History, background, and other useful information to help us worship with understanding.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

Note: The number after the hymn title indicates the page number in the Trinity Hymnal


O God Beyond All Praising (#660)

“O God beyond All Praising” is the most recently written hymn that we’ve looked at together. Surprisingly, the words were written in 1982, not 1892, by Michael Perry, who was an Anglican clergyman. Perry worked as a youth worker, evangelist, vicar, rector, and police chaplain, as well as a writer of many theological articles and hundreds of hymns and carols. He married and had two children, and, sadly, died of a brain tumor in 1996 at the age of 54. A hymn writer and contemporary of his, Christopher Idle, said that “few people matched Perry's influence on evangelical praise and worship over the 1970s to '90s.”

The music of “O God beyond All Praising” has an interesting history. The melody is called THAXTED and comes from Gustov Holst’s The Planets symphony—the “Jupiter” movement. Holst wrote his symphony during World War I, and, shortly after, in patriotic fervor, Sir Cecil Spring Rice wrote the hymn “I Vow to Thee, My Country” to Holst’s beautiful melody. Holst worked with Rice on the final version of the hymn. It is sung across the UK on Remembrance Day (in honor of the end of WWI), and it was sung at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, as well as at the funerals of Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, and Margaret Thatcher.

The patriotic hymn is so beloved in England, that there was some pushback when Michael Perry wrote new words for the melody. In the UK the hymn was so ingrained as being patriotic, especially as they remembered the first World War, that nobody seemed to want to sing different lyrics in a church setting. But Perry said that he wrote lyrics “in response to a call for alternative words that would be more appropriate for Christian worship.”

Truly, although the original words center around serving both God and country, the new version is written to the praise of God alone. Many of the phrases come directly from the scriptures, including Psalm 116:17 and Hebrews 13:15 (“our sacrifice of praise”), Psalm 130:5 (“we wait upon your word”), and James 1:17 seems to be the source for the line, “for we can only wonder at every gift you send” (“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” ESV).

This beautiful hymn appears in only 34 hymnals.

As we prepare for worship this Sunday, let’s ponder some of the beautiful ideas expressed in “O God beyond All Praising.”

O God beyond all praising, we worship you today
And sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay;
For we can only wonder at every gift you send,
At blessings without number and mercies without end:
We lift our hearts before you and wait upon your word,
We honor and adore you, our great and mighty Lord.

Then hear, O gracious Savior, Accept the love we bring,
That we who know your favor May serve you as our king;
And whether our tomorrows Be filled with good or ill,
We'll triumph through our sorrows And rise to bless you still:
To marvel at your beauty And glory in your ways,
And make a joyful duty Our sacrifice of praise.


Written by Diane J.
Enjoy the lyrics in full: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/660

The God of Abraham Praise (#34)

Yigdal elohim chay va-yishtaba'h

“Their history is our history.” Dr. Robert M. Norris

It goes without saying that the Jewish religion is the faith from which ours sprang. Jesus was a Jew. Our Old Testament is their holy scripture. We share many values with our Jewish friends. And we both sing “The God of Abraham Praise.”

How can that be? To answer this question we must look at the hymnist and the origins of “The God of Abraham Praise.” Thomas Olivers was born in 1725 in Tregynon, Wales. Both of his parents died when he was four years old, and he was raised by an uncle, then apprenticed to a shoemaker. But he turned out to be a wild youth. According to Christianity Today, Olivers “grew to adulthood a wild, rootless man” (“The Hymn Born in a Synagogue,” by James W. Smith III, January 7, 1991.). In his 20s, Olivers heard George Whitfield preach, and he became a Christian. Soon after, he met John Wesley and became his assistant, preaching in Wales, Cornwall, and later in central London. He also became co-editor of Wesley’s Arminian Magazine.

While in London, Olivers became friends with a Jewish rabbi named Myer Lyon and visited The Great Synagogue, regularly sitting in on their worship services. Olivers heard the hymn known as “Yigdal,” which was comprised of scriptural phrases and names of God. The words and the melody were so inspiring, that Olivers began with the lyrics of Yigdal, worked in Christian elements, and made the hymn we sing this morning. The melody is entitled “Leoni,” giving credit to Myer Lyon.

Since its publication, “The God of Abraham Praise” has been sung in the churches of many Christian denominations, but it has also been sung in ecumenical, interfaith services with Jews and Christians alike, singing side by side. Currently the hymn appears in 444 hymnals.

There is true beauty in this hymn springing from a Jewish/Hebrew song of worship, in the same way our Christian faith sprang from the Jewish faith. The hymn also sprang from the friendship between a Jewish rabbi and a Methodist preacher. It is all quite unlikely, but beautiful, as I said.

