"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.
Copyright: digitalskill / 123RF Stock Photo
"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you." (John 16:13-14)
"The Holy Spirit is our Guide, not only to show us the way, but to go with us by continued aids and influences." -- Matthew Henry (Ref. 1)
This lesson is the fourth in the series, "About the Truth." Today's lesson focuses on the role of the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of Truth."
Jesus promised his disciples that the Spirit of truth would come. Jesus was speaking to his disciples on the evening before his death. In the beginning of John 16:13, Jesus told them that the Spirit of truth would come. God fulfilled the promise of sending the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, beginning at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). Jesus' promise of sending the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, continues for believers to this day (Acts 2:37-39).
The Spirit of truth guides believers into all the truth. The Greek word in John 16:13 for guide is the verb, hodégeó. Strong's Concordance tells us that hodégeó means to show the way -- to teach, guide, lead (Ref. 2).
In Acts 8:25-40, we see an example of what it means to guide. An angel of the Lord sent Philip to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8:26). There Philip met the chariot of an Ethiopian eunuch who was returning from Jerusalem. At the Spirit's direction, Philip joined the eunuch in the chariot (Acts 8:29). The eunuch was reading Isaiah the prophet. Philip asked him, "Do you understand what you are reading?" (Acts 8:30) The eunuch replied, "Well, how could I unless someone guides me?" (Acts 8:31, italics added) Philip explained the scripture to the eunuch and "preached Jesus to him" (Acts 8:35). As the result, the Ethiopian eunuch believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37), and Philip baptized him (Acts 8:38).
Note what Jesus said in John 16:13. "He (the Spirit of truth) will guide you into all the truth." In his commentary, Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905) says that the words, "all the truth," mean that the Spirit of truth "will be their guide into the fulness [sic] of truth." Ellicott adds, "The promise has special meaning for the disciples to whom it was spoken; but it holds good for every disciple who seeks to know the truth" (Ref. 3, Ref. 4).
The Spirit of truth speaks what he has heard from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit does not speak from himself. The Holy Spirit fulfills his mission when he speaks truth directly from the Father and Son to the believer. The King James Version translates the verse well. "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak" (John 16:13, italics added).
The Spirit of truth glorifies the Son. Jesus said, "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you" (John 16:14). The Greek word for glorify in John 16:14 is doxazó, which means make glorious, honor, magnify (Ref. 5 below). Doxazó is very similar to the Greek word doxa, which means to honor, praise, worship (Ref. 5). When we sing the Doxology in a worship service we express our praise and worship of God (Ref. 6). When the Holy Spirit guides us into truth, it is an act of worship that glorifies Jesus, the Son of God.
Prayer. Thank you, Lord, for sending the Spirit of truth to be with us and to guide us into all of your truth.
5. James Strong, "The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible," Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995 - note, based on the King James Version of the Bible
"The entirety of Your word is truth, and all Your righteous judgments endure forever" (Psalm 119:160).
This article is the first in the series, "About the Truth." This article focuses on what the Old Testament says about God's truth.
The Truth of God in the Old Testament
Definition. The main Hebrew word for "truth" in the Old Testament is emeth. Emeth means "firmness, faithfulness, truth" (Ref. 1).
The word emeth first occurs in Genesis 24:27, when Abraham's servant completes his journey to find a bride for Abraham's son, Isaac. “Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren.”
Consider. Let's look together at several verses which describe the attributes, or characteristics, of God's truth.
God's commandments are truth itself.
"Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth" (Psalm 119:142).
"You are near, O Lord, And all Your commandments are truth" (Psalm 119:151).
"The entirety of Your word is truth, and all Your righteous judgments endure forever" (Psalm 119:160).
Think ahead to Pilate's question to Jesus, "What is truth?" (John 18:38). The writer of Psalm 119 answers Pilate's question. God's word is truth.
God's truth leads us and guides us. David prayed, "Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long" (Psalm 25:5).
John the disciple confirmed this principle when he quoted Jesus. "But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
God's truth protects us. In Psalm 91, the psalmist writes, "He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness (emeth, truth) is a shield and bulwark" (Psalm 91:4, italics added). Merriam-Webster defines a bulwark as a solid wall-like structure raised for defense (Ref. 2).
David expressed his confidence in God's truth to protect him. "Lord, do not withhold Your compassion from me; Your constant love and truth will always guard me" (Psalm 40:11).
Recall how Jesus used God's truth (from the Old Testament) to defend himself from Satan's temptations and to end Satan's attack (Matthew 4:1-11).
God's truth is everlasting. "For His lovingkindness is great toward us,
And the truth of the Lord is everlasting. Praise the Lord!" (Psalm 117:2)
Martin Luther confirmed this principle in "A Mighty Fortress is our God" when he wrote, "God's truth abideth still" (Ref. 3).
As believers in Christ, God's truth is our standard. God's truth endures forever and does not change.
Apply. Let's review the four principles in this lesson:
1. God's commandments are truth itself (Psalm 119:160)
2. God's truth leads us and guides us (Psalm 25:5)
3. God's truth protects us (Psalm 91:4)
4. God's truth is everlasting (Psalm 117:2)
How can you apply these principles to your life today?
"You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess" (Deuteronomy 5:33).
This article is the third in a series on the topic, “About the Way.”
Consider. Jesus said “I am the way” (John 14:6). The "way of the Lord" was a concept familiar to Jesus' Jewish listeners. Consider these principles from the Old Testament.
God instructed the Israelites to keep God's commandments by walking in his way. Deuteronomy 5:33
What was the way that God had commanded? Please read through the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:1-21).
Consider the three-fold blessing God promises for the nations and people who keep his commandments – “that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land which you shall possess” (Deuteronomy 5:33).
God went before the Israelites to show them the way. Exodus 13:21
Knowing God and God's ways are key to experiencing God's favor. Exodus 33:13
God instructed the Israelites to make God's way known among all nations. Psalm 67:1-2
God instructed parents to teach their children the way of the Lord. Proverbs 22:6
David asked God to "Teach me Thy way, O Lord." “Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies” (Psalm 27:11). “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4).
David’s request to God, “Teach me Thy way, O Lord,” is an excellent example for us to follow.
Listen. I suggest that you listen to Don Moen's music video, "Trust and Obey." You will be blessed.
Apply. Are you walking in the way of the Lord? Are you obeying God's commandments? Deuteronomy 5:1-21
To learn more about the following topics, please visit the About the Way page or the previous posts with dates noted:
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Mr. Whitney V. Myers. Christian. For more information, please visit the Author Page.
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23Sept18 - "Teach Me Thy Way, O Lord - Hymn Story and Scriptures"