A friend knocked on my office door last week, and as he entered to greet me, he said “I was browsing around in a used book store yesterday and saw this. I thought you might like it.” He handed me a small, thin book. It’s cover had been yellowed by the passing of time, its pages — all 109 of them — somewhat tattered, dog-eared, well-worn. The book couldn’t have been more than four inches wide, perhaps seven inches tall. Almost a ‘pocket edition,’ I guess you could say. A pocket edition of a book titled, “Beautiful Offerings of Sacred Song.”

I thanked my friend for thinking of me and buying me such a thoughtful gift.

After he left my office, I sat with the pages of Beautiful Offerings. On the inside cover of the old book, the publisher had listed its original price: $12.50 per hundred copies in paper covers, $15 in board covers. The book had been published in Chicago by Shaw Brothers, John and C.A. Shaw. And, of course it had a copyright date, boldly notated on that very first page. The copyright? 1894.

I wondered to myself. If the old book could talk, what stories it might tell about the lives of people who had sung the songs it contained. I wondered about the other souls who had held this book in their hands; those who had opened it pages on some Sunday morning now long passed. Perhaps they had turned to hymn number 41, to sing all three verses of “I Have Redeemed Thee.” I wonder, did their voices grow louder as a congregation, when they came to the chorus:

I have redeemed thee,

I have redeemed thee,

I have redeemed thee,

Child of my love.

And I will crown thee,

Yes, I will crown thee.

Heir to a throne in

Heaven above.

I could not escape the poignancy of the moment, as I sat, turning the pages of the gift book my friend had so thoughtfully given to me. A book titled “Beautiful Offerings.” Each page was filled with expressions of faith, and hope and trust. A tiny hymnal, if you will. Poetry and verse set to music. The authors had written a Preface for ‘Beautiful Offerings …,’ too. It read, “That Beautiful Offerings” may prove worthy of its name, and be instrumental in the spread of the Gospel is the ambition of the authors. The selections have been made with care as to real merit and efficiency, both in poetry and melody. The best things from the leading authors have been garnered into this condensed volume and will, we hope win their way into the hearts of the people.”

Something significant happens when a song of worship ‘wins its way into the hearts of people.’ When Christians join together and sing to God, the expressions of individual hearts become a unified chorus of praise. It’s been that way from the very beginning of God’s relationship with man. Ps. 22:3 in one translation says ‘The Lord inhabits the praises of His people.’ When we gather as the household of faith to worship, though we are many individuals, we lift one heart — one beautiful offering. The age of the song is not what determines or establishes its value. The age of the singer singing the song is not an important distinction, either. It is the message of the heart — a collective heart of worship that defines a ‘Beautiful Offering’, and an expression God delights in. In Jeremiah 32:39, God says, “I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants.” (Jer. 32:39)

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