LSB 797, Praise the Almighty

We have chosen LSB 797, Praise the Almighty, as our AD 2022 Lawrencetide seasonal hymn. The Lawrencetide cycle of the long Trinity season begins with the August 10 commemoration of Lawrence (225-258), Deacon and Martyr, and continues until the September 29 Feast of St. Michael and All Angels. At this time, we remember God’s gift to Lawrence of deep compassion for the poor, and His grace that enabled the Deacon to continue steadfast in the Confession of the Church up to the point of suffering an excruciatingly painful death, being roasted on a gridiron (which he suffered in good cheer). The emphasis of this time in the Church Year is on sanctification, love of God and the good works which follow from His grace and mercy toward us.

Author: Johann Daniel Herrnschmidt (1675-1723)1 – born in Bopfingen, Württemberg, Germany, to a Pastor and his wife, studied theology at Halle, (now in Sachsen-Anhalt) Germany under August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), who is considered the father of German Pietism.2 At the time, Herrnschmidt additionally worked with Francke, as an adjunct professor of theology, but shortly thereafter in 1702, returned home to work with his father, who was weakening.  He spent 10 years working alongside his father, at the same time working toward a doctoral degree from Halle.  During this time, he married.  In 1712, he accepted a call to Idstein (Now in Rheinland-Pfalz) Germany, where he served as superintendent, court preacher and counselor in the consistory (local administrative body).  In 1715, he returned to Halle, where he served the remainder of his life as a professor of theology, as well as having charge of the Latin school.  He died about 2 months shy of his 48th birthday, possibly of influenza.  His wife died within a few hours of him, and the couple left behind 8 children.  Herrnschmidt is considered to be one of the central hymn writers of Halle Pietism.  LSB 797 is the only one of his hymns in LSB.

Translator: Alfred E. R. Brauer (1866-1949)3 – born near Adelaide, Australia, initially intended to study law, but shifted to theology.  Brauer was initially taught locally by Carl Friedrich Adolph Strempel (1831-1908),4 then moved to the US to study at Concordia College, Ft. Wayne, IN, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, IL (now in Ft. Wayne). He then returned to Australia, where he was called in 1890 to serve a congregation in Dimboola, Victoria.  He later served congregations in Hahndorf, South Australia and Melbourne, Victoria.  Of note, Brauer served on the committee that complied the 1922 Australian Lutheran Hymn Book, for which he contributed translations of hymns.  Brauer died in Melbourne in 1949. The LSB uses Brauer’s translation for stanzas 3 and 4 of Praise the Almighty. Furthermore, the translations of stanzas 1 and 5 in LSB are attributed to him.  Additionally, LSB 774, Feed Thy Children, God Most Holy, is Brauer’s translation of the hymn by Johann Heermann (1585-1647).

Composer: Unknown

Hymn history:5 The original German hymn, a paraphrase of Psalm 146, consisted of 8 stanzas and was first published in 1714.6 The full German hymn was included in C. F. W. Walther’s (1811-1887) hymnal (#441). From the original German text, LSB uses stanzas 1-3, parts of stanzas 5 and 6 as stanza 4, and stanza 8 as stanza 5. The Brauer translation used in LSB first appeared in the 1922 Australian Lutheran Hymn Book in six stanzas.  All six stanzas were used in the 1941 The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH 26).  The 1982 Lutheran Worship (LW 445) used stanzas 1-3, and 5-6, dropping stanza 4.  The LSB text of the hymn is identical to that in LW.  Brauer’s fourth stanza, as received in TLH, reads as follows:

God the Almighty, the Great Creator,
Ruler of sky and land and sea,
All things ordained, and sooner or later
They come to pass unfailingly.
His rule is over rich and poor,
His promise ever standeth sure.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The alterations in LSB are mostly alterations of the 1941 TLH text, and, other than the dropped stanza, reflect updated English language usage.  Alterations from the 1982 LW text are limited to the use of the capital H in the “he” and “him” pronouns referring to God, and the capitalizations Most High in the 3rd stanza. Of note, an English translation of all 8 original stanzas was published in The Lutheran Witness in 1928, but was not adopted for congregational singing. Additionally, a composite translation of all 8 stanzas was included in the 2012 English translation of Walther’s Hymnal.7

Hymn tune: The bar form (AAB) tune was adapted from that of an earlier hymn paraphrase of Psalm 150, and first appeared with the 1714 publication of the hymn. (Note that the tune listing at the bottom of the page in LSB, New-vermehrte Christliche Seelenharpf, is that of the earlier hymn tune.)

