Lord Jesus, Thou Art Going Forth (MHLS Choir)

The curse I choose that thou mightst lose sin’s curse and guilt forever. My gift of love from heaven above will give thee blessing ever.

The MHLS Choir sang Lord Jesus, Thou Art Going Forth at the Concert Dinner on February 27th and recorded is shortly thereafter.

This beautiful Lenten hymn, found in The Lutheran Hymnal #150, is a dialogue between The Soul and Jesus. The author of the text, Kaspar F. Nachtenhöfer (1624-1685), was a Lutheran pastor in Coburg, Germany, who coincidentally died the same year that J. S. Bach was born. J. S. Bach was familiar with this hymn and wrote a setting for it for a soloist and instruments and also arranged a four-part setting of it. Little is known about the original tune writer, Christoph Wagner, who is thought to have composed the tune in 1699. The English translation of Nachtenhöfer’s text was made by the editor of The Lutheran Hymnal, W. Gustave Polack (1890-1950), who was also a professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Here is the text:

1. (The Soul:) Lord Jesus, Thou art going forth
For me Thy life to offer;
For me, a sinner from my birth,
Who caused all Thou must suffer.
So be it, then,
Thou Hope of men;
Thee I shall follow weeping,
Tears flowing free
Thy pain to see,
Watch o’er Thy sorrows keeping.

2. (Jesus:) O Soul, attend thou and behold
The fruit of thy transgression!
My portion is the curse of old
And for man’s sin My Passion.
Now comes the night
Of sin’s dread might,
Man’s guilt I here am bearing.
Oh, weigh it, Soul;
I make thee whole,
No need now of despairing.

3. (The Soul:) ’Tis I, Lord Jesus, I confess,
Who should have borne sin’s wages
And lost the peace of heavenly bliss
Through everlasting ages.
Instead ’tis Thou
Who goest now
My punishment to carry,
Thy death and blood
Lead me to God;
By grace I there may tarry.

4. (Jesus: ) O Soul, I take upon Me now
The pain thou shouldst have suffered.
Behold, with grace I thee endow,
Grace freely to thee offered.
The curse I choose
That thou mightst lose
Sin’s curse and guilt forever.
My gift of love
From heaven above
Will give thee blessing ever.

5. (The Soul:) What can I for such love divine
To Thee, Lord Jesus, render?
No merit has this heart of mine;
Yet while I live, I’ll tender
Myself alone,
And all I own,
In love to serve before Thee;
Then when time’s past,
Take me at last
To Thy blest home in glory.

The Soul does not shy away from confessing its totally fallen condition, calling itself “a sinner from birth” and the cause of “all Thou must suffer.” This makes Christ’s words in the next verse all the more comforting, for He says, “I make thee whole, / No need now of despairing.” The Soul confesses that only Christ’s “death and blood” can bring it back to God, and Christ then affirms that “the curse I choose,” that He willingly dies to save the Soul from punishment. In thanks for all the Christ has done, the Soul has nothing of itself that would show proper gratitude, but it willing gives “Myself alone / And all I own” in response to the great love that Christ has bestowed.

In Christ,
Miss Engwall

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