Ministerial Alliance Program- KLMX
Hymn Theology- Pass Me Not
April 21-28, 2008
1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM
Good morning and welcome to the Ministerial Alliance program here on KLMX! I’m Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church in Des Moines. We’ve been talking about the theology behind some of the great hymns which we sing in church. Yesterday, we looked at John Newton’s “Amazing Grace”. Today we’ll look at one of the hymns from one of the most prolific hymn writers ever to grace the earth. I’m talking about Fanny Crosby.
This lady wrote so many great hymns that I’ll probably cover another one of hers this week. Ms. Crosby has an incredible testimony regarding the power of God working in our weaknesses. She was blinded as an infant by an incompetent “doctor” who applied a mustard poultice to her eyes. As she grew, she developed an incredible memory- committing entire books of the Bible to memory and reciting passages from them at will. As her writing skills developed, she was twice asked to come up with 40 hymns for a collection and both times, she stored all the songs in her memory and didn’t recite any of them until all 40 were done. So, twice, she developed and memorized 40 hymns entirely in her mind. Fanny Crosby was such a prolific writer that she wrote under dozens and dozens of pseudonyms in order to “spread the credit”, so to speak. Today, God willing, we’ll discuss her hymn “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” and look at the Biblical concepts behind this standard.
The hymn opens with this phrase:
Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
The first thing I notice here is the phrase “pass me not…” Jesus says in John 10:27, “my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Ms. Crosby understands that unless we hear the voice of the shepherd, we will not follow. John told us in:
1 John 4:19 We love Him because He first loved us.
And Jesus says:
John 6:44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Our salvation is entirely dependant upon God’s calling us to Christ and upon us hearing His voice as our shepherd. Therefore, Fanny Crosby correctly writes “Pass me not…”
That Christ is a gentle savior is evident from this passage:
Matthew 12:20-21 A BRUISED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK, AND SMOKING FLAX HE WILL NOT QUENCH, TILL HE SENDS FORTH JUSTICE TO VICTORY; (21) AND IN HIS NAME GENTILES WILL TRUST."
Which is itself a quote from Isaiah 42:3. Jesus Himself says:
Matthew 11:29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Christ is a gentle savior. However, there is something here that applies to us and that is the line “hear my humble cry.” Both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 tell us that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” and this again is a quote from the Old Testament, Proverbs 3:34, to be specific. We must be humble when answering God’s call and if we see the depths of our sinful nature, we can be nothing less. As I showed yesterday, God’s grace is amazing. This attitude that must be in us is illustrated by Christ when comparing a Pharisee and tax-collector:
Luke 18:10-14 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. (11) The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men- extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. (12) I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' (13) And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' (14) I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
The Pharisee was resting in his religious righteousness while the tax-collector correctly saw himself as a wretched sinner, not worthy of even raising his eyes to heaven. And Jesus says about the tax-collector “this man went down to this house justified, rather than the other.” Another place we can see true humility is in:
Matthew 15:21-28 Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. (22) And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed." (23) But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, "Send her away, for she cries out after us." (24) But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (25) Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" (26) But He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." (27) And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." (28) Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Here this woman first confesses that she is a “little dog” as Jesus calls her, and says that even a crumb from the children’s table is enough for her. She is humble and contrite and Jesus sees her heart and says “…great is your faith!” The example of the centurion who came to Jesus and said “I am not worthy that you should come under my roof” is yet another example of true humility. This is the heart we must have and note that not a single example is that of a religious leader who trusts in his own righteousness before God.
We have no righteousness in ourselves. Even Paul says:
Philippians 3:8-9 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
The only righteousness we have, the only possibility we have to stand blameless before God Almighty is through the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and placed on our account. If this doesn’t make us humble, nothing will. Fanny Crosby recognized this fact in the 3rd verse of “Pass Me Not”
Trusting only in Thy merit,
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by Thy grace.
“Trusting only in Thy merit”, she clearly acknowledges what Isaiah says in 64:6 “…all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…” And in the line “heal my wounded broken spirit”, she pleads like the Canaanite woman “Have mercy on me Oh Lord, Son of David!” Again, this must be our attitude at the foot of the cross, in the shadow of Christ.
I skipped the 2nd verse, but let’s go back to it now:
Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief,
Kneeling there in deep contrition;
Help my unbelief.
Here again we see the contrite and broken heart. “Let me at Thy throne of mercy, find a sweet relief.” Our sinner, like the tax collector above, casts herself at the throne of mercy, beating her breast and crying out “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” Our sinner kneels there in deep contrition for the sins she’s committed against Christ, both in the flesh but also in the heart. And then, one of my favorite lines in the entire hymn and direct quote from a powerful Biblical passage- “help my unbelief.” This is a great line because it shows the ongoing struggle that all believers endure. The passage comes from Mark. Jesus has been asked to heal a demon-possessed child whom the disciples were unable to help:
Mark 9:21-27 So He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. (22) And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." (23) Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." (24) Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (25) When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!" (26) Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, "He is dead." (27) But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.
The father of the child cries out with a truly honest statement “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” In making this statement, he acknowledges that faith does not come from himself. He is asking Jesus to help his unbelief. This is exactly what the disciples themselves asked Jesus in Luke 17:5 when they said “Increase our faith!” None of these said “We must just knuckle down and apply ourselves and our faith will automatically increase.” Instead, they looked to Jesus to increase their faith. Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith.” This truth is echoed by Fanny Crosby in “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior”. Let’s look at the last verse.
Thou the Spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me,
Whom have I on earth beside Thee?
Whom in Heav’n but Thee?
The first line- “Thou the spring of all my comfort…” reminds me of the Samaritan woman at the well.
John 4:7-15 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." (8) For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. (9) Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. (10) Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." (11) The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? (12) Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" (13) Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, (14) but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (15) The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."
Living water is what Jesus offers. We know that water gives life- a person can go w/out food for weeks, but only w/out water for a few days at most- and Jesus offers life giving water. He is the spring of all our comfort.
And finally, the line “more than life to me…” This is what Jesus is worth to us. He, Himself, says:
Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (25) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. (26) For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
We have to wrap this up for today. I hope you’ve seen what rich Biblical teaching is imbedded in the hymn “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” and I hope you’ve seen a little of how God worked great wonders through Fanny Crosby’s weakness. Hymns like this are truly musical praises to God Almighty. Come back tomorrow at 9:45 and join us here on KLMX radio. Also, check out the 1st Baptist Church website at www.fbcdesmoines.org. All praise to God Almighty through the name of his son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
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