Psalm 146:  First of the five halleluiah (often expressed as alleluia, “y’all praise the Lord”) psalms that conclude the Book of Psalms.  Along with Psalm 147 and 148, attributed in the LXX to Haggai and Zechariah.8 These final five psalms may have formed their own separate Hallel, or collection of psalms of praise.9 Along with parallels to other Scripture texts, Psalm 146 contains several to the preceding Psalm.  Psalm 146 is the appointed Psalm for Quinquagesima (Theme – Faith Alone; Gospel text is Luke 18:31-43: Jesus predicts His Passion and Resurrection, and opens the eyes of the blind beggar on the roadside near Jericho).

Hymn text:

First stanza

Vocabulary: adore – worship (Latin: ad “to” + orare “speak/pray”); laud – praise; anthem – choral composition based on a Biblical passage

Read Psalm 146:1-2 (along with Psalm 63:4, 104:33, 145:2).  How does this stanza reflect and unpack the Psalm verses? Read 1 Chronicles 29:11. Who alone is the Almighty? Read Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7; Deuteronomy 32:6; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 139:13; Matthew 5:45; Colossians 1:16-17.  From Whom came your “life and all things”? Who sustains you?  What is your meet and right response? How do you see that take place at CLC? Read Psalm 104:29; Matthew 6:27. Who numbers your days?

Second stanza

Vocabulary: vain – useless; counsel – formal advice

Read Psalm 146:3-4 (along with Genesis 3:19; Job 10:9, 34:14-15; Psalm 60:11, 108:12, 118:8-9). How does this stanza reflect and unpack the Psalm verses?  Read Revelation 7:10. In Whom alone is there salvation?  In Whom alone are we to place our trust? 

Bonus: in 1 Maccabees 2:62-63, from the priest Mattathias’ last words to his sons – “Do not fear the words of a sinner, for his splendor will turn into dung and worms. Today he will be exalted, but tomorrow he will not be found, because he has returned to the dust, and his plans will perish.” (ESV) Did Mattathias know the Psalm?

Third stanza

Vocabulary: sever – break off; nigh – near; afford – provide/supply

Read Psalm 146:5 (along with Psalm 2:12, 119:116, 144:15).   How does this stanza unpack the Psalm verse?  Read Psalm 124:8. From where is our help?  Read Romans 8:31-39.  What can break us off from God’s salvation? Read Psalm 145:17-20.  What has God promised for His people?

(TLH fourth stanza, see above)

Vocabulary: ordained – put in order, prescribed (by God)

Read Psalm 146:6 (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 100:5; Acts 14:15).  How does this stanza unpack the Psalm verse?  Read 1 Samuel 2:7; Proverbs 22:2. What do rich and poor have in common? What does this further tell us about earthly rulers (c.f. second stanza)? In what alone are we to place our trust?

Fourth stanza

Vocabulary: wants – essential things lacking

Read Psalm 146:7-9b (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 11:7[2 Corinthians 5:21], 103:6, 145:14-16; Isaiah 35:5, 61:1; Matthew 11:5; Luke 18:35-43). How does this stanza unpack these verses?  Read Psalm 145:18-20a; Luke 18:9-14. What has God promised to penitent sinners who cry out to Him in mercy? Read Exodus 22:21-22; James 2:14-17; 1 John 4:19, and reflect again on the life of Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, and the theme of the Lawrencetide cycle of Trinitytide. Through whom does God work to supply the wants of the poor, the widows and the fatherless? How does He equip this work?