As Leland Ryken writes in 40 Favorite Hymns of the Christian Faith, “Nearly every line of this hymnic poem is rooted in one or more verses in the Bible.” Reading the lyrics out loud is edifying. Singing them with the haunting melody, with its roots in Jewish culture, carries us to the throne room of God Himself. We can all look forward to corporate worship this Sunday—worshiping the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob; the Great I Am; the Prince of Peace; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!


Written by Diane J.
Enjoy the lyrics in full: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/34

His Eye is on the Sparrow (#618)

 “His Eye is on the Sparrow” is a hymn that was one born of great suffering; once you know the backstory, you will never sing the song the same way again.

The hymn was written by Civilla Martin (1866-1948), who was originally from Canada. She married an American Baptist minister (who later became apart of The Disciples of Christ). Together they wrote songs of inspiration and hymns and lived many happy years together.

The story of how today’s hymn came about is best told in the author’s own words:

“Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle's reply was simple: "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me." The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" was the outcome of that experience.”

Imagine the faith of someone bedridden for twenty years—and her caretaker/husband, who was also disabled—not bitter, not complaining, but trusting in God’s care and provision. I’m sure they had tough days, but this hymn is a testimony to their faith and assurance of God’s care. It’s a great reminder to all of us who at sometime experience or will experience suffering. And to caretakers who rely of God’s help in a special way. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He cares for thee.


Written by Diane J.
Enjoy the lyrics in full: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/618

Please enjoy this soulful, heartfelt version of His Eye is on the Sparrow, sung by Lauren Hill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miwqjjeaUro

All People That on Earth Do Dwell (#1)

“All People That on Earth Do Dwell” is one of the oldest hymns in the Protestant tradition. The history of the hymn is entwined with the history of the English Reformation. To begin with, when John Calvin was living in Geneva, Switzerland, and participating in worship services there with the French Huguenots, he was opposed to the Catholic style of worship, in which only priests sung in church. They sung the Psalms, but they were sung in Latin. Calvin believed that all of the congregation should sing in worship to God during church services, and that the Psalms should be sung in the vernacular tongue of the congregation. (The original words that were written for the melody THE OLD HUNDREDTH, to which we sing “All People That on Earth Do Dwell,” are in French).

Enter William Kethe. Kethe was a British man (probably Scottish) who was one of thousands who fled Great Britain during the reign of Mary Tudor (Bloody Mary) and made his way to Geneva during this time. He was a scholar who was helping to write the Geneva Bible, (which is the Bible that the Pilgrims took with them on the Mayflower!). He joined with those who were taking the Psalms from the Geneva Bible and writing them out metrically, so they could be sung as hymns. His version of Psalm 100 was set to the melody OLD HUNDREDTH and the rest is history. That melody, composed by Louis Bourgeois in 1551 is, of course, also the melody for the doxology that we sing every week when the offering is taken. The German hymnists, influenced by Martin Luther, who also believed in singing the Psalms in the language of each congregation, have used this melody throughout the centuries for dozens of hymns.

What a rich history this hymn has! When we sing it, we are joining with voices as far back as the 16th century. I will leave you with the text of Psalm 100 from the Geneva Bible to meditate on as you prepare for worship this week:

1 Sing ye loud unto the Lord, all the earth.
2 Serve the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyfulness.
3 Know ye that even the Lord is God; he hath made us, and not we ourselves: we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with praise, and into his courts with rejoicing: praise him and bless his Name.
5 For the Lord is good: his mercy is everlasting, and his truth is from generation to generation.


Written by Diane J.
Enjoy the lyrics in full: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/1

And enjoy this Ralph Vaughn Williams arrangement, played in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=us2O62TTqYA

O Worship the King (#2)

“O Worship the King” was written by Robert Grant in 1833. We have frequently seen in this column hymns written by Anglican clergy who had studied at Oxford. Our hymn this week was written by a lawyer, who had studied at Cambridge and was born (1779) and died (1838) in India. He later became a governor in India and a member of parliament. When he died, he left behind a wife and four children. It is encouraging to read and sing the text of a hymn written by a layman who obviously loved God with all his heart. “O Worship the King” appears in 1,112 hymnals, which speaks of its timelessness and universal appeal.

The hymn, as the title shows, focuses on our God as King. The words, phrases, and images throughout highlight His royalty. As King, He is glorious, He is our shield and our defender. He is pavilioned in the splendor that befits a king. Moving on, God is mighty and gracious. His “chariots of wrath” speak of His holiness and His intolerance of sin. Verse three speaks of God’s existence and rule from before time began. The hymn also speaks of God’s attributes: his bountiful care for His subjects, His ineffable (indescribable) Love for us. Although we are frail children of dust, and only the angels sing proprly beautiful songs to Him, He is, not only the glorious and mighty King of the universe, He is our loving Father.

