Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is one of the most well-known hymns, making it into numerous “top 10” or “top 25” hymns of all time lists – and for good reason. The lyrics of this song are rich and compelling, and I want to do two things with them in this post. The first is to tease out the idea of God “tuning” our hearts to sing His praise individually and corporately. The second is to attempt to “interpret” and rewrite the lyrics of all the verses in a way that will hopefully make them resonate even more.
Have you ever seen musicians – specifically the guitarists or string players – plucking one string at a time and then adjusting the little knobs at the top of their instruments, one after another? Have you seen them do this before the church services or concerts begin, and sometimes even in between songs? Or how about this: have you ever heard what it’s like when someone doesn’t tune their instrument properly? Even a single out-of-tune string can be enough to ruin the whole song/set.
As we gather at church, we come as broken, sinful, distracted people whose hearts are often far from being ready to boldly approach the throne of God and offer sacrifices of praise. Our hearts are out of tune, and, just like an out-of-tune instrument, what comes out can range from slightly displeasing to downright terrible. What Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing is asking is for God to prepare our hearts to sing out of an overflow of appreciation for the unmerited grace of God. This “tuning” can happen in various ways: confession of sin (1 John 1:9), reconciliation with others (Matthew 5:23), recognition of God’s holiness and our depravity, thankfulness, and serving others, to name a few.
While the preparation our individual hearts is important, there’s also a corporate aspect to the “tuning of our hearts” together that can be illustrated well with the different ways to tune an instrument. You can tune an instrument to itself and make it sound great – so long as you don’t try to play along with any other instruments. In the same way, we can try to tune our hearts to ourselves and sound pretty good in isolation; but when we come together with others, what happens then?
There’s a reason we are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25) and to teach and admonish one another in “in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16). There’s safety and encouragement that comes from being “in harmony” with one another (Romans 12:16 and 15:5; Colossians 3:14), and the only way to find this kind of harmony is in a community built around the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The bottom line is this: we need God to “tune” our hearts both individually and corporately, and we need each other to as the “band of Christ” to proclaim to a lost and dying world the grace and love of a Savior worth singing about.
Now, here is my attempt to “interpret,” or paraphrase, the lyrics to Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing in an effort to draw out some of the rich themes and meanings. Here we go:
Come, Giver of all good things, prepare my heart to proclaim your grace;
Your unending mercy is worthy of loud, unending praise;
Teach me to sing in concert with the saints and angels in heaven;
I am determined to praise the glorious display of God’s great love
I will tell of the wonderful things God has done!
Only by God’s help alone have I made it this far,
And it’s only by God’s gracious providence I will get to heaven;
Jesus pursued me even while I was an enemy of God, doing whatever was right in my own eyes;
Jesus shed His blood on the cross to save me from God’s wrath
I owe Jesus more than I could ever repay for the grace He shows me every day
May God’s restrain my unfaithful heart to Himself with chains of grace
I know in my heart I often wander from your way, Oh Lord,
I foolishly turn away from the God I love
Lord, take my heart and keep it secure; make me ready to be in your holy presence