Posted by: rcottrill | May 2, 2019

How Great Thou Art

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Words: Carl Gustaf Boberg (b. Aug. 16, 1859; d. Jan. 7, 1940); English translation, Stuart Wesley Keen Hine (b. July 25, 1899; d. Mar. 14, 1989)
Music: a Swedish folk melody of unknown origin, adapted by Stuart Hine

Wordwise Hymns (Carl Boberg, Stuart Hine) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Carl Boberg was converted to Christ at the age of nineteen. Later, he served in the Swedish parliament for many years, and was also one of the leaders in the evangelical church of his country. As well as being a lay preacher, Boberg edited two hymn books, and wrote a great deal of poetry, including a now famous hymn.

We use various words to describe the bigness or grandness of a thing. In commercial advertising, the English language is deeply mined to find new and tantalizing ways to impress us with the superlative nature of a product or service. Whatever it is, it’s huge, stupendous, colossal, gigantic, or mammoth. It’s the jumbo size, or the giant economy size.

Sometimes people receive similar treatment by being labeled “great.” In history, there’s Cyrus the Great, the ruler of Persia, Alexander the Great, the Greek conqueror, and Catherine the Great, the empress of Russia. In sports, hockey’s Wayne Gretzky is the Great One, and boxing’s Muhammad Ali proclaimed himself the Greatest.

But let’s turn to the Bible. As the Scriptures begin, at creation, the sun and moon are “great lights” for the earth (Gen. 1:16). We also learn that great wickedness brought the judgment of the flood in Noah’s time (Gen. 6:5), and that God promised to make of Abraham’s descendants “a great nation” (Gen. 12:2). The Lord told the patriarch, “I [Myself] am…your exceedingly great reward” (Gen. 15:1). And here we approach infinite greatness. Certainly, “God is greater than man” (Job 33:12).

We can legitimately argue whether or not grandiose advertising claims are justified. But Almighty God is in a unique category. Since He is, by definition, the supreme Being, He is supremely great. And because the Bible deals so much with the person and works of the infinite and the eternal God, it’s not surprising that some form of the word “great” is used there over a thousand times.

“How great is Your goodness,” cries the psalmist (Ps. 31:19), and “How great are Your works” (Ps. 92:5). He is a God of great mercy (Ps. 145:8), of great power (Isa. 40:26; Eph. 1:19), and great love (Eph. 2:4). And “the Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad” (Ps. 126:3). But in the end, the inspired writers must admit that words fail them, because “[God’s] greatness is unsearchable [beyond comprehension]” (Ps. 145:3).

Through faith in Christ, we receive a “great salvation” (Heb. 2:3), and the Lord Jesus Himself is “our great God and Saviour” (Tit. 2:13), our “great High Priest” in heaven (Heb. 4:14), and our “great Shepherd” through life (Heb. 13:20). At the end of the Bible we read of “a great multitude” praising God in the heavenly kingdom (Rev. 19:1, 6), because “the Lord is great and greatly to be praised” (Ps. 96:4).

Carl Boberg thought so. One day, he experienced a sudden thunderstorm, and the later return of bright sunshine on the newly washed scene, with the singing of the birds. It caused him to fall to His knees and worship the God of creation, and led him to write the Swedish version of How Great Thou Art (O Store Gud). After being set to music, the hymn was translated into German, and then Russian.

Stuart Hine, a British missionary working in the Ukraine, translated the Russian song into English, and it was passed on to the Billy Graham team when they were holding meetings in London, in 1954. It was introduced to North America by gospel singer Bev Shea in a Toronto Crusade, a year later. Since then, it has often ranked in polls as either our favourite hymn, or places second only to Amazing Grace.

CH-1) O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

CH-2) When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

CH-3) And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

1) In your view, what is the greatest thing about our great God?

2) Why are there relatively few in the world who worship our great and wonderful God?

Wordwise Hymns (Carl Boberg, Stuart Hine) (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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