Why this song?
I first ran across this song when we were doing a sermon series on the life of Jacob. I was primarily looking for a song that spoke very directly about humility. Not only do Isaac Watts excellent verses do just that, but the chorus mentions Jacob (Israel) himself! Sure, it’s in reference to the nation of Israel rather than the individual person, so I think it’s effective nonetheless.
While Watts’ lyrics show their age a bit (“all my carriage mild” is not a phrase I use regularly these days), they do an excellent job speaking very plainly about humility. I especially appreciate how the first verse points out the opposites of humility. We often think of pride (haughty) as the opposite of humility, but Watts also includes ambition. While there is obviously nothing wrong with having goals, having selfish ambitions apart from the will of God is clearly not humility.
The chorus then points to the solution. We, the members of God’s church (Israel), must put our hope in the Lord. Only through him will our plans succeed and our hearts be humble.
Use in Worship
If you happen to be doing a sermon series on Jacob, I obviously think this song would be a great choice, but it works whenever we need a reminder to be humble. It works very well in connection with a confession and absolution.
When we use this song, we play a slightly more upbeat version than the recording provided, but be careful not to take it to quickly or the congregation will struggle to keep up with the 16th notes.