“Lift that Name High!” by M. E. Barber
#34 in Songs and Hymns of Life
Lift that Name high! The name of Jesus our King! Each verse of this hymn commands us to praise the Lord! This kind of praise is effective in all sorts of conditions. Are you seeking to come into the Lord’s presence? Lift His Name high! Are you perplexed about sudden changes in your life? Find strength by praising the Lord, by lifting His Name high! Are you bearing the burdens of a brother or sister near you (Galatians 6:2)? Persevere in that spiritual fight by lifting Jesus’s Name high!
Sing through the hymn and trace its thought. The tune can be found here. What is the scope of each verse and how does that shift throughout the song?
Lift that Name high! That glorious Name,
Let heav’n and earth its pow’r proclaim;
Our mighty, conqu’ring, coming King,
Earth yet shall with His praises ring.
Lift that Name high! To that high tower
We flee in every trial hour,
Safe, sheltered, satisfied and free,
For Jesus’ Name is victory.
Lift that Name high! Until one day
His mighty Name the earth shall sway,
And sin and death, distress and pain
Shall be no more, for Christ shall reign.
Lift that Name high! Jesus shall reign,
And kings shall follow in His train;
Lift that Name high, all names above,
The Name of Him we own and love.
Lift that Name high! For every knee
Shall bow to Him; Jesus shall see
Fruit of His Cross, when earth shall bring
Her tribute to her Lord and King.
In tracing the path of M. E. Barber’s thought, I am struck with how little of the poem focuses on comfort in our trials. Verse 1 starts with a universal view, “Let heaven and earth proclaim the power of the name of Jesus!” Only Verse 2 descends to our present challenges—this Name is a high tower we flee to for refuge. Here in Jesus, we are safe, sheltered, satisfied and free. This praise brings us into such a victory!
Verse 3 looks away to our King’s return. When Jesus reigns, all these pains and trials will fall away because all the earth will be under His sway.
Verse 4 continues in Christ’s return—Jesus WILL reign, and He will reign with co-kings. Those kings follow in his train like a triumphal procession (2 Corinthians 2:14). Their mark, in the songwriter’s words, is that they owned and loved the name of Jesus.
Verse 5 rejoices in the day of Christ’s Millennial Kingdom. In that day, all nations will bow and confess that Jesus is Lord. This is an aspect of the victory and “joy set before Him (that) He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).”
As simple as this song is in some ways, it can be hard for me to enter into it or to find freshness when singing it. It can feel too objective or too simple. Or perhaps my inability to enter into this song reflects on my present state. If I’m too passive, too complacent or not clear what I’m fighting for, do I have a heart that really needs the grace in this song? We can see that most of this hymn is laser focused on the coming of our Lord–only verse 2 addresses our present struggles. What can we learn from M. E. Barber, from why she wrote this song or the circumstances in which she would sing it?
In the history of her that is available, we have no direct reference to this hymn or to the background of when it was written. We do not have any anecdote of her singing praises in the midst of a trial. But this hymn is just one of many of Barber’s hymns that address praise in the midst of a spiritual fight. These hymns all have a perspective of our overcoming with Christ and eventual co-reign with Christ. For Barber, being an overcomer was not a teaching or an end-times construct. Instead, it was a living pursuit she put herself into each day. She abandoned herself in love to the Lord. She wrote lines like, “I want nothing for myself: I want everything for the Lord.” And thus she spent 34 years fighting for His interests in distant foreign land. In that fight, she clung to His Name in praise, song and declaration as her writings show. These were the weapons of her warfare..
Although we do not have any historical witnessed accounts of Barber singing praises in the midst of trials, because she wrote many fighting-praise hymns, we can see how much of a refuge and a power that praise was for her. Whether it’s “Keep Up the Song of Faith” (SHL 389), “Hallelujah! Christ is Victor!” (SHL506), “Glorious, Mighty Name of Jesus” (SHL 35) or this hymn, “Lift That Name High!”, her pen and voice were filled with declarations. She had many utterances she could declare, proclaim and sing in the darkest hour that would bring her into the strength of the grace of her King. Like David, she “strengthened (her)self in the LORD (her) God.” (1 Samuel 30:6) She knew that serving such a reigning King did not mean the fight would always be easy. But she could write lines like, “What though the warrior faint, If but the fight be won!” and, “Jesus waits till the fourth watch of the night before He comes to us walking on the sea… God will glorify His Name at the last moment; only God can afford to wait until the last moment.” She experienced this often in her life, literally coming down to the last dollar. But she learned, “Having a promise, we can wait for its fulfilment…Let us trust, however dark things seem, and keep up the song of faith, ‘I believe God, that it shall be, even as it was told me’ (Luke 1:45) and the thing impossible shall be done.” (1)
Thus we see how often she turned to these songs to strengthen herself unto faithful endurance. And it is that endurance that I taste when I declare this song. No matter how hard the day, it is so life-giving to Lift His Name High, loudly and buoyantly! No matter how persistent the challenge, having the King will put all things in perspective. All heaven and earth will be swayed by Him, will bow down at His name, and under his headship, all sin and distress will pass away. What I really need, and what we all really need is the real King. And not just a King in our spirits. We need the King here—to come and take His place on earth. This is our hope and what sustains a heart strengthened for patient endurance! So saints, Lift His Name High!
- This quote is also from her letter in T. Austin-Sparks in A Witness and A Testimony