“I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” 2 Timothy 1:12
Daniel Webster Whittle, the author of this hymn was involved in one of the bloodiest conflict in American history, the Battle of Vicksburg where he lost his right arm, badly injured and was taken prisoner by the Confederates.
He was recovering from his wounds in the hospital where he grew bored and looked around for something to read, somehow God was working ahd he found a spare New Testament. As he read its words, his heart was moved and he felt a need to accept Christ as his Savior, but he wasn’t ready for that at that time. Shortly, however, he was awakened and told to pray with another dying POW because they thought he was a Christian.
Whittle later wrote, “I dropped on my knees and held the boy’s hand in mine. In a few roken words, I confessed my sins and asked Christ to forgive me. I believed right there that He did forgive me. I then prayed and pleaded God’s promises. When I arose from my knees, he was dead. A look of peace had come over his troubled face, and I cannot but believe that God who used him to bring me to the Savior used me to lead him to trust Christ’s precious blood and find pardon.“
He then wrote this hymn – “I Know Whom I Have Believed” – as an expression of his testimony of faith in Jesus Christ
I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.
But I know Whom I have believèd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.
I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.
I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing us of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.
I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.
I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.
Indeed, God work in His own mysterious ways, which we probably find rather difficult to imagine or even to accept. The only more reliable way we can depend on to analyze events is by rationalizing, but again, our brains are limited.
When I was singing this hymn, I can somehow get a taste of what the author felt while writing it. Like, of all people, why did God choose me? I am not better than them in anyway, why? Why would He give His only son to die for us. Why? I mean if we try to think in terms of human beings. Which of us would have that big a heart to do that? It’s simple unfathomable but it’s true.
And to think about it, if that is so unfathomable, then how do we know it’s true? how can we be sure of it? Well, looking at the title of the hymn itself, I know whom I have believed, we should get the whole point which is I have believe first, then I know.
In the second stanza, the author showed that he didn’t understand, didn’t know how God impart the saving faith to him and how believing in His Word can bring peace within his heart. Commonly, people do not really turn to His Word to find comfort, but to things/people which have once given them temporary comfort. Again very commonly, people, myself used to be one, avoided reading His Words, worrying about its authenticity, or maybe they thought they can live as a Christian without struggling or probably enjoying in reading His Words.
Reading the Bible is more than just what we should do because we are Christians, or because we are told to do so. Christians strive to be more like Christ, to live their lives according to what God wants them to be. How then can we announce ourselves as Christians but not live by His Words, which basically contains the content of God’s heart?
In Every Thought Captive, Richard Pratt said that the bible is the absolutely authoritative guide for all believers; without it we are left merely guessing at God’s mind, but with it God’s directives for all areas of our lives are made certain and clear, as Psalmist wrote “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path“.
Lastly, I believe that the author has another message for us through this hymn. All the things that he said he does not know, are less important than what is in the Refrain, taken from 2 Timothy 1:12. Focus less on those things that we do not understand because we are just too limited to do so, but more on our commitment and His Promise and on that day, when He comes again, we will be able to understand all those.
Others may ridicule us for believing in something in which there are so many things we do not really understand, so many mysteries, full of questions. Indeed, our spiritual life may be filled with many things we may not fully understand but by His Grace, we can still live with assurance and certainty of our conquering and triumphant faith.