- Visit hymnary.org for more information on this song and additional resources.
This lovely benediction was composed by a husband and wife from Singapore. My own congregation has grown to love it; we have sung it not only as a parting blessing at the end of the service, but this past Advent we sang it while our young children processed out for their own worship time.
The song was published in Sound the Bamboo (GIA 1990; rev. 2000). It contains 315 Asian Christian hymns from twenty-two countries in forty-four languages. This collection is the result of a huge labor of love by I-to Loh, a Taiwanese scholar and ethnomusicologist. For many years he traveled across Asia with a tape recorder, interviewing countless people. Now another book resulting from that work has been released: the Hymnal Companion to Sound the Bamboo: Asian Hymns in Their Cultural and Liturgical Contexts (GIA, 2011). From this book I learned the story of this hymn. It is best told in the words of I-to Loh:
Swee Hong Lim and Maria Ling were thankful to God for the birth of their first baby after many years of waiting. One day after his birth, the baby stopped breathing, but the prompt action of the nurses revived the baby. In gratitude, Ling wrote this lullaby, and Lim composed the song, whose accompaniment seems to convey a rocking crib. This hymn can be sung as a benediction at the close of a service or as a prayer for sending people off.
I-to Loh then quotes Swee Hong:
The tune was created initially as a lullaby. However, as a result of God’s providence in the life of our son, Soon-Ti, Maria created the English text loosely around the Hebrew scripture of Numbers 6:24-26. Musically speaking, with the melody having a lullaby nature, the keyboard accompaniment was deliberately kept simple and tender to strengthen the imagery of resting in God. The tune SOON TI was named after our child; it literally means “pure knowledge [of God]” in Teochew (a southern Chinese dialect).
Swee Hong Lim was inspired by I-to Loh to became a musician; he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the life and work of I-to Loh. Swee Hong Lim recently moved to the United States to teach at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
I believe your congregation will learn to treasure this benediction. One way to introduce it would be with flute and piano; have it sung twice, first by a soloist, then by all. The accompanist should play very softly until the song “blossoms” at the words “May God’s countenance shine upon you . . .” Also consider repeating that section, perhaps even a bit slower the last time.