Tuesday, November 30, 2010
The Pastor’s Perspective
“Another Favorite Hymn”
First Published: November 13, 2007
One of my very favorite hymns is “What Wondrous Love Is This.” The lyrics, sometimes attributed to Alexander Means, run like this:
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.
This is an old hymn, dating from the famous shaped-note songbook The Southern Harmony (1835). If you grew up in Dixie, you probably had Grandparents who sang songs (or at least remembered hearing songs) from that hymnal. The tune is a simple but haunting folk tune.
The focus of the hymn is the love of God. As we grasp the love of God, we learn to love, and are constrained by his love to share it with others, all others. His love is too great to be hidden in silence in the hearts of his people. It must be told out and sung out, and that’s what this song celebrates.
There are but three stanzas of this hymn included in our hymnal, and they each focus on very simple but profound themes. Basically, the song asks us to think about, or rather, to be lost in the glory of the love of Christ. Then it brings home two practical applications of that love: (1) the desire to exalt the Lord for that love, and (2) the comforting truth that we’ll sing this song forever and never tire of it.
In the first stanza we ponder: what kind of love would move Christ, the Lord Christ, to die for me? Indeed it is a wondrous love that moved our Lord to “bear the dreadful curse” for our souls. These words point us to reflect upon the sheer extravagance of God’s love and grace. His love is unexpected and overwhelming and incomparable. And the more we ponder it spiritually, the more baffling and comforting it is.
The second stanza is a response to the realization of Christ’s love as expressed in the first stanza. It proclaims that his love moves us to praise God and the Lamb, along with millions of others who are also beneficiaries of Christ’s devotion.
Finally, in stanza three, the hymnist reminds us that our song of praise will not end in this life. When we cross over to the other side, it will continue and increase. It is a song of joy that will go on for eternity. That truth has comforted many a weary Christian pilgrim, traveling in valleys of trouble and despair.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 11:02 AM