Story Behind Song #91 "Holy Is the Lord of Hosts" by Nolene Prince
"Would the lady who was conducting the choir please come up here."
I was startled by the request in front of six or seven hundred people, but obediently stood up from my seat several rows back and walked forward.
The preacher was evangelist Dick Mills. I’m not sure the title "evangelist" exactly fitted him. He had an unusual ministry that had emerged after he memorised over a thousand verses from the Bible - verses relating to promises of God. He found that when he prayed for people, verses would spring to his mind - helpful verses, related to issues in the person’s life of which he knew nothing. The effect was often dramatic and many people had been helped immensely. So he was more a prophet than an evangelist, but I think the title "prophet" would spook a few people and that’s probably why he chose "evangelist".
It was the last night of a week of public meetings with Dick Mills, and we had seen his remarkable gift operating multiple times, so I wondered what he had for me. Happily all his words were recorded and we still have a copy. This is what he said.
“When you were up there leading, the Lord spoke to me by a word of knowledge, indicating that he is going to give you an original song - a song that will be easily sung by masses of people. Also, it will be a song that will be easily translated into other languages. Have you ever written music? Yes? Okay … a song that will bless the church … You’re going to get this song when you’re in bed - isn’t that something? … “(At this point he quoted several scriptures including Psalm 32:7: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance“ and Psalm 149:5: “Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.”) He said the song would come from the scriptures and I would take the words and make them rhyme.
Four very specific things! It seemed impossible. A song that would bless the church, be easily sung, translatable into other languages and written in bed! I had composed a few songs to that point, but while some went quite well, none had been wildly successful, none had shown promise for translation and certainly none had been written in bed. I always worked at the piano, with one hand on the keys, the other with pen and paper.
Nevertheless, I dutifully placed a pen and manuscript paper on the bedside table. After all, faith without works is dead! And I really don’t like getting out of bed!
At about ten pm I was in bed reading Isaiah chapter six:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."
I began to picture the scene Isaiah was describing, the throne, its glory and the worshipping seraphim. As I did I could hear in my mind something of the melody they were singing, so I picked up the pen and paper and wrote it down.
A few minutes later my husband Dennis came in. I told him I had just written a song. He said he had just found a good verse for a song, and asked where mine was from. To our amazement, it was the identical passage from Isaiah six! It was pure “‘coincidence” - we had not been intentionally following the same readings at all.
We sang the song “Holy is the Lord of Hosts” at our church and taught it in several other places around the country. People loved to worship God through it. But we said nothing of the prophecy - happy to let God do what he wanted without pushing the issue. Months later I sent a copy to David and Dale Garratt in New Zealand. They were well known for song books they had produced called Scripture in Song and had already used a couple of my other songs. I told them nothing of the prophecy I had received.
A year or so later David phoned me on some copyright issues. He told me they had travelled to several countries teaching worship and that Holy is the Lord of Hosts had been very popular. They had even included it in an album they recorded in French! Excited by that piece of information I told him of the prophecy. David then related to me about some meetings they had conducted for Christian gatherings at the Montreal Olympic Games. The visitors and athletes from many countries sang the song together, translating into their various languages.
Since then we have heard multiple stories of the song in other countries. A friend was in a German church, not understanding a word of the service, when to his delight they began singing the song in German. We received a book published in Chinese which contained the song and another in Japanese. A request came in to use it in a South African song book in Afrikaans. A well-known missionary movie The Wait of the World included a scene in a small church in South America with the people singing Holy is the Lord of Hosts in Spanish. It has been used in Holland and in Russia. And there are many others we have lost track of.
We went on to publish our own praise and worship song books, with compilations of the best songs we could find from all over the world. They were widely used by several thousand churches around Australia. I usually included one of my own songs with each new release and over the years probably wrote fifty more songs, some of which became quite popular. But none gained the worldwide popularity of Holy is the Lord of Hosts, and none was birthed from a specific prophecy in the same way. As I write this, almost four decades later, we still receive significant royalties from its use around the world - a tangible measure that the church is still being blessed by singing it.
It was truly a song from Heaven, a miracle from God.