Posted by: rcottrill | February 5, 2018

My God, How Wonderful Thou Art

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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.

Words: Frederick William Faber (b. June 28, 1814; d. Sept. 26, 1863)
Music: Azmon, by Carl Gotthelf Gläser (b. May 4, 1781; d. Aug. 16, 1829); arranged by Lowell Mason (b. Jan. 8, 1792; Aug. 11, 1872)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Frederick Faber) (for another article on this hymn see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: As the Wordwise Hymns link explains, Faber was an Anglican who became a Catholic. He wrote eleven hymns for Catholics to sing, modeling them after the hymns of Newton and Wesley, whose songs he greatly admired. Since there are some areas of agreement between Catholic and Protestant beliefs, several of his hymns are used by both groups.

This hymn originally had nine stanzas. It was first published in Jesus and Mary, or Catholic Hymns for Singing and Reading (1849). The song’s original title was “The Eternal Father.”

It’s important to be able to distinguish differences, to understand them, and treat them accordingly. This discernment of things that are separate and distinct from one another can sometimes be the means of avoiding danger.

To discern the difference between cold water and hot water could save us from getting burned. To distinguish between bare pavement and an icy road could help us avoid an accident. In the spiritual realm, for the welfare of the people of Israel, God told the Old Testament priests to teach the people “the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean (Ezek. 44:23).

Some differences are relative. For example, there isn’t a hard line between being poor and being wealthy. What some would consider poverty, others might see as abundance. But other differences are so obvious that one virtually excludes the other. Black and white, dead and alive, both are clearly opposites. And a woman is either pregnant or she’s not. There’s no such thing as being partly pregnant.

In a familiar passage in Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us “to everything there is a season,” in this life (Ecc. 3:1). He proceeds, in verses 2-8, to distinguish fourteen pairs–planting and harvesting, killing and healing, tearing and sewing up, loving and hating, and so on. Some of twosomes are completely distinct. But others could be happening at the same time, even though they are different.

There is one instance when the differences are so absolute there’s a great and uncrossable divide between the two. That’s the differences between God and man. Relating to the infinite and eternal God in any meaningful way is as far beyond us puny mortals as it would be for an ant to relate to a human being.

Lord’s uniqueness includes some things described by terms beginning with the Latin prefix omini, meaning all.

¤ God is omnipresent, all (or everywhere) present (Jer. 23:24), while we are located in only one place at a time.

¤ God is omniscient, all knowing and understanding all things (Ps. 147:5), while we are ignorant and foolish about so many things.

¤ God is omnipotent, all powerful (Rev. 19:6), and we’re weak and severely limited in what we can do.

Beyond these there’s a moral wall of separation between us that we cannot cross. God is utterly holy and righteous (Ps. 92:15), whereas we all are corrupted by sin (Isa. 59:2; Rom. 3:23).

How can a man and an ant communicate and relate? They could if the man were to have the power to become an ant. How then can God and human beings communicate and relate to one another? They can, and have done, through Christ, God the Son who became Man.

With His incarnation in the womb of a young virgin, Christ took on our humanity. Now, “we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). And through faith in Him, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us (II Cor. 5:21), and He invites us to come to Him for grace and mercy, in our need (Heb. 4:16; cf. Matt. 11:28).

In 1849, Frederick Faber created a beautiful hymn that expresses the contrast between the greatness of God and the unworthiness of poor fallen human beings. Yet Faber dared to believe that the Lord would receive us, by His grace.

CH-1) My God, how wonderful Thou art,
Thy majesty, how bright;
How beautiful Thy mercy seat
In depths of burning light!

CH-2) How dread are Thine eternal years,
O everlasting Lord,
By prostrate spirits day and night
Incessantly adored!

CH-3) How beautiful, how beautiful,
The sight of Thee must be,
Thine endless wisdom, boundless power,
And awful purity!

CH-5) Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord,
Almighty as Thou art;
For Thou hast stooped to ask of me
The love of my poor heart.

CH-6) Oh then this worse than worthless heart
In pity deign to take,
And make it love Thee, for Thyself
And for Thy glory’s sake.

Questions:
1) What are some things about God that are “wonderful”? (A good question to ask if you find your prayer times too often focused on requests.)

2) Why did the Lord stoop to save us?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Frederick Faber) (for another article on this hymn see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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