Friday, August 31, 2012

Hymn of the Month -- The Love of God

The Love of God
by Frederick M. Lehman, 1917

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
and reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
The erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O Love of God, how rich, and pure!
how measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure --
The saints' and angels' song.

When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God's love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam's race --
The saints' and angels' song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill
Or were the skies of parchment made,
were every stalk on earth a quill
and every man a scribe by trade,
to write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry,
nor could the scroll contain the whole
though spread from sky to sky.

* * * * * * * * *

I had hoped to sing this hymn with the widows in Burundi, as I was told that they, like we in North America, love it. But we never had a chance. I'm putting it on my list of things to do if I ever get to go back to Burundi!

The Love of God is older than you might think, at least its inspiration is. Although we know the song to have been written by Frederick Lehman in 1917, it is based on a poem written in the latter half of the eleventh century by a Jewish poet, Rabbi Mayer. The poem, called Hadamut, had 90 couplets, and several of the lines were found penciled on the wall of a patient in an insane asylum in the 1800s. Lehman heard about it from a camp meeting preacher and was so impressed with the story that he kept the words for several years until, in 1917, he wrote the first two verses and used the words from Hadamut for his third verse. His daughter, Claudia L. Mays, arranged the song for him.

The lyrics speak of God's infinite love, love more than we could ever begin to imagine or express. Ephesians 2:4-6 says, But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace that you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. That is unfathomable love.

The song also reminds me of the last verse of John's gospel, John 21:25, which says Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Isn't it wonderful to know that we serve a God who loves us beyond our understanding and, in this life, we will never know the breadth of His life or the depth of His love. And the more we get to know Him, the more amazing we find Him to be. Aahhh, the love of God!

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