"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 Word, 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.
"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me" (John 14:1)
Consider. On the evening before his death, Jesus spoke with his disciples. Jesus told his disciples that he was about to leave them (John 13:33). Naturally, their hearts filled with sorrow (John 16:5-6).
Jesus had already told his listeners who he is. "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58, Exodus 3:6, Exodus 3:14).
As the remedy for their troubled hearts, Jesus asked his disciples to believe in him. The Greek word for "believe" is pisteuó, which means have faith in, trust in (Ref. 1).
As the remedy for our troubled hearts, Jesus asks us to believe in him. Jesus asks us to trust him and to have faith in him.
The remedy for a troubled heart is to believe in Jesus.
To the father of the boy who was deaf, mute, and had seizures, Jesus said, "All things are possible for the one who believes and trusts [in Me]!" (verse 23 in Mark 9:14-29)
To the woman who touched Jesus' cloak and was healed, Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith [your personal trust and confidence in Me] has restored you to health; go in peace and be [permanently] healed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34).
To his disciples, Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.]" (John 14:27).
Listen. I encourage you to listen to Louis Armstrong's recording of the African-American spiritual song, "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."
Apply. Is something troubling your heart today? Will you choose to believe in Jesus?
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