How Great Thou Art

[Verse 1]
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

[Chorus]
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!

[Verse 2]
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:

[Verse 3]
And when I think of 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.

[Verse 4]
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And lead me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow with humble adoration,
And then proclaim, “My God, how great Thou art!”
About the hymn and Lyrical study
In the early 1920s, English missionaries, Stuart K. Hine and his wife, ministered in Poland. It was there they learned the Russian version of Boberg’s poem, O Store Gud, coupled with the original Swedish melody. Later, Hine wrote original English words and made his own arrangement of the Swedish melody, which became popular and is now known as the hymn, ‘How Great Thou Art’.

The first three verses were inspired, line upon line, amidst unforgettable experiences in the Carpathian Mountains. In a village to which he had climbed, Mr. Hine stood in the street singing a Gospel Hymn and reading aloud, John, Chapter Three. Among the sympathetic listeners was a local village schoolmaster. A storm was gathering, and when it was evident that no further travel could be made that night, the friendly schoolmaster offered his hospitality. Awe-inspiring was the mighty thunder echoing through the mountains, and it was this impression that was to bring about the birth of the first verse:

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

Pushing on, Hine crossed the mountain frontier into Romania and into Bukovina. Together with some young people, through the woods and forest glades he wandered, and heard the birds sing sweetly in the trees. Thus, the second verse came into being:

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:

I don’t know about anyone else but when I see the creations of God’s hands – animate and inanimate , I am in awe of Him. As a student of Veterinary Medicine, several things I came across inspired worship of God in my heart. Studying histology and how a baby is formed and developed in the womb, I was amazed at God’s attention to detail and order, and wondered how anybody could say there was no God.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1)

 There are things about Him that people cannot see—His eternal power and all the things that make Him God. But since the beginning of the world those things have been easy to understand by what God has made. So people have no excuse for the bad things they do.” (Romans 1:20, NCV)

Verse three was inspired by the conversion of many Carpathian mountain-dwellers:
And when I think of 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.

I, too, “scarce can take it in”. I am constantly amazed at how the Almighty God considers us worth relating with, not to talk of how He considered us worth the sacrifice of His only Begotten Son. This is why my relationship with Him that was made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice is my most precious ‘possession’. This is why I cry when I am expressing my heart to Him in worship. This is why I can go through any storm, any fire, any wilderness….and still love and trust Him.

“When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?”
(Psalm 8:3-4, NIV)

The fourth verse did not come about until Hine’s return to Britain. It was added after the Second World War. His concern for the exiled Polish community in Britain, who were anxious to return home, provided part of the inspiration for Hine’s final verse. Hine and David Griffiths visited a camp in Sussex, England, in 1948 where displaced Russians were being held, but where only two were professing Christians. The testimony of one of these refugees and his anticipation of the second coming of Christ inspired Hine to write the fourth stanza of his English version of the hymn. According to Ireland:

One man to whom they were ministering told them an amazing story: he had been separated from his wife at the very end of the war, and had not seen her since. At the time they were separated, his wife was a Christian, but he was not, but he had since been converted. His deep desire was to find his wife so they could at last share their faith together. But he told the Hines that he did not think he would ever see his wife on earth again. Instead he was longing for the day when they would meet in heaven, and could share in the Life Eternal there. These words again inspired Hine, and they became the basis for his fourth and final verse to ‘How Great Thou Art’:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And lead me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow with humble adoration,
And then proclaim, “My God, how great Thou art!”

“And if being a Christian is of value to us only now in this life, we are the most miserable of creatures.”(1 Corinthians 15:19, TLB)

A verse of Nicole Mullen’s ‘Holy Captivated’ expresses completely my thoughts on this verse:

“When I contemplate the day of our reunion
And I anticipate the One who calls my name
There’s a yearning rising up from deep within me
To be swept away forever and a day
‘Cause I can wait to see the ones who’ve gone before me
Hear the music, taste the laughter, walk the sea
But the moment I will live and I will die for
Is to hear His voice welcoming me.”

My prayer: May my heart always remain open to the wonder of God evident in His creation such that I will yearn to be with Him and see Him face-to-face when my journey here on Earth is done.

Listen to a beautiful version by Home Free

Resources: Wikipedia; hymntime.com