Most of us, from time to time, get a song stuck in our heads. I don’t know about you, but for me, this is an almost daily occurrence, and sometimes, it persists beyond the day. Since Tuesday evening this week, I have had the same song in my head. So today, I thought I’d put it in your head, too!
It is a hymn, a piece of poetry put to music, that dates back to the 1730s. The accompanying tune is called SAGINA, which is the name of a spring plant common in the Roman Empire; it can also mean “nourishment”. It was written in 1825. But the text and the tune were not put together popularly until well into the twentieth century.
The text was written by the great Methodist leader Charles Wesley (1707-1788). No one knows for sure, but it is thought that this text came to him at the point of his conversion.
Wesley had been trained for ministry and had attempted to serve in ministry, failing miserably as a missionary (alongside his brother, John) in the new-found colony of Georgia, now part of the United States. It was only following his return to Britain that he experienced new birth, at which time he is thought to have written these words:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night:
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray;
I woke; the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
These lyrics certainly allude to the story of the earthquake that occurred when Paul and Silas were in prison: “All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” (Acts 16.26b, NLT). But Wesley had experienced this in his own heart, too.
The good news is that any of us can have the same experience. By God’s grace, our chains can fall off, too. If you feel as though your spirit is lying in some sort of prison – enslaved to sin, locked in old ways, tied down by guilt – then Jesus longs to free you.
If you’ve not been set free from sin, think of what song might come from your mouth when your chains fall off!
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40.1-3, NLT)