Wayne S. Walker

“O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is” (Ps. 63.1)

     INTRO.:  A song based on Ps. 63 is “Early, My God, Without Delay.”  The text was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748).  Originally in six stanzas, it was first published under the heading “The Morning of a Lord’s Day” as his paraphrase of Ps. 63.1-5 in his 1719 collection “The Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament.”  The tune (Lanesboro) was composed by William Dixon (1750-1825).  It was first published in 1790.

     Among hymnbooks published during the twentieth century by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared, mostly with four stanzas, in the 1925 edition of the 1921 “Great Songs of the Church” and the 1937 “Great Songs of the Church No. 2” both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1963 “Christian Hymnal” edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1971 “Songs of the Church,” the 1990 “Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed.,” and the 1994 “Songs of Faith and Praise” (2 stanzas only) all edited by Alton H. Howard; and the 1992 “Praise for the Lord” edited by John P. Wiegand.

     The song applies the seeking by David for God to the longings of the Christian for the Lord.

I. Stanza 1 speaks of looking for God’s grace
“Early, my God, without delay, I haste to seek Thy face;
My thirsty spirit faints away, Without Thy saving grace.”
 A. The word “early” here means more than just before one’s time or in the morning, but eagerly and thus, “without delay”: Ps. 78.34
 B. Seeking God’s face symbolizes the idea of searching for God that we might learn of Him and know Him: Acts 17.27
 C. The reason we need to seek His face is that our thirsty spirits will faint away without His cheering grace because it is by His grace that we are saved: Eph. 2.8

II. Stanza 2 speaks of drinking of God’s cooling stream
“So pilgrims on the scorching sand, Beneath a burning sky,
Long for a cooling stream at hand; And they must drink or die.”
 A. Christians need to remember that on earth they are but pilgrims: 1 Pet. 2.11
 B. This earth is often pictured as a place of scorching sand beneath a burning sky where we thirst: Ps. 42.1-2
 C. However, God offers us a cooling stream of living water where we can drink and never die: Jn. 4.13-14

III. Stanza 3 speaks of remembering God’s glory and power
“I’ve seen Thy glory and Thy power Through all Thy temple shine;
My God, repeat that heavenly hour, That vision so divine.”
 A. There have been those who have been permitted to see a vision of God upon His throne: Isa. 6.1-5
 B. Such things do not literally occur to Christians today, but as part of the Lord’s church, we are the building blocks of His spiritual temple in which God dwells: Eph. 2.19-22
 C. The stanza simply draws upon this language figuratively to encourage us to remember the glory and power that we have experienced in the past, especially when we first were converted: Eph. 2.5

IV. Stanza 4 speaks of tasting God’s’s feast
“Not all the blessings of a feast Can please my soul so well,
As when Thy richer grace I taste, And in Thy presence dwell.”
 A. While we certainly need material food to life, there is food which is more important even than that: Jn. 6.27
 B. The Lord has a feast in which we can taste that He is gracious: 1 Pet. 2.1-3
 C. But the only way that we can participate in this feast is to dwell in His presence: Jn. 15.4

V. Stanza 5 speaks of needing God’s forgiving love
“Not life itself, with all its joys, Can my best passions move,
Or raise so high my cheerful voice, As Thy forgiving love.”
 A. We need to remember that there are things more important than physical life: Matt. 16.24-25
 B. However, there is something that should move us to be cheerful: Jas. 5.13
 C. And that is God’s forgiving love: Eph. 2.4-5

VI. Stanza 6 speaks of expressing God’s praise
“Thus, till my last expiring day, I’ll bless my God and King;
Thus will I lift my hands to pray, And tune my lips to sing.”
 A. To “bless” here means to praise: Eph. 1.3
 B. One way that we bless the Lord is in prayers of thanksgiving: Phil. 4.6
 C. Another way is by tuning our lips to sing with grace in our hearts to Him: Col. 3.16

     CONCL.:  Someone has written about “The Vanishing Dr. Watts.”  Until around the middle of the nineteenth century, the psalms and hymns of Watts made up the bulk of most hymnbooks published, but the twentieth century saw less and less of his works included in such books.  Certainly, some of his hymns are masterpieces that will live, such as “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed,” and some of his psalms are still commonly used, including “The Lord My Shepherd Is” and “How Shall The Young Secure Their Hearts.”  However, many feel that Watts wrote for a different time and people, whereas today we need hymnwriters with a more diversified experience to express the religion of the present age.  It is certainly true that some of Watts’s psalms and hymns are better than others, but when it comes to praising God, the fact is that the language of Isaac Watts is universal as to time and place.  Therefore, as I consider how much I need the Lord in this barren world, I should want to say to Him that I will come “Early, My God, Without Delay.”

Posted in


Articles Menu

Sermons Menu


Sunday Morning Bible Study

Sunday Morning Worship

Tuesday Evening Bible Study