(German seventh stanza, not otherwise used in LSB)

But when His rivals their steps are taking –
He with His hand confounds them all,
So that, unwilling, their plans forsaking,
They to their own devices fall.
The Lord is King eternally:
Zion, thy God e’er cares for thee.
Alleluia, alleluia!10

Vocabulary: confounds – defeats, overthrows; forsake – abandon; e’er – ever

Read Psalm 146:9c-10 (along with Psalm 93:1-2, 145:13, 147:6; Revelation 5:13, 11:15).  How does this stanza unpack the verses?  What liturgical verse does Psalm 146:10 (and the final 3 lines of this stanza) foreshadow?

Fifth stanza

Vocabulary: wondrous – marvelous, inspiring a feeling of wonder; amen – truly/so let it be

Read Psalm 96:1-3, 149:1-2; Isaiah 42:10-12.  Note that the imperatives are all plural (except, “be glad” in 149:2, but refers to the collective, “Israel”).  What wondrous things does God do?  What is our right response?  Read Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8. How do God’s people respond as one?  What liturgical verse does the hymn echo (and foreshadowed by Psalm 146:10)?  With whom do God’s people join in their praise?

Footnotes:

  1. Information from Gerald S. Krispin, “Herrnschmidt, Johann Daniel” in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske, Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns, Volume 2 (St. Louis: CPH, 2019) p. 400
  2. Pietism was a movement that falsely stressed inner spiritual exercises over God’s external Means of Grace, placing pious desires and emotions above pure doctrine.  Ultimately, the pietistic movement led to rationalism.  For more information, see the entry, “Pietism” in Erwin L. Lueker, ed. Lutheran Cyclopedia (St. Louis: CPH, 1954), pp. 818-819
  3. Information from Steven P. Mueller, “Brauer, Alfred E. R.” in Companion, Volume 2, pp. 236-237
  4. Strempel was born in Prussia and migrated to Australia in 1847, joining confessional Lutherans who had previously migrated there to escape religious persecution as a result of the Prussian Union.  This paralleled the migration to the USA that led to the establishment of the LCMS.  For more on Strempel, see FJH Blaess, “Strempel, Carl Friedrich Adolph (1831-1908)” in Australian Dictionary of Biography, at https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/strempel-carl-friedrich-adolph-4654 (accessed 9 June, AD 2022).
  5. Information on hymn history and hymn tune is from Bernard J. Schey, “Praise the Almighty, my soul adore Him” in Joseph Herl, Peter C. Reske, Jon D. Vieker, eds. Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns, Volume 1 (St. Louis: CPH, 2019), pp. 1184-1186
  6. The German text may be found at https://www.musicanet.org/robokopp/Lieder/lobedeno.html (accessed 10 June AD 2022)
  7. Matthew Carver, trans. Walther’s Hymnal (St. Louis: CPH, 2012), p. 354
  8. The LXX text of Psalm 146:1 (numbered 145:1 in the LXX) reads, “Alleluia, (a Psalm of) Haggai and Zachariah. Praise my soul the LORD.”
  9. The Egyptian Hallel, associated with the Passover, consists of Psalms 113-118, and the Great Hallel of Psalms 120-136 (many of which are Songs of Ascents, perhaps sung on the steps of the temple during the high feasts, or during yearly pilgrimages to Jerusalem). See the notes for Psalms 113 and 120 in Edward A. Engelbrecht, Gen. Ed. The Lutheran Study Bible, English Standard Version (St. Louis: CPH, 2009), pp. 958, 972. Also, Edward A. Engelbrecht, Gen. Ed. Lutheran Bible Companion, Volume 1: Introduction and Old Testament (St Louis: CPH, 2014), p. 544.  A third Hallel consisting of Psalms 146-150 may have formed part of the liturgy of the post-exilic temple and later incorporated into the morning prayer liturgy of the Jews.  See the note on Psalm 146 in Lutheran Study Bible, p. 990.  Also, for a brief discussion see C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 5, Psalms, F. Delitzsch, auth., Francis Bolton, trans. (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, 2011), pp. 842-843.
  10. Walther’s Hymnal, p. 354; this stanza was translated by Matthew Carver

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