BOWEN COLUMN: ‘How Great Thou Art’ timely for today
Published 9:30 am Tuesday, July 26, 2022
Well, friends, you’ll be glad to know my buddy Todd and I made it safely through our nearly 40-mile hike in Yellowstone. I know I’ll have more reflections, once my muscles and mind recover. But, for now, I’m just reflecting on the vastness of the Yellowstone we spent a week absorbing and of God’s nature and some of the scenes only the Lord could shape with his powerful hand. All such moments remind me of my favorite song, one you and I will visit this week to remind us all of something we need to remember, wherever we are, in the vastness of Yellowstone or the quiet of your room. It may be the greatest song ever written—‘How Great Thou Art.’
If it’s not the greatest, it’s on that top shelf with the best of the best.
The writer of ‘How Great Thou Art’ understood something about God’s glory and majesty. He had experienced wonders in God’s handiwork that made him stop right where he was and give God the glory. You might think he stood and looked out over the Grand Canyon – ah, from high up there you can sing ‘Then sings my soul my Savior God to thee’ with vigor, can’t you! – or up high on the Smoky Mountains looking deep down into the foothills with the fall leaves shifting from color to color and the cool running Pigeon River churning confidently through it.
Carl Bobert, the Swedish preacher who penned these words in 1886, likely never saw either of those wonders, although he would have plenty of his own to admire in the beautiful landscapes of Sweden. Many scenes there display the glories of God and would cause him to sing, and write:
‘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 pow’r throughout the universe displayed.’ The wonder we have of God, as with the song poet here, seems to come in stages. First we wonder at God’s greatness – marveling of him in our mind – then we see all that He has made and hear the pow’r of the rolling thunder – our thoughts, our eyes, our ears all taking in God’s glory.
But there’s something still missing, some sense we possess that we have not yet engaged in our wonder and worship of God – but the writer will not leave it that way for long. As we come to the resounding chorus, he takes the wonder of his soul to new heights, writing,
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!’
There we go to the depths of our being, down into our very soul. Our wonder looks up to the heights while our emotions reach down to the depths. Our whole being is overwhelmed with God’s glory, as we proclaim from deep in our souls, ‘How great Thou art.’ One time through that glad, triumphant refrain is not enough – for we must echo it, its ascending crescendo taking it to even greater heights than before:
“Then sings my( soul, my Savior God, to Thee; how great Thou art, how great Thou art!” Thus, we sing today – and every day that we live – the glory of our Savior and the glory of our God. We acknowledge his greatness in our minds, marvel at it with our eyes, wonder at it with what we hear, and sing it, proclaim it, with all that we have – and all that we are – deep down in our souls.
Then sings my soul! We sing it then — when we are overwhelmed with the Lord’s goodness — we sing it even now, and we sing it every day that we live. It is a glad refrain that will take us all the way home — ‘How Great, how great, Thou Art’!