It makes sense when praise music is written inside the confines of bejeweled cathedrals or by the hands of those on a spiritual mountaintop. But the world-famous hymn of gratitude entitled Now Thank We All Our God didn’t originate from either.
In fact, the situation that prompted its writing almost killed its author!
Martin Rinkart grew up in the poor home of a humble coppersmith in Eilenberg, Germany. Sensing a call to ministry, Rinkart submitted himself to theological training and emerged from seminary into a country being ravished by the 30 Years’ War.
Refugees began to flood into the walled city of Eilenberg making the stressful situation even more desperate. The Swedish army soon besieged the town, and inside the city’s gates, disease, plague, famine, and fear ran amuck. Hundreds of homes were destroyed in the conflict, and civilians began to die in increasing numbers.
The pastors of the city, including Rinkart, were under incredible strain. They expended all their energy caring for the sick, burying the dead, and preaching the Good News to those who survived the hellish conditions. But as the siege dragged on, even the pastors began to succumb to death. One by one, the clergymen died, leaving Martin Rinkart as the sole pastor in the city. With no pastoral help, the number of funerals Rinkart conducted swelled to fifty per day!
Believing the Germans’ will was finally broken, the Swedes proposed a ransom to the townspeople of Eilenberg. It was none other than Martin Rinkart who left the safety of the city walls to negotiate with the enemy. He spoke with such courage and faith that there was soon a conclusion of hostilities, and the period of great suffering ended.
Believing that healing isn’t possible without thanksgiving, Rinkart composed his now-famous hymn for his fellow survivors in Eilenberg:
Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms hath blessed us on our way,
With countless gifts of love and still is ours today.
Brings a whole new meaning to 1 Thessalonians 5:18, doesn’t it?
Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003, Pages 16-17.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)