Here is Love

One evening in church a little while back, I got distracted while singing one of the choruses. My eyes happened to light on the final words of an unfamiliar hymn on the opposite page: And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice kissed a guilty world in love.

Hmm, I mused. The ‘suspicion’ switch turned on in my head.

If I’m not mistaken, I thought, those lyrics are a reference to Psalm 85:10. I immediately began to wonder about the age of the hymn. There was nothing helpful on the page except the composer’s name, William Rees, along with two verses:

Here is love, vast as the ocean,

Loving-kindness as the flood,

When the Prince of Life, our Ransom,

Shed for us His precious blood.

Who His love will not remember?

Who can cease to sing His praise?

He can never be forgotten,

Throughout heav’n’s eternal days.


On the mount of crucifixion,

Fountains opened deep and wide;

Through the floodgates of God’s mercy

Flowed a vast and gracious tide.

Grace and love, like mighty rivers,

Poured incessant from above,

And heav’n’s peace and perfect justice

Kissed a guilty world in love.


It looked old. But not that old. It lacked a telltale thee or thou. Still those apostrophes were hopeful signs.

One thing I have discovered in researching the theological understanding of bygone days is this: there is shared cultural knowledge which is never made explicit in old texts. Writers assume that their readers share their background and allude to many concepts they don’t bother to explain. This is true even for the early Christian writers who often referred to ideas they obviously didn’t feel the need to clarify.

Such a concept is a threshold or cornerstone covenant.  The knowledge of this kind of covenant seems to have only disappeared recently—in the last two hundred years or so. There are faint remnants of it that hang around, distant echoes of what was once common knowledge: carrying a bride over the threshold, making resolutions on New Year’s Day, first footing.

Disparate, odd relics of an ancient past.

In researching the idea of a threshold covenant in Scripture and re-constructing an understanding of its nature, I’ve discovered allusions to it in some very unexpected places. For instance, many of the Greek words that Paul uses in describing the Armour of God in Ephesians 6 are puns to do with doorways and thresholds. And Paul, like many poets after him, linked the divine armour to the kiss of peace, faithfulness, righteousness and truth in Psalm 85:10-11.

Was William Rees amongst their number? That’s what I wondered as I saw those last two lines of his hymn, so reminiscent of the words of the Psalmist: Mercy and Truth meet together, Peace and Justice kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth and righteousness looks down from heaven.’

If I was fortunate enough and those words went back as far as the Middle Ages, then I was sure I’d find both an interesting numerical pattern (a sequence like 111 or 1111 or 11111) and a reference to God as covenant defender.

The words, however, only go back to the nineteenth century. They are, in fact, a translation from the Welsh. William Rees was better known by his bardic name ‘Gwilym Hiraethog’. His hymn became immensely popular and, during 1904–905, it was so often used it was called The Love Song of the Welsh Revival.

This should have been the end of the road as far as my investigations went. But I’d spent too long in medieval texts and in Scripture. I was sure that 1111 should be there. It’s one of those sticky fingerprints the Holy Spirit seems to leave everywhere. He’s been doing it for over 4000 years—why should He stop now?

The only place I could think to find this number sequence was the date of the Welsh Revival. So I checked it out. The actual start is not known with total certainty—only that it began some time in the fortnight following October 31st, 1904.

A minute’s calculation reveals that the end of that fortnight is 1414 days into the twentieth century. (A medieval poet would have loved that number which is a multiple of both 7 and 101. I’m sure Paul of Tarsus would have loved it too because he uses multiples of 101 words at both the beginning and end of Ephesians. Sorry, sorry, sorry to all my writerly friends. This is the age of Twitter. Do not follow his example!  Keep your sentences under 17 words. Now, the mathematical metaphor 101 is symbolic of music and the work of Jehovah Jireh, the sustainer. But you’ll just have to take my word for that for the moment.)

1414 days is 303 too many! Rats! How can I get rid of them?

Hmm, wait a minute. The Welsh are Celts. October 31st is actually the end of a Celtic year. It’s the last day of their year: Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve. The day before All Saints’ Day. Should I take that as a hint?

Well, why not?

How long is it from the start of the Celtic century to the end of the fortnight following October 31st, 1904?  Well, what do you know? It’s 1110 days.

So, from the end of the previous Celtic century, it was 1111 days.

A medieval poet would have swooned with ecstasy at this result: 1111 days in one calendar system and 1414 in another, the difference being 303 days which is the logos of 490 (or seventy times seven).

I just love finding where the hidden fingerprints of God are within history. (There’s a really nifty one to do with the moon landing but that’s perhaps a story for another time.)

As we step across the threshold into the New Year, let us celebrate God’s kiss: His desire to bring mercy, truth, peace and justice to this world. Let’s make a resolution: to keep our eyes fixed on the One who sits on the throne and says: Behold, I make all things new! ’



  1. Judy Rogers

    WOW Annie. Amazing detective skills at work again. Is there any message in the fact that ps 85:10 adds up to 14? That’s a fortnight.
    Just thinking – Love ya,

  2. I quite readily admit, I don’t understand all the links with poetry and numbers and thresholds, but I find it absolutely fascinating and love reading about it in your posts and your book, ‘God’s Poetry’.

    “There’s a really nifty one to do with the moon landing but that’s perhaps a story for another time.” I think we should hold you to that Annie 🙂

    Many blessings for the New Year

    • I’ve put it in my next book God’s Panoply. It’s not quite as perfect in the string-of-ones category as the Welsh Revival – but it’s very close. And, of course, there’s a reason it’s not perfect – but that’s part of the story too.

  3. No-one can say you’re not determined Annie to keep going till you find the answer.

    • My mum says I was born asking, ‘Why?’ She then made the mistake of taking my questions seriously. I think it built into me, from a very early age, the belief that there were answers and that the ask-seek-knock principle would always yield results.

  4. Brian Johnson found that hymn a few years back, and started mixing it into their worship sets. if you allow links you might enjoy this.

  5. Hi Ben

    That is a very cool version from Bethel. However, call me old-fashioned, but I much prefer the version by Eden’s Bridge (here, along with Be Thou My Vision, at and Huw Priday’s soul-soaring rendition in both Welsh and English at

  6. Annie, fascinating as always. It’s simple to follow YOU thinking, but not so simple to follow your THINKING. Actually, I’m afraid to write any response to you because you may translate my words into numbers, and then discount me.
    Anyway, I love your words, though responding makes me a trifle paranoid. Some of your conclusions I don’t agree with, but that does not matter at all to my appreciation and affection.
    Happy, Blessed New Year, whenever it starts!

  7. Catherine Hudson

    Yet again you fascinate me with your knowledge, Anne. Really though, how amazing is our God? He puts His thumb print in so many poignant places – if only everyone could see it!

  8. Annie you knock my socks off with your insights! Have a happy new year.

  9. lucie law

    I have recently bought a derilict cottage and found 3 portraits of Both Rev William Rees and Rev Thomas Rees. I have found relatives of theirs who now live in America. It has been a fascinating journey in finding out their past and to find a home where the portraits can be cherished.

    • Wow, Lucie! That’s some neat detective work. How cool to make such a discovery. And congrats on your persistence!

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