Hymn of the day

by Richard on August 22, 2010

COME, O thou Traveller unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with thee;
With thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

In vain thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold!
Art thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let thee go,
Till I thy name, thy nature know.

Wilt thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new, unutterable name?
Tell me, I still beseech thee, tell;
To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let thee go,
Till I thy name, thy nature know.

’Tis all in vain to hold thy tongue
Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinew be unstrung,
Out of my arms thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling I will not let thee go
Till I thy name, thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain,
And murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain,
When I am weak, then I am strong
And when my all of strength shall fail,
I shall with the God-man prevail.

My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise;
I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if thy name is Love.

‘Tis Love! ’tis Love! thou diedst for me!
I hear thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love thou art;
To me, to all, thy bowels move;
Thy nature and thy name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see thee face to face,
I see thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and thy name is Love.

I know thee, Saviour, who thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and thy name is Love.

The Sun of righteousness on me
Hath rose with healing in his wings,
Withered my nature’s strength; from thee
My soul its life and succour brings;
My help is all laid up above;
Thy nature and thy name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness, I
On thee alone for strength depend,
Nor have I power from thee to move;
Thy nature and thy name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
And as a bounding hart fly home,
Through all eternity to prove
Thy nature and thy name is Love.

Charles Wesley

I understand that Isaac Watts, himself an incomparable hymn-writer, regarded this as worth all the hymns that he had written. It is a marvellous journey into the scriptures, its 14 verses (!) weaving the story of Jacob wrestling God at Peniel with a rich variety of Biblical allusions and Wesley’s own experience of spiritual struggle and liberation.

Jacob’s struggle, and Wesley’s poetic commentary upon it, remind us that engaging with God is not simply a matter of ‘praying the prayer’ and walking into prosperity and blessing. As Kim* is wont to remind us, “God is the wound, not the bandage.” Jacob leaves the stranger having been given a new name, a new life — but also a limp. Matthew Henry puts it this way in his commentary, “Wrestling believers may obtain glorious victories, and yet come off with broken bones; for ‘When they are weak, then they are strong’, weak in themselves, but strong in Christ”.

The struggle of the believer who wrestles with God is the struggle to know the God whose nature and name is Love. This is therefore always a struggle of faith, not despair. The fight may be hard, but our companion is the God who wounds only to heal and who has himself been wounded for our sake. The hands on which our names have been written (Isaiah 49:16) are the same that bear the marks of crucifixion, hands which lift us up and lead us home.

* This little reflection was originally written in response to, and with thanks for, a homily preached by Kim in the chapel at Swansea University.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }


Paul Martin 08.22.10 at 3:36 pm

Not a bad wedding hymn either!


Richard 08.22.10 at 3:40 pm

Never thought of it as a wedding hymn.


Kim 08.22.10 at 7:04 pm

Paul’s right. I’m thinking the last two lines of the first verse, imagining the groom addressing the bride (or vice-versa):

With thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.


Richard 08.22.10 at 8:14 pm

How could I, normally so alert to double entendre, have missed that? I’m deeply ashamed!


Kim 08.22.10 at 8:58 pm

I won’t tell Jayne. ;)


Paul Martin 08.22.10 at 9:52 pm



Richard 08.23.10 at 1:44 am

That would be Mrs Hall, Paul.


Pam 08.23.10 at 3:04 am

With friends like these, who needs Big Brother.

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