Many times in scripture we are commanded to recount the wonderful deeds of the Lord—and to praise Him for all He has created. “O Worship the King,” does just that. Here are several scriptures which also encourage us to recount the deeds of the Lord God, as we prepare for worship.


Written by Diane J.
Enjoy the lyrics in full: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/2

Psalm 9: 1-2
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 77: 11-12
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Isaiah 63: 7
I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

The Church's One Foundation (#347)

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Ephesians 4:4-6

It can be thrilling to learn the background of hymns that we have sung our entire lives and are completely familiar. (Even if one is new to the faith, there is benefit to learning about the hymnist and historical context.) This one surprised me, and the more I read, the more excited I become. Let’s look briefly at the history.

“The Church’s One Foundation” was written in 1866 by Reverend Samuel J. Stone, who was an Anglican curate, having been educated at Pembroke College, Oxford. At the time, there was a schism in the Anglican church, and Stone’s hymn was a direct response to it. The context is that John Colenso, an influential Anglican bishop in South Africa, published an article questioning the inerrancy of scripture. He believed that the Old Testament was mythology and what Jesus taught about Moses was false. Many bishops, priests, and ministers responded immediately and defended orthodoxy, but much damage was done. The schism is referenced in the third stanza of the hymn. When you read the lyrics, all the verses, through this lens, you realize how meaningful the hymn is—and how important it is in church history.

A second aspect of the hymn is that it is part of a 12 hymn collection honoring and reflecting each of the 12 articles of the Apostles Creed. The work is known as Lyra Fidelium: Twelve Hymns on the Twelve Articles of the Apostle's Creed. The collection (very small hymnal?) is still available (on amazon.com). “The Church’s One Foundation” is based on the 9th article: “the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints.” Although this hymn is only one of 12, it is the most well-known and is the one that has stood the test of time. The melody was composed by Samuel Wesley and is known as AURELIA.

Looking closely at the hymn we see the word “one” stand out. This was important in the time of a major schism, but it remains important in a time where individual church-splits happen all the time. In verse two, the word “one” appears seven times, which is an interesting coincidence because Ephesians 4:4-6 (see above) also uses the word “one” seven times. This scripture appears on the brochure for Mount Airy Presbyterian’s Pastor Search Committee prayer requests. We have been asked to pray for unity: for the committee to be unified and for the church to be unified, as we call a new pastor. This hymn reflects the value of unity, and it is appropriate to sing it in our particular circumstance.

Verse three speaks of the consequence of disunity and Christ not being the foundation: schisms and heresies. The hymn gives us hope that even in the overwhelming pain and grief of a church schism, God's purpose is not thwarted. Verses four and five speak of our unity with all the saints who have gone before and are in heaven for eternity. Verse five speaks of the Church’s union with the triune God. The church is the Bride of Christ. As part of the Church we can sing Stone’s hymn, as Christians have for over 130 years. Hymnary.org puts it like this: “Now an affirmation of Christ as the foundation of our faith, we sing this hymn with those who have gone before us and with Christians around the world, declaring that beyond any theological differences, cultural divides, and variances in practice, we are all part of the same body, the body of Christ.”

Below is a video clip of a Dan Forrest arrangement that will whet your appetite for worship this Sunday.



Written by Diane J.
Enjoy the lyrics in full: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/347

Sources used:

  • https://fbchurch.org/resource/hymnology-the-churchs-one-foundation
  • hymnary.org
  • wikipedia.com/ Samuel J. Stone

When Morning Gilds the Skies (#167)

The purpose of a refrain in a song or a poem is to emphasize an idea or theme. Consider Psalm 136: by the time you have finished reading its 26 verses, you know that “His steadfast love endures forever.” This week’s hymn, “When Morning Gilds the Skies,” has a refrain that repeats the imperative, “May Jesus Christ be Praised.” Originally written in German in 1800, today it is published in 687 hymnals! I believe that the reason for this is that it is sung by Catholics and Protestants alike. This is not a Protestant anthem like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” but a universally Christian hymn translated into English in 1854 by Edward Caswall, an Anglican priest who became an Anglo-Catholic in his later years. In Catholic hymnals the hymn is known as “May Jesus Christ Be Praised.” The hymn melody is entitled, Laudes Domini, when means “praises to the lord” in Latin. The melody was written by Joseph Barnby, in 1868.

