How Great Thou Art – A Meditation on a Hymn

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder

consider all the works Thy hands hath made,

I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,

thy power throughout the universe displayed;

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;

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;

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!”

There are so many reasons to praise God.

In How Great Thou Art, we praise God for His creation and for His redemption.

Each of the verses of this hymn consists of extended sentences that are only concluded by the refrain.

In the first two verses we consider God’s wondrous creation. Psalm 19 says “the heavens declare the glory of God”, and that is why when we look around us at God’s created masterpiece we should end up praising God. When we see the great power and majesty of creation in the stars and the thunder and the views from the mountain tops, we should be in awe of God’s incredible power.

But creation also reveals God’s greatness in the small things. When we walk among the silence of the forest, when we admire the gentle breeze blowing among the tree tops and across the grassy paddocks, when we hear the birds calling in the morning with their songs full of beauty and variety – all of these things should point us to the creative genius of our great God.

We then shift our thinking in the second two verses as we consider the glory of God as revealed in redemption.

In verse three we think of the breath-taking nature of the gospel. It is astonishing that God would send His Son into the world to take upon Himself the sins of His enemies. There are some glorious truths packed into this verse. Salvation is a gift from God the Father as he sent His Son, not sparing Him, but giving Him over to death for our sake. But the Son of God did not come and die begrudgingly. No! He “gladly” bore our burden as He bled and died. His death was not just a nice gesture, it actually achieved something. He took away our sins, He carried our burdens, He won our salvation on the cross.

The glory of God in redemption doesn’t end with the cross though. We consider the great hope that we have in the final verse as we sing of the triumphant return of Christ. Jesus will come again with a joyful celebration. Acclamation means a great shout of approval. The whole of creation and all the redeemed will be cheering on the return of Christ as He comes to take His people home.

As we stop to consider the glory of God revealed in creation and redemption we cannot help but sing “How great Thou art”, and on that great day, when all things are made new, our praise will not stop.

As we raise our voices to sing this hymn, we can know that we are following the Psalmist who said in Psalm 145 verse 6 “Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts, And I will declare Your greatness.”

– Tom Eglinton