It’s that lovely time of year when those of us in the US remember how the Dutch and English people came together across the sea to the New World, pursuing freedom to worship God the way they saw fit. That particular occasion was not the first time the Dutch had endured hardship and religious persecution that made them want to flee their beautiful native land. In the 1500’s, the Protestant Reformation had spread to the Netherlands and many Dutch people forsook the Catholic Church and its teachings. The Pope did not take this lightly and in 1579, King Philip II of Spain sent the Duke of Alba to bring these people back under papal authority. The Duke made sure that the Dutch people did not gather together to worship God in this new, reformed way. While many continued to meet secretly, it became more and more difficult to avoid being discovered and punished by the Spanish regime. Extreme violence and oppression were used against the Dutch as whole cities were massacred and about ten thousand people were executed while forty thousand more were exiled. Still the people of Holland refused to submit to the Catholic rule of Spain. Eventually the Pope and King Philip loosened their grip on this devastated people.
This song was written to celebrate the Dutch victory over Spanish forces in the Battle of Turnhout in 1597. Many credit the authorship to Adrianus Valerious, a Dutch poet and composer who wrote much about the Dutch War of Independence. However most hymnals leave the authorship anonymous. Whomever the author, it was written with great gratitude. The Dutch Christians were especially thankful for this victory which allowed them to declare their independence and freedom. Can you imagine how they must have sang this song out with thankfulness and tears of joy? “Gathering together,” until this point, was strictly forbidden. But God graciously made a way. Today, we can also sing this hymn as a song of thankfulness for the wonderful freedoms God has given us, a song of protest against ungodliness, and a cry for God to be the Defender of the weak, innocent and powerless. What an amazing privilege it is that we can gather together without fear of persecution! May God help us enjoy this wonderful freedom and may we gather together to worship the God of all tribes, tongues and peoples with glad and grateful hearts.
Do please join us as we memorize these beautiful lines during the month of November. You may or may not already be familiar with the hymn. If it’s helpful to you, please use our YouTube channel to hear it so you can sing it with confidence. And definitely download our free printable lyrics and music to help you along. If you haven’t yet downloaded the Fall Hymn Guide, it will be available for FREE until the end of 2019. After that, it will be available for a small donation. Email us to let us know if you are interested in getting a copy!
We encourage you all to gather up your families, for just a few minutes each day, to sing, discuss and memorize this hymn, whether it is during family worship, or before bedtime – whatever works best for your family. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! Let us know if you’ll be joining in!