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All ye gentile lands awake!
Thou, O Salem, rise and shine!
See the day-spring o’er you break
Heralding a morn divine
Telling, God hath called to mind
Those who long in darkness pined

Lo! the shadows flee away
For our light is come at length
Brighter than all earthly day
Source of being, life and strength!
Whoso on this light would gaze
Must forsake all evil ways

Arise, shine, for your light has come
And the glory of God rises now, upon you
Lift up your eyes and look to the Son
For the glory of God gathers all around you

Ah, how blindly did we stray
Ere shone forth this glorious sun
Seeking each our separate way
Leaving heaven, unsought, unwon
All our looks were earthward bent
All our strength on earth was spent

But the glory of the Lord
Rises upon us today
We have seen the light outpoured
That must surely drive away
All things that to night belong
All the sad earth’s woes and wrong

Everlasting light, shine graciously within
Come, take away our night
Come, shine away our sin

Words: Johann Rist, 1655, tr. Catherine Winkworth, 1862 (verses); Horatius Bonar, 1858 (bridge); Zac Hicks, 2008 (chorus, adapted from Isaiah 60:1-3)
Music: Zac Hicks, 2008
©2009 Unbudding Fig Music (ASCAP)


Video Tutorial: How to Play “All Ye Gentile Lands Awake”


“All Ye Gentile Lands Awake” is track nine in our old hymns new music project.  It is a peculiar hymn at first glance (how often do we sing the word “Gentile,” for starters?).  It contains odd language.  For instance, “Salem” is biblical shorthand for “Jerusalem,” the city of God, which is meant to be a symbol of the people of God—us!  I came upon this hymn when, out of a desire to write a song fit for the season of Epiphany, I did a search on cyberhymnal.org of texts related to Isaiah 60, the famous Old Testament passage which prophesies the epiphany (the revealing) of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

This 17th century hymn was penned in German by Johann Rist, son of a preacher and influential Christian in his day.  We owe an equal debt of gratitude to the hymn’s translator, 18th-century English woman, Catherine Winkworth, whose passion for bringing the great German hymns to English ears bore fruit in numerous hymns which we still hold dear today.  “All Ye Gentile Lands Awake” seems to be a long-forgotten hymn.  I have not heard its text in any church, nor is it in any of the hymnals on my shelf.  But its words are powerful (especially read and meditate on verse 3!).

Augmenting the power of the text, a Chorus was added, which is a versified quotation of Isaiah 60:1-3, the last line of which (“for the glory of God gathers all around you”) is intended to convey a double-meaning.  God’s glory “gathers all around you” in the sense that His glory surrounds us.  However, God’s glory also “gathers all [peoples]” around us, which is the main thrust of Isaiah’s statement….people are attracted to God’s glory as it reflects off His people, radiated through Jesus.  As an accented flourish, I found that a verse from Horatius Bonar’s hymn “O Everlasting Light” was all too appropriate as the song’s Bridge, connecting God’s glory with our depravity, though perhaps muddying the thematic waters a bit.  Who is shining?  Is it us?  Or is it Messiah Jesus?  Perhaps, Isaiah had both in mind.