Posted by: rcottrill | March 9, 2012

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Words: Thomas Obediah Chisholm (b. July 29, 1866; d. Feb. 29, 1960)
Music: Faithfulness (or Runyan), by William Marion Runyan (b. Jan. 21, 1870; d. July 29, 1957)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Since the day of Thomas Chisholm’s birth coincides (nearly a century later) with the date of William Runyan’s death, you can see a note about both men in the Wordwise Hymns link. The former gentleman is also somewhat unique among the better known hymn writers in that he died on February 29th.

This is a near perfect gospel song. The words and thoughts are biblical and inspiring, and the tune fits the text beautifully. The opening stanza of the hymn, and the overall theme, is based on the words of the prophet Jeremiah in the book of Lamentations:

“Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).

As the name of the book suggests, Lamentations is a series of laments over the destruction of the city of Jerusalem (Lam. 1:1), and over the fact that the people of Israel had been carried into captivity in Babylon (vs. 3). The prophets had warned them for years to turn from their idolatry and unbelief and seek the Lord, but there was little response. Now, the blow had fallen. In great grief, Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, stared at the ruins of his beloved city. So, was that the end?

No. There was still a believing remnant remaining, including Jeremiah himself. And God had promised Israel that they would experience a restoration to their own land. The Babylonian Captivity would last only for seventy years (Jer. 25:11). Then they would be allowed to return. And the books of Ezra and Nehemiah show that they did. Further, there would be a glorious future for the nation one day, under the reign of the Messiah (Isa. 2:1-4; 9:6-7; 35:1-10).

God is faithful and trustworthy. What He promises will come to pass. That is the basis for the encouraging words in Lamentations, and it’s the basic theme of the hymn. The opening stanza also draws on the promise of James 1:17.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

God “does not change like shifting shadows” (NIV); “there is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency” in Him (Philips Paraphrase).

CH-1) Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

In the temperate zone where I live, we have four distinct seasons. They roll around each year, on a schedule that can be relied upon–which is exactly what the Lord promised after the flood of Noah’s day: “While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).

In Thomas Chisholm’s hymn, the rolling seasons (CH-2) become a graphic object lesson on the faithfulness of God, one which can encourage our faith when it comes to the promised eternal salvation in Christ (CH-3). The Lord pledges, in passage after passage, that if we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive Him as our Saviour, our sins will be forgiven, and we’ll receive God’s gift of eternal life (e.g. Jn. 1:12-13; 3:16; 14:6).

CH-3) Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Praise the Lord for His great faithfulness and for His trustworthy Word!

1) For what provision or event have you been led to praise the Lord for His faithfulness in this past week?

2) Whom can you tell about this blessing, to encourage their faith too?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. […] his friend said, “Jake, don’t you know who that man is? Why, he’s the fellow that wrote Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Saying that was his favourite hymn, Stam responded, “That sure is worth five dollars–I’ll […]


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