9 Jan 2013

The cattle on a thousand hills

Last evening, as our family was reading a devotional on Psalm 50, I happened to recall a song we had sung when I was growing up: He Owns the Cattle on a Thousand Hills, written by John W. Peterson. Because I could remember only two lines of the song, I had to look it up. Here it is:

He owns the cattle on a thousand hills,
The wealth in every mine;
He owns the rivers and the rocks and rills,
The sun and stars that shine.
Wonderful riches, more than tongue can tell -
He is my Father so they're mine as well;
He owns the cattle on a thousand hills -
I know that He will care for me.

Although the first and seventh lines are an obvious reference to the fiftieth Psalm, the remainder of the song has little to do with it. Although it expresses a valid sentiment, namely, that God cares for us, this is not the point of the psalm, whose main theme is that Almighty God stands in judgement on those who offer the prescribed sacrifices while remaining content to follow their sinful ways. I quote stanzas 4 and 8 from my own versification of Psalm 50:

“For every forest beast belongs to me,
the cattle on a thousand hills, you see,
each bird that soars aloft within the air,
mine are the beasts that wander everywhere.
If I were hungry, why then should you know it,
when earth is mine and everything within it? . . .

“Think on these things, all who will not recall
that I am God, the ruler over all,
lest you incur my wrath eternally;
but those who bring a grateful heart to me
I grant my favour and show my salvation
to those of righteous ways in every nation.”

It's not particularly catchy, and it probably wouldn't have sold well under the old Singspiration label, but it ought nevertheless to be sung in our churches, along with the rest of the biblical Psalter.

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