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.
Many of you probably recognize these words as the opening text of the hymn How Great Thou Art. Did you know that this hymn was originally written in Swedish, then translated into German, and then translated into Russian before it was finally translated into English, with many different versions evolving all along the way?
It all began with Carl Boberg, a Swedish poet who gave the following account of what inspired him to write it. He explained what happened as he and some friends were returning home from an afternoon church service.
It was that time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest colouring; the birds were singing in trees and everywhere. It was very warm; a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon and soon there was thunder and lightning. We had to hurry to shelter. But the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared. When I came home I opened my window toward the sea. There evidently had been a funeral and the bells were playing the tune of “When eternity’s clock calls my saved soul to its Sabbath rest”. That evening, I write the song, “O Store Gud”. [O Great God]
The poem was originally written with nine verses. (Nine!! Could you imagine if we asked you all to sing NINE verses of anything??) It was later described as a paraphrase of Psalm 8 and was used in the underground church in Sweden in the late 1800s when the Baptists and Mission Friends were persecuted. After many translations and revisions by several different people, British Methodist missionary Stuart Hine was moved to write new verses (first in Russian) that became part of the 1949 version that we are more familiar with today. This Sunday, we’ll be singing one of those verses:
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.
Then there was George Beverly Shea and the Billy Graham crusades... then there was Elvis! Mahalia Jackson... Carrie Underwood? Who hasn’t sung a version of this song? There have been over 1700 documented recordings of How Great Thou Art. We are putting together an undocumented recording for online worship this Sunday. We would love for you to join together with us this Sunday (online or in the parking lot!) to sing praises to our great God!