“O Living God”

TITLE: "O Living God"
AUTHOR: Ken Bible
COMPOSER: Traditional USA folk tune
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3089
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 6:1-3; Luke 24:13-35; John 14:1-2, 18-19; Philippians 2:5-11B
TOPICS: Awe & Wonder; Beauty; Creation; Eternity; Face of God; Glory; Heart; Holiness; Mercy; Praise & Thanksgiving; See/Seeing; Voice


Ken Bible, author and music arranger of "O Living God," received his Bachelor of Music in composition from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. He worked at Lillenas Publishing Company for thirty years, serving as director from 1977-1990. He was the editor of the Lillenas hymnal, Sing to the Lord, and he has compiled numerous collections, including Master Chorus Book, which has sold over one million copies. Ken founded Living the Natural Way and LNWhymns.com as a publisher of pocketsize books and new hymns. He has written more than fifteen books and has original hymns in nine major hymnals. He and his wife, Gloria, have three children and three grandchildren.

The tune SHENANDOAH (also called OH SHENANDOAN and ACROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI) is a traditional American folk song dating from the early nineteenth century. Its origins are uncertain. Once a popular sea chanty, it first appeared in print in the July 1882 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in an article titled "Sailor Songs" by William Alden. The song was popular among the boatmen on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and it eventually was carried around the world by America’s clipper ships.


Of the four phrases in the tune, phrases one, two, and four are in the tonic of D major, with phrase three moving to the relative B minor. With the single exception of the first note, the entire melody is contained within the D major scale. While written in typical four-part hymnal style, the harmonization is more choral than congregational. It contains rich chords and harmonic progressions, with well-harmonized cadence chords concluding each phrase. The setting is completely homophonic, with one melody note and chord per syllable of text, devoid of passing tones in the melody or supporting voices. The opening three-word salutation, "O living God," is voiced for all four parts in unison, not at the octave, which then spreads out harmonically and melodically in contrary motion as the bass range falls and the soprano range rises, with rich harmonies supplied by the inner voices -- a marvelous and satisfying choral effect. The hymn may certainly be sung in strict rhythm, but choirs would enjoy a more rubato treatment of the phrases, perhaps a cappella.


The hymn is a hymn of love and devotion to Christ, the living God.

  • Stanza one voices our longing to see Christ lifted up, not just on the cross in sacrifice and salvation, but in glorious Resurrection and holy beauty.
  • Stanza two proclaims our longing to praise Christ, with all creation, with our hearts and voices, and to worship him for his mercy.
  • Stanza three looks forward to the time when we will again see Christ in all his glory and holy beauty and will worship him for eternity in endless wonder.

Each stanza concludes with the ascription of the Lord as "almighty God, living Christ," concluding with "I love you." Noteworthy is the fact that the hymn is written entirely in the first person, a personal prayer of devotion from the individual to Christ, using the pronoun "I" in the first and final phrases of each stanza.


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