Our closing hymn yesterday was “The God of Abraham Praise.” The text was inspired by the 13 Principles of Faith of the 12th Century Jewish scholar Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides). His “Principles” led to the “Yigdal Elohim” (Magnify the Lord) which Jewish worshipers chant at synagogue services and on Sabbath eve. You can sense how “acclaim and praise the living God who exists beyond the boundaries of time” became in the hymn “Praise…the Ancient of everlasting days.”
Thomas Olivers was a follower of the English revivalists George Whitefield and John & Charles Wesley. Olivers became Methodist itinerant preacher. He happened to hear the Jewish cantor Meyer Lyon sing the Yigdal in a London synagogue. Impressed with the Hebrew text and tune, he prepared in 1770 an English paraphrase in 12 stanzas, with Christian sentiments added. He named the tune “Leoni” in honor of the cantor who had taught him the chant tune.
St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City used this as their opening hymn on the Second Sunday in Lent in 2012. Notice how they included the Jewish Shema (“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord”)—a reminder of the Jewish roots of this hymn text and tune.
Links to the appointed readings and prayer for today: