we use today when singing this hymn.
Benjamin Mansell Ramsey (1849 - 1923) was an English organist and amateur composer (Ref. 1). He also was a well-known music teacher near Bournemouth, England. Mr. Ramsey composed songs, piano pieces, and carols. He also wrote works on music theory (Ref. 2).
Wikipedia reports that Mr. Ramsey also conducted an amateur orchestra in the 1880s, and was involved in establishing the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra in 1893 (Ref. 1). He is best known for his hymn tune, "Camacha," and the text he wrote for "Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord" in 1919.
For those of you who are interested in geography, Bournemouth is located on the south coast of England (see map, Ref. 3).
I suggest that you refer to the attached hymn sheet music for the following discussion of the Scripture verses and the hymn text (Ref. 4).
"Teach me Thy way." Mr. Ramsey skillfully wrote this hymn around the Biblical phrase, "Teach me Thy way." He included the phrase, "Teach me Thy way," 13 times in verses one through four. In the Old Testament, the Way of the Lord referred to keeping God's commandments (Deuteronomy 5:33, Ref. 5). In Joseph Benson's Commentary, the phrase "Teach me Thy way, O Lord" means "What course I shall take to please thee, and to discharge my duty, and to save myself from ruin" (Ref. 6). David, the Psalmist, asked God to teach him God's way in Psalm 27:11 and Psalm 86:11. Psalm 25:4-5 is similar. David’s request to God, "Teach me Thy way, O Lord," is an excellent example for us to follow (Ref. 5).
"Thy guiding grace afford" (hymn, verse 1). These words call to my mind Jesus' promise in John 16:13, "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth." Jesus promised us as believers that the Holy Spirit will guide us. The Greek word for guide in John 16:13 is hodégeó, which literally means "to show the way" (Ref. 7, Ref. 8). Now we can see the close connection between the prayerful hymn words in verse 1, "Teach me Thy way, O Lord" and "Thy guiding grace afford." As believers in Christ, we need the Holy Spirit's guidance to teach us God's way and truth in each of our life's circumstances.
"Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight" (hymn, verse 1). This hymn phrase likely refers to Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 5:7, "For we walk by faith, not by sight."
"Make Thou my pathway plain" (hymn, verse 3). Psalm 27:11 begins with the words, "Teach me thy way, O Lord" and ends with the words, "and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies" (KJV translation). The transliteration of the Hebrew word for plain is mishor (Ref. 9). In Psalm 27:11, mishor means literally a level place (free from obstacles) and figuratively, a place of safety, comfort, prosperity (Ref. 9). In the literal sense, a plain is a level area or plateau as compared to a mountainous area, for example, 1 Kings 20:22-25. In the figurative sense, David's prayer to make his pathway plain (Psalm 27:11) was to request that God would make his way safe (Ref. 10).
Mr. Ramsey wrote in verse 3 of the hymn, "Shine through the cloud and rain, through sorrow, toil, and pain; Make Thou my pathway plain, teach me Thy way!" With these words, we pray that God will make our way safe and that God will comfort us through these difficult times.
"Until the race is won" and "Until the crown is won" (hymn, verse 4). Mr. Ramsey likely drew inspiration from 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 which alludes to both of these phrases. "Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away."
Let us resolve to run the race with endurance that God has given us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Listen. I suggest that you listen to one or both of the following Youtube videos to hear examples of how the hymn can be sung.
Traditional hymn in 3/4 time - The Metropolitan Tabernacle, London congregation singing "Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord" - Click here.
This contemporary, 4/4 time solo arrangement of "Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord" in 4/4 time will uplift you. Click here.
Apply. In what aspect of your life today do you need God to remove obstacles and to make your pathway plain or safe? Pray and ask God to teach you his way and to give you his guidance.
Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." (John 18:37)
This article is the fifth and final in the series, "About the Truth."
Consider. In today's scripture (John 18:37), Jesus was facing Pilate, the representative of the highest political authority on earth (Ref. 1). Jesus courageously and nobly said to Pilate that he was born to be a king and came into the world - to bear witness to the truth. Ellicott's Commentary says the natural interpretation (based on Greek verb tenses) is "To be king I have been born, and to be a king I have come into the world, in order that I may bear witness to the truth" (Ref. 2).
Pilate asked Jesus, "So you are a king?" (John 18:37). However, Jesus' kingdom was not a kingdom in the political sense that Pilate inferred (Ref. 1, Ref. 3). Jesus' kingdom was a kingdom in the spiritual sense (Ref. 4). Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).
Jesus said he came to bear witness to the truth. Let's look at the meaning of the words for bear witness and truth. The English words bear witness are translated from the Greek verb martureó, which means bear witness, give evidence, testify, give a good report (Ref. 5). The Greek noun for truth is alétheia, which means reality, the opposite of what is false or illusion (Ref. 6). Jesus came into the world to show and tell mankind that God's truth is reality.
Consider these statements where Jesus bears witness to God's truth.
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).
"If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
These statements, and the entirety of the Holy Bible are God's truth and are reality (Psalm 119:160, John 17:17). Believe in Jesus. Believe God's truth.
Jesus said, "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." To whom is Jesus referring when he says "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice"? (John 18:37) To be of the truth means to have root in it and to draw life from it (Ref. 7). People who have root in Christ and who draw life from him hear his voice.
In John 18:37, the Greek word for the verb hears is akouó (Ref. 8). Akouó literally means to hear (listen); figuratively, to hear God's voice which prompts Him to birth faith within (HELPS Word-studies in Ref. 8). Thayer's Greek Lexicon adds that hearing Jesus' voice prompts obedience (Ref. 8). Those who are of the truth hear Jesus' words, have faith in him, and yield obedience to him.
Jesus said, "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matthew 7:24).
Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27).
Apply. Are you rooted in and drawing life from the truth of Christ?
Are you yielding obedience to Christ?
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"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." -- Jesus speaking in John 14:6
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