This inspiring classic hymn was written for the 100th anniversary of American independence with at least these two purposes in mind: 1) to praise God and 2) to celebrate the blessings of liberty that flow from the Lord — in that order. Please give it a sing-along listen and then lets dive into some history.
Biblical inspiration for this song
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” (Psalm 19:1)
“Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.” (Psalm 20:6 NRSV)
It is easy to imagine how these verses and many others like them might have inspired lyrics in this song.
A patriotic hymn that puts God first
In the United States, July 4th is “Independence Day”, the annual celebration of nationhood, commemorating the passage of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. This hymn, “God of Our Fathers”, was written in 1876 for the “Centennial” Fourth of July celebration at Brandon, Vermont. Though it was written to celebrate a United States event, it does not specifically mention the U.S. — so this song is “versatile” and could easily serve in other ways, times and places.
Many American patriotic songs praise the beauty and worth of the United States first, and treat God almost as an afterthought. Not so with this hymn which praises God and prays for His help, while recognizing that we as a nation need God’s law and guidance to maintain peace. The language is not modern, but is rich in meaning and heart. It is worth the effort to learn what this song says — making it easier to sing it heartily with understanding.
Does God appear in American history?
People speak of “God and country”, but might not know a lot of details of that relationship through our history. There is a lot of history that connects God with the founding of the United States. Let’s take a look at just one of many significant historical events.
Way back on April 29, 1607, long before the Declaration of Independence, a wooden cross was planted and the following famous prayer and decree were made by Robert Hunt at Cape Henry, Virginia.
“We do hereby dedicate this land and ourselves to reach the people within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to raise up godly generations after us, and with these generations, take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this covenant of dedication remain to all generations as long as the earth remains, and may this land, along with England, be Evangelist to the world. May all who see this Cross remember what we have done here, and may those, who come here to inhabit, join us in this covenant and in this noblest work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled. From these very shores, the gospel shall go forth, not only to this New World, but the entire world.”
After that declaration, this powerful Bible passage was read:
“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee. For the Kingdom is the Lord’s, and He ruleth among the nations” (Psalm 22:27-28).
Many believe — and evidence abounds — that God has continued to honor these words, and that Robert Hunt’s Spirit-led decree regarding this land IS STILL America’s destiny.
Is the “God of our fathers” still relevant for our day and time? Is that “old time religion” still working? It may be what we need to do NOW will require some changes, some learning and growing in us, some rising up to greater heights of believing practice and action than our fathers may have imparted to us. That may be. But we honor our fathers. It is our responsibility to walk with God into tomorrow. But let us continue to recognize with humility and thankfulness what our fathers did in the past that got us to where we are with God today.
Let’s ponder this in our hearts, and keep it in our minds as we sing praise to the God of our fathers.
God bless you lots!
Check out the U.S. Marine Band’s arrangement of God Of Our Fathers ♫♪. It runs almost four minutes and is almost guaranteed to improve even your best day — let alone an average one. It starts quiet, and you don’t want to miss a single note — so you might want to turn up the volume a little. Close your eyes, settle in. Listen. Oh … and you might grab a tissue. 💗
LYRICS: God Of Our Fathers
Text: Daniel C. Roberts (1876)
Current tune used here: George William Warren (1892)
1. God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.
2. Thy love divine hath led us in the past;
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast;
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide, and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.
3. From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase;
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.
4. Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way;
Lead us from night to never-ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.
Let’s stay in touch
Each time I post a new song and lesson here I send a brief, cheerful note to friends of this song site. The note gives a quick description of the song and lesson along with a link to the new song’s page. It is super-easy for you to get a note from me, too. Just click the green “Song of the Week” button below and you are almost there.
To sweeten the deal, you will also get instant access to the “Music Box” where I put all the free resources and downloads that go along with these song pages. Check it out now! Good stuff. (Side note — I still post announcements on social media, too, even though I have learned it is terribly unreliable at getting the message out and keeping us connected. Email gets that job done where social media fails. We do well to connect this way, and avoid getting throttled by social media.)
Share your wisdom with other readers ...
Please feel free to add your thoughts to this conversation in the “Leave a reply” spot below.