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Monday, March 4, 2013

My Lord has garments so wondrous fine, and myrrh their texture fills; Its fragrance reached to this heart of mine, with joy my being thrills

A little less than a century ago, Henry Barraclough wrote one of the most
unique, lyrically-rich songs in our songbook. The musical arrangement is
soothing in a way that matches the meaning of the words. However, its
poetry has caused some problems.

The first verse begins, "My Lord has garments so wondrous fine, and myrrh
their texture fills; Its fragrance reached to this heart of mine, with joy
my being thrills." This and the following verses must be understood in
light of the chorus, which essentially tells us that Jesus left the perfect
splendor of heaven to come to this sinful earth because of His unmatched
love. With that background, we understand Barraclough's meaning to be
figurative. Jesus did not wear the clothes of a king while on earth. Thus,
the writer seems to speak of the qualities of Jesus' character, the power
and influence of it. Myrrh is a perfume, a theme the writer uses through
the various stanzas of the song. So, this first verse speaks of the
attractiveness of Jesus' character.

The second verse talks about the sorrow and pain He allowed Himself to
endure. While we think of aloe as a healing plant, the writer speaks of it
in the sense of its bitter root (see the footnote at the bottom of the song
in Praise For The Lord). While Jesus was a king, He was also the man of
sorrows, acquainted with grief (cf. Isa. 53:3).
The third verse shifts the focus to Jesus as the Great Physician. He's an
attractive king, He's a suffering Savior, but He's also the able healer.
The word "cassia," as once again a footnote supplies, is a "medicinal herb."
The idea is that He rescues us from our sin problem.

The final verse refers to Jesus' second coming. He will bring the faithful
Christian to heaven. Taken together, we see Jesus in the "garb" (clothes)
of King, Savior, Physician, and Judge. Driving it all is "only His great
eternal love." Understanding the underlying theme of the songwriter helps
us to better worship and better appreciate the perfect Son of God.

Neal Pollard

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