He Reads Truth / August 29, 2017

He Reads Truth: How Great Thou Art

I have the privilege of contributing to He Reads Truth, a website of whose purpose is “To help men become who we were made to be, by doing what we were made to do, by the power and provision that God has given us to do it, for the glory of Jesus Christ.” They do this by providing scripture reading plans accompanied by reflections that can be accessed for free online or purchased as print books. For those of you looking to engage scripture in a fresh way – either because you are dried up or have been away from it, these studies/plans will refresh your soul and engage your mind.

What follows is one of the pieces I wrote on the hymn, How Great Thou Art. You can find the full plan HERE.


Psalm 121:1-8, Psalm 145:3-7, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Does your soul ever sing? That phrase sounds a bit odd. We sing in the car when a favorite tune comes on. We sing the national anthem at sporting events. We sing in church (sometimes). We say that good news is music to our ears and the sound of bacon frying is sweet music too. But do our souls sing?

That’s the refrain of “How Great Thou Art”— “Then sings my soul…”

But what does that mean?

My guess is that each of us knows what it means even if it is not the phrase we’ve used. Maybe we’ve never put words to the experience of the soaring, lifting, and filling of the soul—to the passion and joy that sometimes wells up in us— or maybe we can’t put words to it. But each verse of this hymn paints a picture of those things that might make a soul sing.

Verse one looks at the cosmos, the whole universe. It sees the power and bigness and majesty of God’s creation expanding beyond our sight, bigger than our comprehension. I think about lying in a canoe at night in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota, staring at a sky so full of stars that it’s nearly as bright as the dawn. That makes my soul sing.

Verse two focuses in on the tangible creation—the sounds of birds and beautiful mountain views. I think of climbing House Mountain in East Tennessee, scrambling over boulders and pulling myself up on saplings and over fallen trees so that I could step onto a rocky outcrop and see the view of the valley below. The breeze cooled me and the quiet was so still that I could hear my soul sing then too.

While those verses offer hints of what it is that fills our soul, verses 3 and 4 dive deep into what the song of our souls really is. Yes, God created a majestic beautiful world that makes us feel and yearn, but we don’t find fullness in that. He did something more. He sent His Son to take our sins from us, to suffer and die on our behalf, to bear the burden we could not bear. Indeed, “I scarce can take it in.”

But that is not all.

The final glorious stanza of the hymn reveals the final glorious stanza of God’s mission – Christ shall come and will be greeted with shouts of praise. We will “bow in humble adoration” because His glory will be so great. Wrongs will be made right. Sin and pain will be abolished. There is only one response to this: “My God, how great Thou Art!”

What makes your soul sing? Don’t stop at the song of nature, no matter how beautiful it is. Find the truest soul song there is in the work Jesus Christ has done for you.

How Great Thou Art
Carl Gustav Boberg, 1885; Stuart K. Hine, c. 1920

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:

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
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:

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.

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!




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