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He Will Hold Me Fast

Psalm 139 The All-knowing and Ever-present God is a beautiful psalm that is full of song lyrics. I don’t say that because I’m thinking of taking up songwriting, but because lots of other people already have discovered the lyrical beauty of this psalm. As I listened to it being read at Mass, I could hear bits and pieces of a melody playing in my head. (FYI, that happens to me a lot when the Psalms are read in church.) It took me a while to put it all together, but it turned out that I was thinking of 2 different songs, “Oh God, You Search Me” by Bernadette Farrell and “You Are Near” by Dan Schutte. These familiar modern hymns are full of lyrics from Psalm139. Actually, there are a whole lot more. I discovered a website titled Hymnary.org, which is a great source of all kinds of information about  hymns: writers, sources, lyrics, everything. They list 311 hymns, some new and some very old, that take their inspiration from Psalm 139.

There is one old hymn that I discovered a couple years ago during a late-night exploration of Christian music on YouTube, (which I very much recommend; it’s a good way to end a tough day). Written in 1906 by Ada Habershon, “He Will Hold Me Fast” is a hymn of faith and trust in God through times of weakness and temptation. I love it! It gets its title from Psalm 139:10, Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

“When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast

When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast…

He will hold me fast; He will hold me fast;

For my Savior loves me so,

He will hold me fast.”

A footnote to Psalm 139 in The New American Bible says, “The psalmist is keenly aware of God’s all-knowing gaze (Ps 139:1–6), of God’s presence in every part of the universe (Ps 139:7–12), and of God’s control over the psalmist’s very self (Ps 139:13–16).”

Psalms 139:1-10   You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 
(New International Version)

For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast.

You can find all of these songs on YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora.

About a month after finishing this reflection, I heard “Endless is Your Love” sung at Mass and realized that its lyrics also come directly from Psalm 139.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8CHD5Omsxc

1 thought on “He Will Hold Me Fast

  1. I was not familiar with this hymn. It’s really beautiful!

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