This is the second in a series of posts to honor the most memorable teachings of my once-pastor.

I had never heard of Robert Murray M’Cheyne [bio here] before. That is, until my pastor recited two poems by him. The first, titled Jehovah Tsidkenu (meaning The LORD our Righteousness) in one evening service, perhaps the first evening service we attended (which was the same night of the first morning service we ever attended…and we have never looked back). His recitation of this poem was not only amazing to me (because of its length), but because he recited it like he wrote it; like it was his experience. Through tears, he shared:

Jehovah Tsidkenu

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

I oft read with pleasure to soothe or engage,
Isaiah’s wild measure and John’s simple page;
But e’en when they picture the blood-sprinkled tree,
Jehovah Tsidkenu seemed nothing to me.

Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll,
I wept when the waters went over His soul;
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu ‘twas nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me. I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see—
Jehovah Tsideknu, my Saviour must be.

My terrors all vanished before the sweet name;
My guilty fears banished, with boldness I came
To drink at the fountain, life-giving and free—
Jehovah Tsidkenu is all things to me.

Jehovah Tsidkenu! My treasure and boast,
Jehovah Tsidkenu! I ne’er can be lost;
In thee I shall conquer by flood and by field—
My cable, my anchor, my breastplate and shield!

Even treading the valley, the shadow of death,
This “watchword” shall rally my faltering breath;
For while from life’s fever my God sets me free,
Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be.

I normally would not reprint the entire piece but provide a link, but you must read it for yourself. In the first stanza, he could care not about God or the Work of Christ. By the second stanza, he could appreciate the prose and peotry for their literary merit, but it changed not his heart. In the third stanza, he has an emotional experience, but the death of God on his behalf meant nothing to him. From the fourth stanza to the end, he not only understands his sin in light of a holy God, but revels in Jesus–his righteousness, his Jehovah Tsidkenu before God the Father. The most beautiful line in my opinion is the last one: “Jehovah Tsidkenu my death-song shall be;” he puts his entire life in the hands of Jesus Christ.

The second poem my pastor recited from memory by M’Cheyne is as amazing, called:

I Am Debtor

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I hear the wicked call
On the rocks and hills to fall,
When I see them start and shrink
On the fiery deluge brink, –
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see thee as thou art,
Love thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

When the praise of heav’n I hear,
Loud as thunder to the ear,
Loud as many water’s noise,
Sweet as harp’s melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know –
Not till then – how much I owe.

Even on earth, as through a glass
Darkly, let Thy glory pass,
Make forgiveness feel so sweet,
Make Thy Spirit’s help so meet,
Even on earth, Lord, make me know
Something of how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show,
By my love, how much I owe.

Oft I walk beneath the cloud,
Dark, as midnight’s gloomy shroud;
But, when fear is at the height,
Jesus comes, and all is light;
Blessed Jesus! bid me show
Doubting saints how much I owe.

When in flowery paths I tread,
Oft by sin I’m captive led;
Oft I fall – but still arise –
The Spirit comes – the tempter flies;
Blessed Spirit! bid me show
Weary sinners all I owe.

Oft the nights of sorrow reign –
Weeping, sickness, sighing, pain;
But a night Thine anger burns –
Morning comes and joy returns;
God of comforts! bid me show
To Thy poor, how much I owe.

From the recitation of these, my pastor taught me much:

  1. The importance of memorization. Not only can someone memorize long passages of scripture or poems such as these, but one should. The psalmist says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” I can’t have my Bible everywhere with me; but whatever I store in my heart goes with me.
  2. My pastor was transparent. He shared his weaknesses, his faults, his sins and failings; this showed more the grace of God: the LORD can use him, who is imperfect, to proclaim his Gospel, why can’t he use me as well?
  3. The importance of the work of those who have gone before. The church’s heritage is rich with experience and insight; no matter what I am going through, I am not the only one, ever! There is comfort in knowing others have gone before and finished well.