How Great Thou Art

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Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:3)

How great you are! If posed in the form of a question, these words would have no answer. They would plunge us into the infinite abyss of God’s greatness. We could never plumb the depths, we would never reach a limit, for His greatness is unsearchable. Vaster than our imagination could ever conjure, it is immeasurable. Yet like David’s words thousands of years ago, this hymn is framed around a proclamation. It is like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon for the first time and exclaiming with joy, “this is amazing!” Only as we stand in worship and declare this with overflowing hearts to the Lord, our words echo into a reality so much grander than even the most awe-inspiring works of His hands.

Although we cannot circumscribe His majesty, surely we must seek to bring as much substance to it as we can so that we may rightly extol His wondrous works. The hymn focuses on three distinct facets of God’s greatness: creation, salvation, and restoration. Let us allow our souls to be washed and sobered by the holy scriptures concerning each of these truths.

He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing. He binds up the water in His thick clouds, yet the clouds are not broken under it. He covers the face of His throne, and spreads His cloud over it. He drew a circular horizon on the face of the waters, at the boundary of light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at His rebuke… Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?” (Job 26:7-11, 14)

Imagine sitting on the sand and beholding the surging enormity of the ocean, feeling the spray of a mighty waterfall against your face, or marveling at snow-covered mountain peaks towering thousands of feet above you as they rise into the clouds. These experiences of wonder, of beauty, can sweep even the dullest soul into the praise of God’s greatness. As right and good as this is, our worship is carried even higher when we pause and ponder that the incandescent splendor of a sunset and the terrifying power of a hurricane, along with all the incomprehensible variety, intricacy, and complexity of the totality of God’s creation emerged out of nothing. Every great feat of human engineering began with an array of building blocks. We may shape and form and assemble wonderful things, but God alone creates. There is simply no precedent or parallel for the might and brilliance of God bringing forth everything out of nothing. Prolonged attention to this truth should make you weak in the knees. It should begin to feel disconcerting and disturbing. And Job says this is just a whisper! The stars are the fringes! What if He thundered? Bow and give Him your worship! 

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him… (Hebrews 2:1-3)

We have a great salvation. God’s mercy toward us in Christ is rich (Eph. 2:4). His grace is glorious (Eph. 1:6). The blood of Jesus is precious (1 Pet. 1:19). These are holy, awesome things that we must not neglect. The author of Hebrews warns us against drifting away. That happens when instead of reveling in the greatness of this salvation we have in Christ, we begin to treat it as a common thing, a familiar thing. Paul prayed that the church in Ephesus would be given divine power in their inner man to understand that the love of Jesus demonstrated on the cross is so high and deep and long and wide that it “surpasses knowledge.” (Eph. 3:17-19) There is nothing commonplace about this love that has been lavished upon us through our reconciliation and acceptance in God’s family (1 Jn. 3:1). Today let us think upon it, stare at it, sing about it, and proclaim the greatness of His salvation! 

The Lord utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; who can endure it? (Joel 2:11)

Jesus has a Day, and it is great and very awesome (Luke 17:24, Rev. 6:17). Glorious was the day when God created all things, and so too will be the day of the Son of Man when He recreates all things. Jesus will resurrect our bodies and He will restore the earth. Creation has been subjected to futility because our iniquity, but a day is coming when hills will shout for joy and the trees of the forest will clap their hands (Is. 55:12, Rom. 8:20-21). Consider the words of Paul that call us to this blessed hope:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:19-21)

The Lord Jesus is so great that He is going to subject all things to Himself at His coming. The kingdoms of the world will become His possession, He will purge the earth of the effects of sin, and He will make all things new (Rev. 11:15, 21:5, 2 Pet. 3:13). Surely in that Day, and forevermore, we will sing “how great thou art!”