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"Songs of Faith: Part 5 - All People That On Earth Do Dwell" 1/24/24

Dear Brothers & Sisters,

There are no songs like them on earth, breathed out by God Himself as the Holy Spirit moved men of God to compose these meditations and hymns of praise: I am speaking of the Psalms. 

Through the years, Christians have sought to put the psalms to music, so that we might better commit these God inspired words to our minds and hearts. Even today, groups like The Psalms Project and The Corner Room continue to put the psalms to music for our benefit. Traditionally, these collections of the psalms were known as a Psalter. In essence, a psalter is a metrical form of the Psalms put to music. Think of it like a very close paraphrase that was written to be sung (typically in unison, though harmonizations were later developed). Psalm singing was a major part of the Reformation. As the various Reformers sought to go back to the Scriptures, they sought to sing the very songs of Scripture as closely as possible. 

All People That On Earth Do Dwell, a hymn based on Psalm 100, is one of these psalms. First published in 1561, the text of the psalm was written by a man named William Kethe. William, along with other English Reformers, fled to Geneva, Switzerland to escape persecution during Queen Mary's reign (1553-1558). Looking back upon history, we can see how God used this brief but bloody time to strengthen and shore up the church in England. These exiled Christians brought back with them the Geneva Bible (one of the first translations of the Bible into English) and an English Edition of the original Genevan Psalter. Both the English and the (original) French versions of the Genevan Psalter were among the first complete metrical Psalters published. The other figure involved in the composition of All People That On Earth Do Dwell is Louis Bourgeois a French Composer. Bourgeois, tasked with revising the music for the French Psalter, had written the tune ten years earlier. Actually, Bourgeois originally wrote the tune for Psalm 134, but (since it fit the metre of Kethe's translation) it was used in the English psalter for Psalm 100. Using the same tune for different songs was much more common in those days. In fact, many of you will recognize the tune of All People that on Earth do Dwell from another song written much later. The Doxology ("Praise God from whom all Blessings Flow")* borrowed that same tune nicknamed the "Old Hundredth". 

*fun fact: The Doxology written by Thomas Ken (1709) was originally the final verse of a longer hymn called "Awake My Soul, and With the Sun", but soon the doxology became popular on its own.

Sources on All People That On Earth Do Dwell: Hymnology Archive & (article June 9th, 2022)

Like the psalm on which it was based, All People That On Earth Do Dwell is a hymn of praise to God. The psalm invites all people to join in praising YHWH the LORD who is God. This God who one day (c. 2000 years ago) laid down his life for his sheep. This God who died a cursed death on a tree, so that those who believe in Him would be forever His people, His flock whom He purchased with his own blood. Brothers & Sisters, the truths proclaimed in Psalm 100 are not abstract, they are as concrete and real as the LORD who was crushed for our iniquities so that all we who "like sheep have gone astray" (Isaiah 53:6) might become His people (through faith in Him).

Do you believe in Christ? Praise the LORD God then, for He is good, His steadfast love is ever towards His own, His faithfulness continues, now and always it is sure. It is indeed fitting that the flock of God should praise their LORD. 

As you read the words of the hymn and of the Scriptures below, consider the LORD and give thanks to Him today and always. Praise Him, not with mere lip service, but with all your being: with your tongue and with your actions from the heart. 

All People that on Earth do Dwell

1 All people that on earth do dwell,

Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.

Him serve with fear;* His praise forth tell.

Come ye before Him and rejoice.

2 Know that the LORD is God indeed;

Without our aid He did us make.

We are His flock; He doth us feed,

And for His sheep He doth us take.

3 O enter then His gates with praise;

Approach with joy His courts unto.

Praise, laud, and bless His Name always,

For it is seemly so to do.

4 For why? The Lord our God is good;

His mercy is forever sure.

His truth at all times firmly stood,

And shall from age to age endure.


*The Scots changed this line to 'serve him with mirth' in keeping with the psalm's emphasis on joy and gladness.

You can listen to a rendition of the song here:

For further study, compare with Psalm 100 below. Reflect on the commands given for us to do and the truths given for us to hold onto.

Psalm 100

1  Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2  Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;*

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

*Or and not we ourselves

Grace & Peace,


Matthew Deneault

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