Singing Immanuel's Presence

He is with us always, and we can know it.

O God, defend me everywhere
With Your impregnable power and protection.
Deliver all my mortal limbs,
Guarding each with Your protective shield,
So the foul demons shall not hurl their darts
Into my side, as is their wont.

  - “The Breastplate of Laidcenn”, Irish, 8th-9th century[1]

Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
Make haste to help me, O L
Let them be ashamed and confounded 
Who seek my life;
Let them be turned back and confused 
Who desire my hurt.

  - Psalm 70.1, 2

Jesus Christ is the “With-Us” God. He is Immanuel. He has promised to be with us always. We should expect Him to fulfill that promise, and thus we should expect to know Him with us in glory, beauty, strength, comfort, peace, and joy wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. Jesus will never fail us nor forsake us. All the strength and help we need to experience full and abundant life are available to us every moment, because Jesus is the With-Us God.

Many Celtic Christians maintained an acute sense of the Presence of God – His immanence, His real and personal Presence with them, wherever they went. This is one of the great legacies of that remarkable period (ca. 430-800). To remind themselves of this Presence, and even to enter it really and fully, they wrote songs, and sang them frequently.

lorica or “breastplate” poem – like the excerpt from “The Breastplate of Laidcenn” – invoked divine protection in the everyday circumstances of life. Believers would pray or sing these poems at various times of the day, to remind them of the Lord’s Presence and care, and to encourage and embolden them in their journey or work. Reminded of God’s Presence, invoking His power for every aspect of their lives, and celebrating God’s sovereign help in song, they could approach the day ahead with courage, confidence, and joy.

These old poems remind us that God is with us and caring for us always, down to the smallest detail of our lives. Nothing about us is unimportant to our Lord. Nothing in our lives is outside the scope of His attention and care. It may not always seem as though the Lord is present and caring for us, but He always is. Singing or praying such psalms and poems can help us to recall His many precious and very great promises. And singing can be an important discipline for engaging us with God’s love and bringing us into His glorious Presence. God intends for us to benefit from singing more than we typically do, which is why we are commanded to sing, and why singing is an indication of the Spirit’s filling (Eph. 5.18-21).

These lorica hymns have affinity to certain of the psalms, combining elements of complaint, imprecation, and supplication as they call on the help of God and angels for protection throughout the day, or for some journey or task. Psalm 70 is a good example, as is Psalm 3.

The principle motivating these poems is sound: Our Lord will never fail us nor forsake us. He is with us always, and we have our very being and all our movement in Him. Our Shepherd is always caring for us and upholding us by His Word of power (Matt. 28.20; Heb. 1.3). So it can be a source of comfort and confidence to remind ourselves in song of all the ways the Lord Jesus protects our minds, affections, and bodies, and how He guards the path and even shapes the attitudes of those we might meet along the way.

So don’t let your singing be confined to the time you spend in worship with God’s people. And don’t sing only those songs that have pleasing melodies or easily-remembered lyrics. Search out psalms and hymns that can be beneficial for your daily walk with and work for the Lord. Sing them over and over, until you know them by heart.

Then sing them throughout the day, letting their melodies and lyrics lift you above your everyday setting into the Presence of eternal glory. Linger there in meditation and prayer, waiting on the Lord, thanking and praising Him for all His abundant goodness to you.

In heaven, angels and departed saints sing continually to the Lord (Rev. 4, 5). All that prevents us from joining our voices with theirs is the will to do so.

Questions for Reflection
1. Do you have a favorite hymn that helps you to engage the Presence of God? Sing a stanza or two of it right now.

2. What could you do to remind yourself to bring more singing into your walk with and work for the Lord?

Psalm 3.3, 4 (Eventide: Abide with Me)
You are a mercy shield about me, Lord,
Raising me by Your glory and Your Word.
Prayers fraught with tears stream from me like a fount,
Yet God will answer from His holy mount.

Father, You have given us songs from Your own hand, that we might sing our way into Your Presence at any moment. Today, I will take a song with me as I…

Sing the Psalms
The Ailbe Psalter is an excellent resource for singing the psalms to familiar hymn tunes. Order your copy by clicking here.

Your prayers and support
If Crosfigell is of benefit to you, and you believe in the mission of The Fellowship of Ailbe, please seek the Lord concerning whether He would have you support this work with your financial gifts. You can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction VT 05452.

T. M. Moore
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe PsalterScripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1]Davies, p. 290.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore