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James Reinarz
June 30, 2021
This entry is part [part not set] of 5 in the series Hymns by M. E. Barber
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“Keep Up the Song of Faith” by Margaret E. Barber
#389 in Songs and Hymns of Life

Later in her life of service, Margaret E. Barber became a strong person who could bear much misunderstanding, adversity and trial. She could also be strong to fight for God’s interests in the young believers she was charged to disciple. When one youth was gaining popularity for his preaching, she declared, “if you continue to travel for evangelistic work, I will not pray for you any longer!” 

This strength was tested, deepened, and even depended on by the Lord throughout her life. And the depth of her resolution to trust in her Lord is tasted in many of her hymns. I feel this strength in the hymn below. This hymn compels me to stay strong, to dig deep and to fight through the trial of each day. It doesn’t offer simple comfort or doctrinal platitudes. Its phrases are like milk and honey, not directly quoting the Bible but processed through her real experiences. 

Sing this song of faith below with this recording.

Verse 1
Keep up the song of faith,
However dark the night;
And as you praise, the Lord will work,
To change your faith to sight.

Verse 2
Keep up the song of faith,
And let you heart be strong,
For God delights when faith can praise,
Though dark the night and long.

Verse 3
Keep up the song of faith
The foe will hear and flee;
Oh, let not Satan hush your song,
For praise is victory.

Verse 4
Keep up the song of faith,
The dawn will break ere long,
And we shall go to meet the Lord
And join the endless song. 

Barber sent this poem along with a letter to T. Austin-Sparks which he then published in the August 1926 edition of his magazine, A Witness and A Testimony. In her letter, she expounds some light she was seeing in Paul’s experience in Acts 27. This chapter about Paul’s travels as a prisoner on a ship is not easy to draw spiritual principles from; many students simply see a detailed chapter about ancient ship travel. But her insight into the passage is profound and rich, attesting to her own deeply-wrought life experience. Below is an excerpt from the letter she wrote to Austin-Sparks:

In studying Acts 27 I have been noticing how those 276 souls came to the place where “all hope was taken away” before God stepped in. This is often His way. Jesus waits till the fourth watch of the night before He comes to us walking on the sea. If God should thus test our faith, let us glorify His Name, and we too shall see His wonders in the deep.

Let us not be afraid of being kept waiting till all hope has fled. God will glorify His Name at the last moment; only God can afford to wait until the last moment. Then see v. 24, it was only a promise even then. So with us; we are in some deep test, and no deliverance comes, but the Lord sweetly whispers some promise to our tried hearts, and in that strength we go.

Then v.22, the man who is living on the Word of the living God, can save others—276 persons were saved because Paul believed God; compare Luke 1:45.

Can we believe the word of the Lord in the face of a storm and a sinking ship?…

Only God can afford to wait until the last moment.

Since she included this hymn along with her letter, it shares the spirit of what Paul might have been singing and praying himself to hold fast to the Lord. David often sang psalms to “strengthen himself in the Lord” and this hymn similarly must have exhorted Barber to maintain her solidarity with the Lord’s interests in China. 

This hymn, “Keep Up The Song Of Faith”, has a rather long tune for a short poem. But the words are meant to strengthen us in a time of trial. I find that this long tune, by prolonging the time you sing many words and syllables, allows me to bear down into the meaning of the words and sing them from a strong place in my spirit. I’ve found myself even singing this long tune slower than you would sing it in a meeting. As the tune is also triumphant, reaching bold heights in the third line, it allows me to proclaim and shout the faith of this poem to the foes in my situation, whether the foes of my own weakness, or the pressure from the accuser to turn from trusting the faithfulness of the Lord. Let us boldly shout this hymn in the face of the trial the Lord has placed in our way. He delights to have His people trust and praise Him as He works for them unseen. He will change our faith to sight. We will be vindicated in our reliance on Him and we will prove His glory to the generation around us. Keep up the song saints!

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