Hymn text by W. W. Phelps, 1792-1872. View the full text of this hymn.

Redeemer of Israel,
Our only delight,
On whom for a blessing we call,
Our shadow by day
And our pillar by night,
Our King, our Deliv’rer, our all!

The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is ever before us, showing us the way back to His presence and into eternal life. We see that throughout this hymn with its rich Old Testament imagery. We aren’t simply told that the Lord will watch over us. We are reminded of the cloud that remained over the children of Israel by day during their flight from Egypt, and of the pillar of fire that protected them by night from the soldiers. We don’t simply have to trust that He will be there to aid us in our times of trouble. We’ve seen it in the past, and we know that He is unchanging. Why should today be any different?

We know He is coming, as we sing in the second verse, to gather His sheep and bring them to Zion in love. We’ve seen this. We’ve seen the children of Israel, lost and wandering in the “valley of death” brought to the land that they were promised. We know He will do this because the Lord does not forget His own, and we know we can receive blessings we’ve been promised because we are all His own. We are His sheep, and He knows us by name. He has delivered us in the past, and we know that He is unchanging. Why should today be any different?

We, too, have wandered in the desert “as strangers in sin and cried… for [Him].” We know what it feels like to be separated from Him through our own misdeeds. We know that when we make mistakes, we cannot remain in His presence. We know this because we’ve seen it in the past. The children of Israel made some pretty big mistakes, and they were separated from their Lord as a result. He is unchanging, and we can expect no less. But we know that He will hear our cries, because he heard those of the Israelites. He answered their prayers, and He will answer ours. Our foes may rejoice when they see our sorrows, we sing, but Israel–and we–shall shortly be free. It was so in the past. Why should today be any different?

We know that we can and will be redeemed not only because the Lord is unchanging, but because we have been promised those blessings by that same unchanging Lord. We have been promised that He will come to His own, and we have been given the signs of His coming. He will not come in meekness, but in power and glory. And as we sing in the fourth verse, “good tidings for us. The tokens already appear.” We’ve seen the signs, and we will continue to see them as that day draws near. The Lord will come, and we will know Him when He does, because we know Him know. He is already our shadow by day and our pillar by night. He is our King, our Deliv’rer, our all. We know this, because it was so in the past, and because it is so now.

Why should today, tomorrow, or any other day be any different?

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