Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #8: How Great Thou Art

This is probably one of the two or three most recognized hymns in the English language. It has been sung by humble Christians in small churches, and by people as famous as Elvis Presley (and for which he won not one, but two, Grammy awards). It has been identified as the favorite of presidents and even whole countries, and has been recorded no fewer than 1700 different times.

The lyrics originated with a man named Carl Gustav Boberg, a Swede, who wrote a poem (in Swedish) of nine stanzas in 1885. It was published the next year and married to a Swedish folk tune. It was eventually translated into several languages; the version most of know in English was translated by Stuart K. Hine, who also added two stanzas of his own (Stanzas 3 and 4, below), by 1949.

The song quickly became a popular hymn of glorifying God. It became enormously popular in the English-speaking world and was closely associated with the Billy Graham crusades and George Beverly Shea.

A lengthy Wikipedia posting on the hymn, its various translations (and re-translations), and its spread throughout the world, can be found here. It is also the source of the "commonly used English lyrics" copied below.

The first two verses, as well as most of the other original Swedish stanzas, speak eloquently of God's creation and how all of it points to, and glorifies, God. The third stanza reminds us that God sent His only Son to bleed and die for our salvation—a fact we cannot fully comprehend or appreciate. The fourth stanza helps us to look forward with anticipation to the day when those of us who have accepted His gift of salvation will be taken "home" to be with Him forever, where we will praise and glorify God forever.

If these words do not bring peace and comfort to the Christian's soul, I'm not sure what will.

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 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!
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:
(Repeat Refrain.)
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:
(Repeat Refrain.)
When Christ shall come with shouts 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!
(Repeat Refrain.)
Past Entries in this Series:

Top Ten Hymns Countdown #9: It Is Well With My Soul
Top Ten Hymns Countdown #10: All Creatures of Our God and King

2 comments: said...

See, this is where you go off track. How Great Thou Art is a Top 3 hymn.

It Is Well and Holy, Holy, Holy. Toss the three in a hat and pick them out at random.


C'mon, now.


Ken said...

Nick, you have good taste; those are all hymns of great merit. And, difficult as it may be to believe, there are still seven great, great hymns left to go. Some decisions are difficult to make!

It Is Well was #9 on my list. Stay tuned to see if Holy, Holy, Holy appears on the list....