The hymn has six stanzas with a narrative arc beginning with the morning—not just one morning, but each morning—and ending with never-ending eternity. Not only do Christians have the opportunity to praise God every morning, but we will be praising Him in song forever and ever. While we are alive we can praise Jesus in our morning devotions and with our fellow Christians on Sundays, as well as in every activity of our daily lives. In our work, we can praise Jesus. When evil thoughts tempt us, the remedy is to praise Jesus! When we are sad, we can praise Jesus and find solace and comfort. In the unseen world, the praise of Jesus is bliss, and that same praise makes the powers of darkness afraid.

In verse five the hymnist expresses the longing that every one and everything join in the sweet praise of Jesus, everyone around the entire circle of the globe and every creature from the highest heights (birds?) to the depths of the sea (fishes!): the inference is, “let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). The hymnist concludes with a prayerful wish that while he is alive, may the praise of Jesus never leave his lips—and may he continue that praise in the afterlife for eternity.

And so, the verses give us specifics, but the refrain emphasizes the main idea, “May Jesus Christ be Praised.” We too can be inspired to praise Jesus in our personal devotions, in our day to day activities—and we can look froward to joining together on Sunday morning and praising our Lord, Jesus Christ with this beautiful hymn of praise.


Written by Diane J.
Enjoy the lyrics in full: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/167

Immortal, Invisible (#38)

"To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1: 17)

The singing of time-honored hymns with an historic past benefits us by allowing us to join our voices with Christians who have gone before us, as we praise our timeless God. “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” was written by a Scottish Presbyterian minister in 1867. Walter Chalmbers Smith (1824-1908) was a prolific poet and writer of hymn text, as well as a faithful pastor, who cared for four congregations over his lifetime.

There are three features of his most well-known hymn that allow us to bring our pure and passionate praise to our worthy God: His attributes, some names for God, and light imagery.

We see right away the reference to 1 Timothy 1:17 in the hymn’s first phrase (Immortal, Invisible). Other attributes of God in the first two stanzas include, “invisible,” “blessed,” “glorious,” “almighty,” “victorious,” “unhasting (He takes His time),” “silent,” “nor wanting (all-sufficient)” “Nor wasting” (nothing in our life is wasted by God Rom 8:28), mighty ruler, just, good, and loving. It is good for us to meditate on and review God’s attributes, and this week we can sing them together.

“Immortal, Invisible” also uses some of God’s names and titles. “The Ancient of Days” is a title that comes from chapter 7 of the book of Daniel. Verse 9 introduces Him:

As I looked,
thrones were placed
and the Ancient of Days took his seat
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.

In my research on various Christian websites, there is agreement that the Ancient of Days represents God the Father. Some say that His appearance represents wisdom and some that his appearance symbolizes His eternal nature.

Other titles for God in our hymn are “Great father of glory” and “Father of light,” which brings us to the last element of the hymn, one that brings unity to the structure, and that is light imagery. The second stanza refers to God as “silent as light,” but it is in the first and third stanzas where we see the most power use of light imagery. The hymn begins and ends most mysteriously with “in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes” and “’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.” We cannot see God. No human has ever seen God. But He isn’t hidden by darkness, as an object in a dark room. God’s glory is so bright that light hides it! It is difficult to ponder, but worth it to try. God’s glory makes even the sunlight seem dark. Amazing! Let us ponder these great truths, God’s attributes, names, titles, and His bright glory lead us to worship with all our hearts on Sunday morning!


Written by Diane J.
Enjoy the lyrics in full: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/38


Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah (#598)

One of the most common metaphors of our life on earth, from birth to death, is the journey—and the journey ending with the crossing of a river. William Williams (1717-1791) used this metaphor masterfully in his hymn “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” (also know as “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer”). The hymn was written by Williams in Welsh in 1745 and translated into English by Peter Williams in 1771.

Williams was a Welsh preacher and writer. His family was non-conformist, but when Williams felt the call to be a preacher, he was trained in the Welsh Anglican tradition. He became a deacon in the Anglican church, but refused to take orders to become a priest. Around this time he met and was influenced by Howell Harris and Daniel Rowland, who were Calvinist Methodists, and he became a member of the Calvinist Methodist faith. He spent the next 50 years traveling around Wales and preaching. He also wrote copious amounts of hymns, hymnals, poems, and essays. Williams has been called the [Isaac] Watts of Wales (Hutchins, hymnary.org). He became a much-loved figure in Welsh culture, and the hymn we are singing this week, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” is considered the Welsh nation hymn. It is sung passionately in churches and at every Welsh rugby game!

