Wayne S. Walker

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee…” (Ps. 50:15)

INTRO.: A song which talks about God’s ability and willingness to deliver us in the day of trouble is “He Is Able To Deliver Thee” (#279 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #499 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune (Deliverance) was composed both by William (some books mistakenly have Walter) Augustine Ogden, who was born near Columbus in Franklin County, OH, on Oct., 10, 1841. When he was six years old, his family moved to Indiana, and he received his education in the local primary and elementary schools. In addition, beginning at age eight, he received his early musical training in community singing schools. By age ten he could read music fairly well. A little later, he could write a melody by hearing it sung or played. When he was eighteen, he became a song director in his home church.

During the Civil War, Ogden served in the 30th Indiana Volunteer Infantry for four years, and he organized a men’s choir which became well known throughout the Army of the Cumberland. Resuming his music education after the war, he studied under several well-known teachers including B. F. Baker who was president of the Boston Music School, E. E. Bailey, Lowell Mason, and Thomas Hastings, and became widely known as a teacher of normal music schools and as a conductor of musical conventions throughout the United States and Canada. As his skills developed, Ogden issued his first song book, The Silver Song, in 1870. It became immensely popular, selling 500,000 copies. In addition, he wrote several hymns and hymn tunes and published a large number of other hymnbooks for Sunday schools.

“He Is Able to Deliver Thee” first appeared in 1887 in Triumphant Songs for Sunday Schools and Gospel Meetings, published in Chicago, IL, by Edwin Othello Excell. Other songs by Ogden include “Jesus, The Loving Shepherd,” “Where He Leads I’ll Follow,” “Blessed Be the Fountain of Life,” “O If My House Is Built upon a Rock,” and “Seeking The Lost;” the words to “Scattering Precious Seed” with music by George C. Hugg; and music for Alexceneh Thomas’s “Bring Them In” and Charles H. Gabriel’s “All Things Are Ready;” in addition to the children’s song “Two Little Hands.” His song “Look and Live” used to be quite popular as well. Also in 1887, Ogden was appointed supervisor of music for the public schools of Toledo, OH, a position which he held for ten years until his death in Toledo on Oct. 14, 1897, just a few days after his 56th birthday.

Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “He Is Able to Deliver Thee” has appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both (chorus only) edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal (chorus only) edited by J. Nelson Slater; the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat; the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by Robert J. Taylor Jr.; and the 2012 Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al; in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.

The hymn emphasizes the deliverance that God grants to those who trust in Him.

I. Stanza 1 tells us that God’s deliverance is the grandest theme through all the ages of the world
’Tis the grandest theme through the ages rung;
’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal tongue;
’Tis the grandest theme that the world e’er sung,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
A. It’s a theme which began with God’s first promise: Gen. 3:16
B. It’s a theme that the mortal tongues of the Old Testament prophets declared: Joel 2:32
C. It’s the theme which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego “sung” at the fiery furnace: Dan. 3:16-17

II. Stanza 2 tells us that God’s deliverance is the grandest theme in either earth or main
’Tis the grandest theme in the earth or main;
’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal strain;
’Tis the grandest theme, tell the world again,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
A. The “main” is the sea—it’s the grandest theme through the whole world, both land and sea, which is why Jesus commanded: Mk. 16:15
B. It’s the grandest theme for a mortal strain, as King Darius asked about it when Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den: Dan. 6:18-20
C. It’s a theme which needs to be told to the world again and again: Isa. 61:1-2

III. Stanza 3 tells us that God’s deliverance is the grandest theme for the guilty, sinful soul
’Tis the grandest theme, let the tidings roll,
To the guilty heart, to the sinful soul;
Look to God in faith, He will make thee whole,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
A. It is a theme for which God wants the tidings to roll just as they did in the first century: Acts 8:4
B. It’s a theme for the guilty heart and sinful soul, which includes every responsible human being: Rom. 3:23
C. It’s a theme which reminds us that through Christ God will deliver us from darkness into light: Col. 1:12-13

CONCL.: The chorus repeats the theme of the song:
He is able to deliver thee,
He is able to deliver thee;
Though by sin oppressed, go to Him for rest;
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
Since all have sinned, the grandest message that each of us can hear and that we in turn can bring to a lost and dying world is “He Is Able to Deliver Thee.”

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