March 13, 2018
How Great Thou Art
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the works thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed;
Refrain: Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, how great thou art! How great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, how great thou art! How great thou art!
When through the woods and forest glades I wander, I 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; (Refrain)
But 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; (Refrain)
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration and there proclaim, “My God, how great thou art!” (Refrain)
Text: Carl G. Boberg, 1859-1940; tr. And adapts, Stuart K. Hine, 1899-1989.
The sights and sounds of the great outdoors are frequently awe-inspiring and, because of that, the words and sounds of How Great Thou Art often come to me in those settings. Lightning and thunder provided the original author, Swedish poet Carl Boberg, with the inspiration to write these verses, but they continue to resonate far beyond stormy experiences.
This song came to my mind several times during a Boy Scout summer camp. The first was high up on the mountain as we hiked around the corner into a high valley that opened up into the plains below. It was a cool morning as many are in the Rockies even in the summer. We could see the beginning of a layer of clouds forming at the entrance to the valley. As we followed the trail around the edges of the valley, we got to watch the cloud layer expand and seemingly back itself up the valley until it engulfed us in a cool, foggy mist. It was something of an emotional experience for a bunch of kids from Kansas, and the discussion that followed expressed awe and wonder at the speed and scale of the changes we had just experienced.
Another time on the same camping trip was more closely aligned to the author’s original inspiration. The usual afternoon storms came in a bit stronger, so we returned to camp and sat in our tents watching the storm. We had commented on how different the thunder seemed to be, whether from the thin mountain air or the forest of trees—something seemed different. We were counting the intervals between the flash of lightning and the peal of thunder to guess how far it was to the worst part of the storm that was generating the lightning. Suddenly, instead of the flash-boom of the normal lightning strike, there was a boom-flash as a nearby tree was struck by lightning. A first for all of us was the brief pulse of warmth that went along with it. Truly an awe-inspiring event!
In these and many other events, I am reminded of the power of God we see through his creation. The incessant waves of the ocean that reduce yesterday’s sand castles to a bare beach never fail to inspire respect for that power.
As a poor, miserable sinner I know that I could never make up for all the wrongs that I have done. I have peace and joy in my heart knowing that God has redeemed me through the gift of his Son to take my burden to the cross.
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