It is not too often that a third-grade boy is impressed by a hymn as long and deep as “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White” (Christian Worship 550).
My Lutheran elementary class memorized hymns for our hymnology course. The hymn “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White” was one of the first songs I learned as a new Lutheran Christian in the third- and fourth-grade classroom of Jerusalem school.
Our teacher, Mr. Paul Wachholz, patiently went through each line of each stanza and explained what the hymn writer was saying. As he taught it to us, I grew to understand that the hymn writer was talking about the beautiful picture of heaven. Mr. Wachholz had us picture the crowds on Palm Sunday waving palm branches for our King Jesus.
The picture of all the saints praising God around his throne grabbed me as a child, and it took away the fear of dying that children experience. It helped me understand that dying as a Christian, a believer in Jesus, is nothing to be afraid of, since I will enjoy the feast that the Lamb prepared for all his saints.
All of us, even believers, have fears as we travel through this earthly life, but our faith helps us look forward to standing around the throne of God, worshiping him for all he did for our salvation. This hymn also speaks about the different trials and challenges that Christians face in this life. Sometimes we battle them hard and heavy. At other times, they beat us down. But there is a change that takes place in heaven: “Despised and scorned, they sojourned here; But now, how glorious they appear!”
When we come to the end of life, we are reminded that we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. We are those “who from the great affliction came and in the flood of Jesus’ blood are cleansed from guilt and blame.” Our sins have been paid for and forgiven so that we can stand before the throne of light with all believers, “a host, arrayed in white.”
This hymn brought me peace at the age of 21, when I was at the casket of my mother. There I recalled its words: “So oft in troubled days gone by, in anguish they would weep and sigh. At home above the God of love fore’er their tears shall dry.”
This hymn has stuck with me for many years, because it says everything I would want to say to loved ones who are mourning the death of a Christian.
Behold a Host, Arrayed in White
Behold a host, arrayed in white,
Like thousand snowclad mountains bright;
With palms they stand. Who is this band
Before the throne of light?
These are the saints of glorious fame,
Who from the great affliction came
And in the flood Of Jesus’ blood
Are cleansed from guilt and blame.
Now gathered in the holy place,
Their voices they in worship raise.
Their anthem swell Where God does dwell
Mid angels’ songs of praise.
Despised and scorned, they sojourned here;
But now, how glorious they appear!
These martyrs stand, A priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
So oft in troubled days gone by,
In anguish they would weep and sigh;
At home above The God of love
Fore’er their tears shall dry.
They now enjoy the Sabbath rest,
The heav’nly banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their Lord, At festive board
Himself is host and guest.
Author: Snowden Sims
Volume 108, Number 7
Issue: July 2021