"Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" by William Williamsby Dr. Zelda Robinson on March 31, 2022
This hymn draws attention to two distinct imageries. One is applied directly to Christ’s broken body on the cross, in the Lord’s Supper. The other is that of Yahweh leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness. The opening words of the hymn, “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,” is a petition asking God for guidance. It depicts someone being led by a guide who is experienced and knows how to go through chartered territories. Like a child holding the hand of a parent, confident that they are in secure hands.
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty; Hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more.
Yahweh led the Israelites through the wilderness, but they murmured and complained, desiring to go back to Egypt. He provided fresh manna for them daily, in abundance, but they still complained. Centuries later, when Jesus came to the Jews, they complained, refusing to accept Him as the “Bread of Life,” sent from heaven to feed them.
William Williams, the author of this hymn, was born in Wales. He initially attended school desiring to become a doctor. Influenced by the preaching of Howell Harris, a revivalist preacher, William was converted and shortly after decided to go into ministry, pursuing ordination from the church. Williams discover that his heart was with Harris and his itinerant work, so he left his small curacy in the mountains to join with the traveling Methodist preachers.
Williams traveled, preaching, and singing the gospel in his native tongue. Like Howell Harris, Williams was a persuasive preacher, but it was his hymns that had the greatest impact on people. He wrote more than 800 hymns, but he is only known for, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.”
This hymn marks Williams’ Christian pilgrimage as a traveling Methodist preacher. He was a pilgrim in both the spiritual and physical sense. He not confined to one place. Williams is said to have traveled an average of 2200 plus miles a year. This was at a time when there were no railroads and very few stagecoaches. Williams’ ministry was not an easy one. Just like the other revival preachers, Williams also was a victim of mobs.
His self-sacrificing years of evangelism and the thousands of miles he traveled, sums up the remainder of Williams’ life. He trusted Jehovah to lead and guide him, to nurture and strengthen him. Just as Yahweh feed the Israelites fresh manna from heaven daily, we too must depend on Him to “feed us til ‘we want no more.”
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty; Hold me with thy powerful hand:
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more.
Open now the crystal fountain whence the healing stream doth flow;
Let the fire and cloudy pillar. Lead me all my journey through:
Strong deliverer, be thou still my strength and shield.
When I tread the verge of Jordan, Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction, Land me safe on Canaan’s side:
Songs of praises, I will ever give to thee.
35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:35-40