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This is part of an intermittent series I’ve called “Hymns We Should Sing More Often.” The aim is to remind us (or introduce for the first time) excellent hymns that are probably not included in most church’s musical canon. A few hymns–like Holy, Holy, Holy or Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing—are familiar to many congregations and get sung in conferences and other large gatherings. Unfortunately, for a growing number of churches, there are no hymnals in the pews (or on the chairs), and consequently there is little opportunity to draw from the deep well of Christian hymnody. Most of the hymns in this series are not unfamiliar, just underutilized. I hope you will enjoy learning about these hymns as much as I have and enjoy singing them even more.

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These sober lyrics, set to a somber tune, make for an ideal Lenten hymn. The opening line draws from Isaiah 53:4 and its description of the Messianic Suffering Servant: “We considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” In verse two, we are forced to consider the depth of Christ’s passion, his groaning, his betrayal, his insults, and his unmatched grief. The deepest stroke that pierced him, however, was the stroke that divine justice gave.

Sometimes we hear the cross described as a symbol of how precious we were to God. This is true, so long as we understand that we were not some diamond in the rough that irresistibly drew God to us. The cross certainly shows us the depth of God’s love, but is a love wholly undeserved. For the cross, verse three reminds us, displays the true nature of sin and human guilt. Verse four elegantly summarizes the hope of the gospel: “Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel guilt! None shall ever be confounded who on him their hope have built.”

Thomas Kelly (1769-1855) wrote more than 750 hymns, including this one in 1804. Kelly planned to be a lawyer but after his conversion the Irishman decided to enter the ministry. He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1792, but later became a “dissenting” minister.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, see him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected; yes, my soul, ’tis he, ’tis he!
‘Tis the long expected Prophet, David’s son, yet David’s Lord;
by his Son God now has spoken: ’tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me ye who hear him groaning, was there ever grief like his?
Friends thro’ fear his cause disowning, foes insulting his distress;
many hands were raised to wound him, none would interpose to save;
but the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin by lightly nor suppose the evil great
here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load;
’tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation, here the refuge of the lost;
Christ’s the Rock of our salvation, his the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded who on him their hope have built.


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11 thoughts on “Hymns We Should Sing More Often: Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted”

  1. Vickie Ball says:

    Thank you for taking the time to write these intermittent blogs that focus on such theologically sound hymns. So many of us are tremendously grateful.

  2. Richard says:

    Amen, Kevin. These words are so powerful. And we sing this once a year, on Good Friday? Why? Instead of singing insipid songs about love, how about this hymn which speaks so powerfully of God’s holiness, His justice, and the work of our Savior on the Cross? May we sing this often.

  3. The thing is traditional hymns were written how many years ago? Lost on many in the 21st century. The message in them remains unchangeable but the package has to be culturally understandable.. Missionaries understand this concept. But do we? In our western cultures we are not often seen as Christian countries anymore as we have ceased to be relevant and people don’t understand the central core of it ie Christ…. because we seem to speak a language trapped in the past. I am all for worshiping God through song/scripture and music but written in old English which no one speaks anymore. Food for thought. I spend most of my time ministering to non Christians believe they would not understand the purpose or the context. . Even a lot of existing Christians also struggle with it.

  4. lwesterlund says:

    Thank you for this, Kevin. How rich in theology and how freshly expressed! Consider the Biblical understanding of the last line of the second stanza: “But the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave.” This is what the movie, “The Passion” missed. As horrible as the physical suffering was, it did not compare with bearing the full judgment of God, as the holy Son of God takes upon himself all the sins of creation, and becomes sin and thereby is forsaken by his Father, who is too holy to look upon sin. Christ bore our judgment to the fullest–that is what we shall never comprehend.

    In the first verse, the third line refers to Deuteronomy 18:15, and the promise of a “prophet like Moses”, to John 1:19, where the Jews asked John the Baptist if he was The Prophet, and to Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. All in one line! To all who know their Bibles, this line is profound. I want to sing with my mind, obediently and joyfully loving God with my mind, which then warms my heart, which then outflows in the expression of music. The musical setting is appropriately solemn, because we cannot grasp the weight of what is happening. But it is not sad. It embodies, to quote Lewis, a solemn joy. Singing shallow songs, full of cliches, set to happy, clappy music, is a great loss for the Church, and reveals a shallow grasp of our salvation. Again, thank you.for this great hymn of Thomas Kelly.

  5. Sarah Norton says:

    Thank you for this post. Such a powerful song. I’ve sung it several times over the years with the Women’s Ensemble at my church. This Good Friday the ensemble sang “To See the King of Heaven Fall” by Getty. Such a powerful song, here are the lyrics. I pray it blesses those who read it.

    To see the King of heaven fall
    In anguish to His knees,
    The Light and Hope of all the world
    Now overwhelmed with grief.
    What nameless horrors must He see,
    To cry out in the garden:
    Oh, take this cup away from me
    Yet not my will but Yours,
    Yet not my will but Yours.

    To know each friend will fall away,
    And heavens voice be still,
    For hell to have its vengeful day
    Upon Golgothas hill.
    No words describe the Saviors plight –
    To be by God forsaken
    Till wrath and love are satisfied
    And every sin is paid
    And every sin is paid

    What took Him to this wretched place,
    What kept Him on this road?
    His love for Adams curséd race,
    For every broken soul.
    No sin too slight to overlook,
    No crime too great to carry,
    All mingled in this poisoned cup
    And yet He drank it all,
    The Savior drank it all,
    The Savior drank it all.

  6. Brad Donovan says:

    We sing this every Easter in our Church. We use the Cantus Christi. That hymnal has lots of great hymns as well as Psalms. Mr. Deyoung, on the topic of penetential or lenten hymns, what do you think of “O God of Earth and Altar” by Chesterton?

  7. Zimmerman says:

    Great write up. We recorded a version of this that is very accessible for congregational worship.
    The charts are available at: http://zimmermanband.com/stricken-smitten-and-afflicted/

    I always love knowing a bit about the hymn writer…it’s useful in setting up and introducing a song like this to the church. Thanks Kevin.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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