Lenten Hymns and their Story

March 21, 2023

“Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”

When Isaac Watts (1674-1748) published this hymn, he placed in the section of his book titled “composed on Divine Subjects”. Within this section, he assumed that one would sing and read one after another, thus learning the entire message of Christ’s Gospel.
This hymn was published in two sections. In the first section [verses 1-2], Watts guides theological reflection on the meaning of the crucifixion by asking a series of rhetorical questions. With each succeeding question, the poet moves closer to confessing substitutionary atonement, recognizing that the death of the “Savior” and “Sovereign” was not merely a tragic historical event, the misguided reaction of sinful people, but it was God’s radical love, as Christ devoted Himself to the Salvation of mankind.
In the second section [verses 3-4], Watts focuses upon one small detain of the Passion, the darkness that came over the earth at the crucifixion [Luke 23:44-45] and uses that detail for devotional contemplation. Watts, correctly, places the crucifixion within the context of the creation. The creation is recognizing the truth that the Son of God, the Creator of all, is dying.
And so, Watts focuses on the idea that the creature [mankind] learns from creation, as we “hide our blushing face while His dear cross appears”. Unlike Adam and Eve who hid from our Lord, we must come into the darkness/light of that day and stand in front on our bloody Savior and rejoice in the forgiveness He has purchased for us.

Alas! and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?

LSB 437

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