WE GATHER TOGETHER written in 1625
No one (but God) knows who the author of this hymn was, but we can trace it back to the Netherlands in the first part of the 17th century. It has been attributed to Adrianus Valerius, and was originally set to a folk tune.
The Dutch were praying for freedom from Spanish oppression. One Dutch city after another had been captured and sacked by the Spanish armies. Many citizens had been exiled.
But a few years later, in the Battle of Turnhout, the Spanish overlords were being driven out. Night was ending; the dawn was coming.
This hymn was written to give thanks for the victory that was almost in sight. For these Dutch believers, “the wicked oppressing” were the Spaniards, who would “now cease from distressing”. There was no doubt God should receive the glory for the victory.
Life is often like that. The victory may still be around the corner, but that should not keep us from giving thanks. For Holland, a golden age of prosperity – of world exploration, of artists like Rembrandt and scientists like Leeuwenhoek – was only a few decades away.
In the United States, this hymn is popularly associated with Thanksgiving Day and is often sung at family meals and at religious services on that day. And, as we draw closer to Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded earthly blessings like these are just a foretaste of what God has in store for His children in eternity.
Read this hymn, and – today – speak of your blessings to others, and then thank God together.
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.
Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
so from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!
We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
and pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!