UNLESS THE LORD
Unless the Lord builds up the house the laborers build in vain.
And lest He keep the evil out, no city could be safe.
We look in hope to You, O Lord, the Triune God of Grace
Grant us that fruit which stems from You—O bless and build this place.
Great God of faithfulness and power, we bow before Your sway.
Come, fix Your Church upon Your Word and work in us today.
Unless the Father sent below the Son who pleased Him well,
Our wills would be enslaved to sin, condemning us to Hell.
But in the freedom won by Christ and purposed by Your love,
We now aspire, O God, to do on earth what’s done above.
Unless the Son had borne the wrath of God upon the cross,
The curse would doom our guilty souls to suffer shameful loss.
Bur since You shed Your blood, O Christ, and interposed to save,
The guilt is gone, the shame removed, and conquered is the grave.
Unless the Spirit brings to life the work of fallen men,
Our righteousness is filthy rags, polluted through with sin.
So hear us, Spirit: give the growth, and bid the harvest come;
Stir in our midst a fruitful work, and set our hearts on Home
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This hymn was written for the celebration of Community Presbyterian Church’s 40th anniversary, the congregation I pastor in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I thought it fitting for a church’s anniversary to base the hymn off the opening line in Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” It was a poignant reminder that the church (and any church, for that matter) does not exist because of those who minister or worship in it.The church exists because of God’s “faithfulness and pow’r,” therefore we must submit to Him (“bow before Your sway”) and plead with Him to keep us grounded upon His work and will. The first stanza explains that it’s not just the Lord who creates and sustains His people, but specifically it’s the “Triune God of grace.” This anticipates that each of the following three verses will reflect upon the work of each person of the Godhead. The hymn is set to a stirring new tune by Paul S. Jones (fittingly titled KALAMAZOO), which draws out the affect of the text perfectly. It is intuitive, and therefore capable for any congregation to learn and sing in praise of our faithful God.
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