Hymn of the week: Captain of Israel’s host and guide

Sunday I preached at Camden Town Methodist Church and it happened to be my last service in pastoral charge of that congregation. It wasn’t really a goodbye because I will remain Superintendent Minister and I will still be preaching there from time to time. However with the arrival of a new minister Revd Donghwan Kim, who will assume duties on 1st September and a reorientation of my own responsibilities in the circuit, I did have a sense of moving on – which was one of the reasons for chosing ‘Captain of Israel’s host’ as the last hymn – and my hymn of the week. The other reason is because the ‘continuous’ option of Old testament readings has now moved into the cycle of stories about the Exodus, an event which is specifically referenced in the hymn, characteristically reapplied by the writer Charles Wesley to the church.

The hymn was originally published in Short Hymns on Select passages of the Holy Scriptures (1762) and it is short – just two verses – although in some hymnals it has been been attached to verses from other hymns to form a longer composite. The passage in question here is Exodus 13:21: “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.”

Companions to Hymns and Psalms comments: “Here the pilgrims have as their end the glory of the Lord, but they are led by the Holy Spirit (not by the pillars of cloud and fire) and accompanied by ‘love, almighty love’.”

A quick note on the tune. In British Methodism it is invariably sung to MARIANLYST, composed by John W. David, a Guernsey Methodist. I was surprised to discover that apart from a single hymnal, the association of words and tune only goes back to the an event in 1932 celebrating Methodist Union. The following year the hymn was published to this tune in the Methodist Hymn Book, since when they have been inseparable.

‘Captain of Israel’s host’ has a special place in the heart of British Methodism, for it is traditionally sung at the end of the annual Conference. It is loved by members of other denominations too, as I was reminded after the service on Sunday when one of our Ghanaian adherents, a Presbyterian by upbringing, commented that it was good to end with a “Presbyterian hymn”. I told him that it was written by Charles Wesley, to which he answered “he must have got it from the Presbyterians”. To which I had no reply.

Captain of Israel’s host, and Guide
Of all who seek the land above,
Beneath Thy shadow we abide,
The cloud of Thy protecting love;
Our strength, Thy grace; our rule, Thy Word;
Our end, the glory of the Lord.

By Thine unerring Spirit led,
We shall not in the desert stray;
The light of man’s direction need
Or miss our providential way;
As far from danger as from fear,
While Love, almighty Love, is near.

Charles Wesley


About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
This entry was posted in Hymns, Methodism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Hymn of the week: Captain of Israel’s host and guide

  1. PAUL NYANKOM says:

    Thank you so much for giving the background information on this very powerful hymn that transforms and situations.

  2. sam says:

    This is the most powerful hymn i have ever heard in my life.

  3. joheneba says:

    Its a wonderful hymn. I enjoy singing it’ captain of Israel’s host.

  4. Abena says:

    Thank you for the background of this powerful hymn. Today as i collected my son from school and walking home, I was thinking about a lot of problems that is facing my family I mean my sisters and my mother both abroad and Ghana, all of a sudden holy spirit drop this hymn and I started singing so when I got home I began looking on the internet and I found the whole song and the other parts, in fact my heart was filled with joy and I called all my sisters to look to that. God bless John Wesley he’s gone but this song is preaching to many and God bless you too. Amen.

  5. Teteki says:

    I agree with the Ghanaian Presbyterian. Hahahaaaa. A truly powerful and meaningful hymn. Thanks for the background information.

  6. Howdy very cool website!! Guy .. Beautiful .. Superb .. I’ll bookmark your site and take the feeds additionally?
    I am glad to seek out numerous useful info here in the publish, we’d like develop extra strategies in this
    regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  7. solomon says:

    I really enjoy singing this song. it lifts up my spirit. Gives me hope and lots of joy

  8. Osei Agyei says:

    This song is really touch my heart when ever I feel sad and I remembered this song then I quickly feel relive especially the solo. John Wesley is no more but his lips is with us your website has really did were God bless you.

  9. From Pastor AMOAH Da Costa
    I love that hymn song
    My God remember his Servant who the Lord has called
    In Jesus name ( the name that is Above any other name .

  10. From Pastor AMOAH Da Costa
    I love that hymn song
    My God remember his Servant who the Lord has called
    In Jesus name ( the name that is Above any other name .
    Form Italy God bless

  11. Greg Morris says:

    In Plymouth Brethren Hymnbooks since 1840 the following hymn is given. Substantially changed – Wesley would not have been impressed but I think it is an improvement!

    1 SALVATION’S Captain, and the Guide
    Of all that seek the rest above,
    Beneath Thy shadow we abide,
    The cloud of Thy protecting love;
    Our strength, Thy grace; our rule, Thy word;
    Our end, the glory of our Lord.

    2 Lord, by Thy Word and Spirit led,
    We shall not in the desert stray,
    Or light for our direction need,
    Or lose, if dark and drear, our way;
    Still kept from danger and from fear,
    Since Thy almighty love is near.

  12. Bridget Afenyo says:

    Bridget, i really love this hymns so much especially when i found myself in troubles,problems, hurts and pains. My heart is broken my it has been my strength for the whole and don’t feel for any thing.
    Let spend more time to analysis the words in the hymn well and feel the touch.

  13. Bridget Afenyo says:

    Bridget,we should always use the words in the hymns to motivate ourselves

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s