From Martin Luther: Hymns, Ballads, Chants, Truth page 26-27:
A paraphrase of Psalm 12, this hymn was written in 1523, the same time as many of Luther’s other psalm-hymns. It was published in the first Lutheran hymnal, Achtliederbuch, of 1524. Luther’s version of the psalm reflects much of his own experience in the early days of the Reformation. Though several different tunes were used for this text with various levels of success, the present tune dates from 1524 and is possibly by Luther himself.
Prelude: Ach Gott vom Himmel
George Friedrich Kauffmann, 1679-1735
Publisher: BÃ¤renreiter-Verlag, Kassel
LYRICS – O LORD, LOOK DOWN FROM HEAVEN, BEHOLD
Martin Luther 1524
1. O Lord, look down from heav’n, behold
and let Thy pity waken;
How few are we within Thy fold,
Thy saints by men forsaken!
True faith seems quenched on ev’ry hand,
men suffer not Thy Word to stand;
Dark times have us o’er taken.
2. With fraud which they themselves invent
Thy truth they have confounded;
Their hearts are not with one consent on Thy pure doctrine grounded.
While they parade with outward show,
they lead the people to and fro.
In error’s maze astounded.
3. May God root out all heresy
and of false teachers rid us
Who proudly say: “Now, where is he
that shall our speech forbid us?
By right or might we shall prevail;
what we determine cannot fail;
We own no lord and master.
4. Therefore saith God, “I must arise,
the poor My help are needing;
To Me ascend My people’s cries,
and I have heard their pleading.
For them My saving Word shall fight
and fearlessly and sharply smite.
The poor with might defending.
5. As silver tried by fire is pure from all adulteration,
So through God’s Word shall men endure
each trial and temptation.
Its light beams brighter through the cross,
and, purified from human dross,
It shines through ev’ry nation.
6. Defend Thy truth, O God,
and stay this evil generation;
And from the error of its way
keep Thine own congregation.
The wicked ev’rywhere abound
and would Thy little flock confound;
But Thou art our Salvation.