Monday, April 07, 2008

How Great Thou Art
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How Great Thou Art

Read: Luke 19:29-40

Intro.: It was no ordinary Sunday – the disciples knew that.

  1. It was the day after the Jewish sabbath and now they had been sent to find a young donkey for Jesus to ride

  2. In fact Jesus had told them what to say if they were questioned; tell them, “The Lord has need of it.”

  3. And when they had brought the colt to Jesus, they took their cloaks and put it on its back and set Jesus on it.

  4. And as they made their way down the Mount of Olives, the multitude of the disciples that were followers laid down their cloaks in from of the colt. Others laid down branches from the trees.

  5. There were some who went ahead of Jesus and his friends – and there was a group that followed behind.

  6. But where ever you walked that day you heard them: John 12: Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel! Matt 21: Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Luke 19: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

  7. It was no ordinary day. I suspect that if the hymn How Great Thou Art had been around, we would have heard it being sung that day as well.


Trans: For Swedish pastor Carl Boberg it was an ordinary day.

  1. It was the spring of 1886. He was visiting a friend in the country and had gone out for a walk.

  2. But he, unexpectedly, found himself caught in a thunderstorm.

  3. And it was not a quiet storm – he described it later as being “awesome and violent” - but it ended quickly.

  4. And its path were clear, brilliant sunshine. As he continued his walk, he heard the calm sweet singing of birds in the trees.

  5. He could not go on – he fell to his knees to praise. He had been awed by God's extraordinary work that day. The adoration he felt led him to write a nine stanza poem.

  6. The Swedish church set his poem to the tune of an old folk tune.

  7. Quickly it was translated in German and Russian. It was not until 1925 that it was first translated into English by Rev. E. Gustav Johnson – a member of the Covenant Church a church with a decidedly Scandinavian heritage:

    O mighty God, when I behold the wonder Of nature’s beauty, wrought by words of thine, And how thou leadest all from realms up yonder, Sustaining earthly life with love benign, With rapture filled, my soul thy name would laud, O mighty God! O mighty God! (repeat)1

  8. Though this is still the version that is included in the Covenant Church's hymnal, it is not the version that we know and love.

  9. The translation that we are familiar with was written in 1933 by Rev. S. K. Hine. He was a missionary to Russia and heard the Russian translation. S. K. Hine then wrote the original English words that were eventually made famous by George Beverly Shea in Billy Graham's famous London Crusade:2

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. (repeat)3

T.S. Praise is a universal response to God's grace and power. Whether it be from a pastor in a field in 1886 or from us living in 2008.

  1. David expressed praise – Psalms 145:3 (HCSB) Yahweh is great and is highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable.

    1. Unless we use the name of Jesus, we don't normally give God a name.

    2. But in the OT, God had a name – the most common name is YHWH. Tradition tells us that it was never pronounced out loud and if seen scripture it was replaced by the title – Adonai. YHWH is considered God's personal name.

    3. The roots of the word come from “To be” - God tells Moses the he is to be called “I am who I am” - which has the same roots as the name YHWH.

    4. So David is ready to praise the Great I AM – His greatness is “unsearchable”

(Ill.) John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Using his words, “God is great, and therefore He will be sought: He is good, and therefore He will be found.”4

(Ill.) Sometimes it takes courage to acknowledge God's greatness. In 1717 when France’s Louis XIV died, his body lay in a golden coffin. He had called himself the “Sun King,” and his court was the most magnificent in Europe. To dramatize his greatness, he had given orders that during his funeral the cathedral would be only dimly lighted with only a special candle set above the coffin. As thousands waited in hushed silence, Bishop Massilon began to speak. Then slowly reaching down, he snuffed out the candle, saying, “Only God is great!”5

(Appl.) My prayer for you today is that you can recognize that only God is great. I am not great (no surprise there), but neither are you. Only God is great. May we agree with David, Yahweh is great and is highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable.”

  1. Paul expressed praise - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (HCSB) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will always be with the Lord.

    1. Rev. Boberg reminded us of God's greatness in the present.

    2. David reminded of God's greatness in the past.

    3. Paul aims our view to the future.

    4. Somehow that seems strange – after all, I wouldn't think of coming up to you and saying, “Thank you for mowing my lawn” - at least not until you had done it.

    5. But Paul knows that God is control of the future.

(Ill.) Most of you know the difficulty Sandra has had at work these past three months. During most of that time I have had two pieces of advice.

“What are you supposed to do?” “My best.”

“Who are you supposed to trust?” “God.”

We were reminded of that this last week in Georgia. We began each day at 7:15 with gathering together for Communion before breakfast. On the first day we were led to the Lord's table by Dr. Winston O. R. Worrell. Wesley was guided in the early days of his faith by the Moravians – and we chose to use the Moravian Daily Texts to be the focus of our communion each morning. On Tuesday morning, the first morning of our conference, we were reminded by the texts to “trust God, trust God, trust God, trust God.” Sandra and I both heard my voice echo through Rev. Worrell's that morning. But catch this, the very nature of trusting God, is to believe that he will be there in the future just as much as has been in the past and is in the present. I, like Sandra, and like you, must remember to “trust God, trust God, trust God, trust God.”

Conclusion: We, with generations before us, can sing -

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.

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 then proclaim:
"My God, how great Thou art!"

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!



2Osbeck, K. W. (1982). 101 hymn stories. Includes music and index. (99). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.

3Osbeck, K. W. (1990). Amazing grace : 366 inspiring hymn stories for daily devotions. Includes indexes. (141). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications.

4Federer, W. J. (2001). Great Quotations : A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced according to their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions. St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch.

5Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (635). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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