The journey begins in verse one, with the hymnist identifying as a pilgrim on a journey through this life. He admits his weakness, as life is full of trials and sorrows, but he ends the thought with, “but thou art mighty.” We are all weak because we are human, but God is mighty to see us through our pilgrimage. Verse one ends with a plea to Jesus, the bread of heaven: “feed me ‘til I want no more.” In order to complete our journey on this earth successfully, we must feed on Jesus, the bread of heaven.

After having fed on Bread, verse two asks God to open the crystal fountain, so we can also drink. There is an allusion here to the woman at the well. Jesus said to her, “Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14). The fire and cloudy pillar refer to the journey that Moses took when he led the Israelites out of Egypt to the promised land. On that journey, God was, indeed, His people’s strong deliverer, strength, and shield.

From Moses’s journey in verse two, we transition to the last verse, in which the shore of the Jordan River takes on the symbolic meaning of the writer’s death. Crossing the river from this life to the next is a very common metaphor in Christian literature, and Williams does it beautifully. “Land me safe on Canaan’s side” speaks of heaven, and Williams’s final exclamation is to God himself: “Songs of praises I will ever give to thee!”

Every line in this powerful hymn is a direct allusion to a verse of scripture. If you would like to compare the hymn to the biblical texts, they are:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-11
I will strengthen you, I will help you/ I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6: 35)
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. (Revelation 22:1)
By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. (Nehemiah 9:12)
The Lord is my strength and my shield/ in him my heart trusts, and I am helped (Psalm 28: 7)
And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan. (Joshua 3:8)
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:26)
I will praise you forever… (Psalm 52: 9)

And so we join William Williams on this Lord’s day to sing our praises to the Lord Jesus.


Written by Diane J.
Enjoy the lyrics in full: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/598

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (#535)

The backstory of this beautiful hymn takes us to a bridge in London on a cold night in Victorian England. A lonely, depressed teenager trudges across the bridge and stops to look down at the rushing waters of the Thames. He feels completely hopeless, and it occurs to him that if he jumps, he will be swallowed up in the icy waters, and his pain will end. But something different happened instead. How it happened, I don’t know, but what happened is this: God became real to him. He knelt and gave his heart to Jesus, making his parents’ faith his own. Perhaps the imagery of the waters surrounding him and washing all around him were still in his mind when Samuel Trevor Francis wrote “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” in 1875.

Samuel Trevor Francis (1834-1925) was a merchant who began writing poetry at a young age. After his conversion he added “lay preacher” to his job description. He faithfully preached all over Great Britain, until his death at the age of 92. The somber Welsh melody that we sing was written by Thomas John Williams (also known as Thomas of Llanelli), a Baptist organist and choir director who lived from 1869-1944. The melody is titled “Ebeneezer” (named for a Baptist chapel), however, there is an interesting alternative title for the melody, which is used in Wales: “Ton-y-botel” which means “Tune in Bottle” in Welsh. As the story goes, a bottle washed up on a seashore in Wales. Williams found the bottle, and inside was the musical score for the melody—but no composer’s name was used. Was the melody a gift from God, written by the Holy Spirit himself? Or is this Welsh folklore? To me, it matters not; we can get lost in the beautiful melody as we worship our God.

As we look closely at the words, it is easy to see that the theme is the love of God. The cold, icy waters of the Thames river have transformed into a never-ending ocean of love. Francis is swimming in the love of God, as we all are. The sea imagery is helpful for us to use our imaginations, as we engage in the song. “Underneath me, all around me is the current of thy love!” Anyone who has ever enjoyed swimming in the ocean, meeting the waves and diving under, can easily be delighted by the thought of bathing in God’s love. The current leads us to heaven—to home and glorious rest.

In the second verse, we see Francis’s desire to preach and spread the good news of Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross. He encourages us to “spread his praise from shore to shore,” hinting at the ocean imagery. Then he gives us reasons why He deserves our praise: he watches over us. He died for us. He intercedes for us. He is truly a loving God!

Verse three mirrors verse one and expands on the theme. Of every love, His is the best: “It is an ocean, vast of blessings.” The lyrics then turn into a burst of rapturous expression: “O the deep, deep love of Jesus/ ‘tis a heav’n of heav’ns to me!” The hymn ends where verse one ended: in heaven, as the love of God lifts him (and us) up to glory, up to God’s loving arms.

What a blessing for us as we have the privilege to sing this beautiful English hymn with the haunting Welsh melody. May the singing of “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus” enable us to engage our imaginations and swim deeply in the love of God this Sunday.


Written by Diane J.
Enjoy the lyrics in full: https://hymnary.org/hymn/TH1990/535