Arise, My Soul, Arise!

Some days, it’s hard not to feel totally defeated by the circumstances we face. We see no way around the obstacles, and we fear for our lives or the lives of our loved ones. We begin to doubt whether God is who He says He is, then we begin to doubt if we are really saved, because otherwise how could we have such doubts about God? What can we do to bring ourselves out of the pit of despair? How can we find courage to take the one little step we can see to take, and trust that the next one will be revealed after that? For me, that is a time to follow the example of the Psalmist and do a little preaching to myself about what I know to be true. He asks, “Why is my soul cast down? Hope in God.” I think that is why I like this song by Charles Wesley. It is one of those preach-to-yourself kind of songs. It starts with a self admonishment: Arise my soul, and shake it off. You get the idea that this person is so overwhelmed that they have fallen under the weight of their guilt and fears. But notice, the lyrics don’t go on to say, “you can do it” “you are stronger than you think” “follow your dreams” No. instead, Wesley takes us to the cross and reminds us what was accomplished  there and how that changes everything about life.

 Arise, my soul, arise,

Shake off thy guilty fears:

The bleeding Sacrifice

In my behalf appears:

Before the Throne my surety stands,

Before the Throne my surety stands,

My name is written on His hands.

The person of Jesus Christ stands before the throne of judgement where I have been condemned to eternal death. He becomes my surety – that is the payment for my legal debt. So first of all, dear soul, remember that your standing before God does not have to do with your ability to be good enough or have enough faith. Your standing is based on the work Christ accomplished for you on the cross.

But what does this mean, “My name is written on HIs hands?” We find this in Isaiah 49:16. The commentaries tell me that this signifies that we are always on his mind – always before his eyes. I always think of His nail-scarred hands being presented as proof of the atonement having been made. Imagine my surprise when I found that this verse may refer to a practice of putting a symbol of a face or other significant marking  on the hand or forearm by infusing ink or henna into the skin. Um, is it just me, or does that sound like a tattoo to you, too? I am not a fan of tattoos (just ask my daughter). However, it does seem to be a practice of this younger generation to get tattoos that represent a significant event or belief – something you want to remember forever. So here we have our creator saying,  “you are so much before me, it is as if I have a tattoo of you on my hand”. That is a tattoo I can get excited about!

He ever lives above

For me to intercede,

His all redeeming love,

His precious blood to plead:

His blood atoned for ev’ry race,

His blood atoned for ev’ry race,

And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

 And, dear soul, remember that Christ has risen from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and he intercedes for you always- intercede: intervene on behalf of another. He didn’t just satisfy the charges against me then walk out of my life. He continues to pour His love out on me by praying for my every need. And it doesn’t matter the color of my skin, or my gender, or my birth place, His blood atoned for every race. He once and for all sprinkled his blood on the mercy seat on my behalf. The blood of bulls could only point to a better sacrifice to come. His sacrifice was sufficient to bring peace with God. Atonement – bringing reconciliation between God and man.

 Five bleeding wounds he bears,

Received on Calvary;

They pour effectual prayers,

They strongly plead for me;

Forgive her O forgive, they cry,

Forgive her O forgive, they cry,

Nor let that ransomed sinner die!

 Remember, my soul, the wounds he bears (See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down – but that’s another song). This is what the Father sees when He looks at me. He sees the accomplished work of his son. Now, as a writer, I am generally very protective of other writers’ works. I don’t like for words to be change, especially if it changes the intended meaning of the author. However, this song is a person’s interaction with his or her own soul. And so, I have taken the liberty of inserting the word “her” where Wesley wrote “him”. I am not one who soapboxes about the use of the forms of “he” as a generic reference. I get it, I can generalize. But here, in this song, I feel a need to make it very personal. And so, as the rest of the congregation sings “him” in this verse, I sing, “her”, because when He intercedes for me, he says, ” forgive her”, and I need to be reminded that this is a personal relationship between Him and me. It is not generic in it’s application, it is specific.

My God is reconciled;

His pardoning voice I hear;

He owns me for his child,

I can no longer fear;

With confidence I now draw nigh,

With confidence I now draw nigh,

And “Father, Abba, Father!” cry.

 Ok, soul, so if Christ has paid the price for my sins, then I am now at peace with God. We are reconciled. Not only are we on “good terms”, he has adopted me, and I am now his child. And he is a father who is able and willing to give good gifts to his children. He is a Father who loves and protects and completes what he begins. So there is nothing this world can throw at me that I need to fear. And I don’t need to fear his wrath either, because His son has provided for me the legal standing to come to him as my Father and cry, “Abba!” (daddy, papa, poppi, baba). Now, if that doesn’t make my soul arise, then what, pray tell, will? What better news could anyone come up with than this? This song makes my heart sing.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know this song, but I didn’t really pay attention to the words until I heard it sung by Twyla Paris, some time in the late ’80’s. (She also takes the liberty of substituting the word, “her”). Recently I was introduced to Sovereign Grace’s version, and more recently, Indelible Grace’s version. I love them all, because no matter what tune you sing them to, these words give me great courage. They help me shake off those guilty fears, whether they be regarding my own salvation, or whether they be about other, less important issues. It’s like seeing the world go from being a big confusing blur to being in beautiful, sharp focus. Is there anything too hard for God?

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6 Responses to Arise, My Soul, Arise!

  1. Thank you for this reminder. Having been sick all week, and facing another week of my husband still being sick, this was a beautiful reminder this morning!

  2. Emily Day says:

    Amen and Amen! Thank you for braking down this song and applying it.

  3. Nancy Carnes says:

    Thanks for reminding me why I love this hymn.

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