Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise. 1
If I were to ask you to make a Top-10 list of your favorite hymns, “Come, Thou Fount” would probably make the cut. The masterful poetry paired with a singable, beautiful melody comes together to create a timeless hymn of the Christian faith. However, if you’re like me, it’s easy to get lost in the language and tune and miss the prayer the lyrics offer.
In the opening line, the speaker asks the “Fount of Every Blessing” to tune his heart to sing. By the end of the first stanza of lines, he’s singing “songs of loudest praise.” Notice that he’s combined two elements that often seem worlds apart: a heart tuned to worship and loud corporate praise. As wonderful a hymn as “Come, Thou Fount” is, let’s trace this theme back to its original source: the Word of God. The poet of Psalm 33, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, blends these ideas as well. As we wander through this truly timeless hymn, keep this question in the front of your mind:
How does your worship affect your heart?
Invitation to a Worship Service
Psalm 33 begins in a familiar fashion: with a call to worship:
Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous ones;
praise from the upright is beautiful.
Praise the LORD with the lyre;
make music to him with a ten-stringed harp.
Sing a new song to him;
play skillfully on the strings, with a joyful shout.
These introductory verses read like the beginning of a large worship service, not exactly like the beginning of a “quiet time” with God. The psalmist calls upon the congregation to get ready to raise the proverbial roof with their song. They’ve got their lyres tuned and fresh strings on the harps, ready for praise that’s loud and proud.
I’m not sure what worship in your church looks like. Maybe it takes “songs of loudest praise” to a whole new level. Or maybe that lyric is just metaphor in your sanctuary, where worship is demure and dignified. Or maybe it’s somewhere in between. Regardless, of what is going on up front, the more important aspect of worship occurs in your heart. However, in order for your heart to be “in tune,” the content of that loud, corporate praise, must be on the right notes as well.
Loudest Praise to the Greatness of God
For the word of the LORD is right,
and all his work is trustworthy.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the LORD’s unfailing love.
The heavens were made by the word of the LORD,
and all the stars, by the breath of his mouth.
Let the whole earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spoke, and it came into being;
he commanded, and it came into existence.
(Psa 33:4-6, 8-9)
After inviting us to worship with him on lyre and harp, shouting with joy, the psalmist gives us the content of our praise by going big. He starts out by hitting on the character of God and His Word. We praise him, we’re told, because God’s Word is upright. No doubt politicians and pundits in the psalmist’s day were not unlike ours: out for their own gain and willing to say anything to make a buck or to stay in power. God isn’t like that. His Word is perfect, pure, and powerful. Every promise will come to pass and every command will be fulfilled.
His character comes into view next. God is faithful, righteous, just, and full of lovingkindness. Again, this seems to stand in stark contrast to many human rulers, both now and throughout human history. While the omnipotent God can do whatever He wants, He never uses that power to manipulate or deceive. He acts justly. No evil goes unpunished. Ever. And yet, the whole earth cannot contain His steadfast, unflinching hesed. His covenant love knows no boundaries. While He may rule as a righteous judge, that righteousness is always coupled with mercy, something we humans cannot quite comprehend. Our judgments almost always fall into one ditch or the other. Not so with God. He never compromises on either side.
As a result, the whole earth stands in awe of the Great I AM. Already our worship is affecting our hearts. No longer is it about just making noise. Now we’re moved to reverence and awe. So, let’s pause here and consider.
Does your worship move you to fear God more?
Or, as is often the case with me, do the familiar words roll off your tongue without ever causing your heart to tremble? I realize circumstances may interfere with worship. Believe me, as a parent of a squirmy, wiggly, chatty three-year-old boy who can barely be still for songs and a pastoral prayer, I get it! But I also must admit that sometime it’s more than a toddler’s antics that keep my heart from fearing God.
A Quiet Heart with Fixed Hope
The psalmist continues his worship to his great God, praising His sovereignty over even the plans of kings and nations; His omniscience, as He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth. He may be great, awesome, and transcendent, but He doesn’t miss a single sparrow falling to the ground.
Now things start to get personal. Our loud songs of praise are beginning to shape our hearts. We’ve already trembled at His greatness. Now we’re going to have our hope realigned.
The unnamed lyricist of this song addresses a universal struggle: placing hope in the wrong thing.
A king is not saved by a large army;
a warrior will not be rescued by great strength.
The horse is a false hope for safety;
it provides no escape by its great power.
As this loud worship song concludes, the leader invites the singers to look at their own hearts. We do well to look at ours as well. What “horses” are we trusting in for safety, or, as another translation puts it, for victory? We have so many to choose from: steady jobs, savings accounts, retirement funds, healthy bodies, intact families, godly leaders. But each of those could be snuffed out in an instant. Just ask Job.
Psalm 33 ends by helping our hearts apply the truths we’ve just shouted about the hugeness of God. It’s no good if our songs never take root in our souls. We learn in verses 19-20 that our only hope in life and in death is the steadfast love of God.
The response, then? Waiting and worshiping.
We wait for the LORD;
he is our help and shield.
For our hearts rejoice in him
because we trust in his holy name. (Psa 33:20-21)
The song is closing, but the worship continues. Now the call isn’t for shouts and harps and lyres; it’s for a heart that rejoices, a soul that waits, and people who trust in the huge God they just sang about.
Though my church’s worship would never be called loud or raucous, it’s still easy to sing the big song about God’s greatness and allow my heart to remain unchanged. Psalm 33 teaches that I’ve missed the point. Worship isn’t about a sound or a feeling or experiencing an emotional high. It’s about having a heart that walks away tuned to rejoice and hope in the steadfast love of God.
A Final Prayer
My favorite aspect of this beautiful psalm is the end. What began with shouts and instruments closes with a humble prayer. Finally, we see that worship ought to humble us. So often it has the opposite effect. I easily find myself thinking about me in the midst of worship—what I sound like, what others think of me, whether the song is to my tastes. But Psalm 33 teaches that true worship will lead to a heart hoping in the God it’s praising.
May the final prayer of the psalmist echo the plea of our hearts as well.
May your faithful love rest on us, LORD, for we put our hope in you. (Psa 33:22)
1 Lyrics from “Come Thou Fount” by Robert Robinson, 1758