Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
by Rob Yongue
December 15, 2019
Read Psalm 72
Psalm 72: 1-2 (NLT)
Give your love of justice to the king, O God, and righteousness to the king’s son.
Help him judge your people in the right way; let the poor always be treated fairly.
James Montgomery (1771-1854) began writing poetry when he was 10 years old. Like John Wesley, he was inspired by the hymns of the Moravians. Montgomery was raised from the age of six in a boy’s boarding school while his parents served as missionaries to the West Indies. He flunked out of school when he turned 14 but was working at a radical weekly newspaper, The Sheffield Register, by the time he was 21. He took over leadership of the paper when the previous editor fled the country fearing persecution for his politics. Montgomery changed the name of the paper to The Iris and served over 30 years as editor. He was a tireless supporter of social justice and was even jailed twice for his radical views. He used his time in prison to write poetry.
Montgomery wrote “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed” in 1821 as a paraphrase of Psalm 72, a well-known prophecy of the coming Messiah. It is also a prayer, in which the psalmist petitions God to grant justice and righteousness to the King…perhaps the newly crowned earthly king of Israel, but also the anticipated heavenly king. Montgomery’s poem captures the very essence of that prayer. It is paired with the hymn tune ELLACOMBE (Hosanna, Loud Hosanna, O Church of God United) in the United Methodist Church hymnal, but other denominations use different melodies. It is a perfect hymn to sing during Advent. Though it was based off of a psalm that foretold the first coming of the Messiah, we can now sing these words as we look forward to Christ’s second coming.
For a completely different take on this hymn, you should listen to a version recorded by the husband/wife Indie Folk duo known as The Welcome Wagon. It was arranged and produced by Sufjan Stevens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUbXRMaocQI
Prayer: We praise you Lord God of Israel. You alone do such wonderful things. We will praise your glorious name forever! Let the whole earth be filled with your glory. Amen and amen!