iThis hymn was written by a Lutheran pastor, Martin Rinkart (1586-1649) in the village of Eilenberg, Saxony. When he began his pastorate, the Thirty Years War was in progress. Refugees fled into Eilenberg while the Swedish army laid siege to the walled city. The times were desperate. People were dying from famine and plague. Pastors were under terrible strain as they attempted to preach the gospel while caring for the sick and dying and burying the dead. One after another, the pastors also became ill and died until only Martin Rinkart was left. On some days he conducted as many as fifty funerals. Finally the Swedes demanded a ransom. It was Pastor Rinkart who left the safety of the city to negotiate with the enemy and bring a conclusion to the hostility and suffering. He composed this hymn in thanksgiving for the survivors of Eilenberg. What a wonderful example of giving thanks in all circumstances. In Germany it is used in the same way Americans sing the doxology.
Now thank we all our God, With heart and hand and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done, In whom this world rejoices,
Who from our mothers’ arms, Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us,
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next.
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son and Him who reigns with them in highest heaven,
The one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore,
For thus it was, is now, and shall be ever more.