He Took My Feet

from the Miry Clay

African-American Spiritual

He took my feet from the miry day.

Yes, he did. And placed them on the rock to stay.

Yes, he did.

Like a good hymnbook of any era, the Book of Psalms includes songs of praise that seem to be written and sung in a realm above the daily grind.They are about who God is. "Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise" (48:1); "The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble" (99:1).

But it also contains a good many more subjective songs about "me"-—-what I (the song's writer or reader) need or want or have received from God.

Consider Psalm 40:1—3, attributed to King David. It's a short-short story, with beginning, middle, and end. I paraphrase: I needed to be rescued. I called on God and waited. God delivered me, by pulling me out of "the miry clay" and setting my feet upon a rock. My desperation lifted; I sang a new songof praise. Many people will see what God has done for me; they will hear my song and trust God.

The story, including the strong image—sinking in quicksand contrasted with standing on a solid slab of marble—has held its ground, having been revisited in the American tradition.

There's the old spiritual version. "What the Negroes sang were the psalm tunes of the whites... .What finally emerged as the spiritual was the expression of a people torn violently from one tradition and thrust against their will into another."3 I can imagine this psalm being sung responsively across rows of tobacco.

He took my feet from the miry cloy.

Yes, he did. And placed them on the rock to stay.

Yes, he did.

I can tell the world about this: I can tell the nations I'm blessed, Tell them that Jesus made me whole, And he brought joy, joy to my soul.

And there's also the white nineteenth-century camp meeting version, called "He Brought Me Out." Henry L. Gilmour, a dentist who spent his summers directing camp choirs, tacked this psalm-based refrain onto gospel lyrics by H.J. Zelley for which Gilmour was composing a tune:

He brought me out of the miry clay, He set my feet on the Rock to stay; He puts a song in my soul today, A song of praise, hallelujah!

Zelley's four stanzas fill in the Psalm 40 story line, and his last verse hammers out the psalmist's evangelistic challenge:

I'll sing of his wonderful mercy to me,

I'll praise him till all men his goodness shall see;

I'll sing of salvation at home and abroad,

Till many shall hear the truth and trust in God,

Neither of the American songs short-circuits the ancient story; both acknowledge God's grace.

God moved my feet from the quicksand to the rock. Yes, he did.

And then the songs spread the good news. And so can we.

I can tell the world about this. Yes, I will.

Lord, I thank you for your goodness to me-your having "brought me out." And forgive me for not taking the opportunity to spread the good news of your deliverance with others. Give me an opportunity today.

From the book: "Spiritual Moments with the Great Hymns" by Evelyn Bence.


Passover  tell's  us  in  no  uncertain  way,  that  Jesus  indeed  took  us  from  the  miry  clay  of  sin and  brought  us  to  reconciliation  with  the  Father,  and  His  righteousness.

We can tells others by doing what we can as part of the body of Christ, being as Jesus said, as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. It is not only our words, when someone may ask us about our religious faith, but we are to be lights to the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hid. We speak to others by the way we live.

Keith Hunt