Updated: Nov 28, 2020
By Barry Wilkins.
A few months ago, there was a post called, A Prayer of Praise to Our Creator and Redeemer. It was a translation of a nine-verse poem written in Swedish by a Baptist pastor in Sweden in 1885, Carl Gustav Boberg. He did not originally intend the poem to be sung, but he accidentally heard it being sung to a Swedish folk tune. This tune, and the words, were taken to America by Swedish migrants. Although it was translated in the early 20th century in America into English so that it formed a singable hymn, albeit a translation of only part of the original, that song never became popular outside America and is now largely unused, although the tune persisted.
The poem somehow got translated into German, and then it made its way into Russia. An English Methodist missionary in Ukraine, Stuart Hine, heard it being sung in Russian. Being fluent himself in Russian, after he had to leave Ukraine during the Stalinist purges, he translated it loosely into English from the Russian in the 1940s. This song in English is a shortened paraphrase of the original and is one of the best-loved hymns today all over the world. Billy Graham championed it in his 1950s and 60s crusades. I heard it sung over and again at his London crusade in the late 60s. They changed the third line of the refrain to ‘In all the world there is no one like thee’, and to this day I find myself singing this line!
The third verse is sublimely beautiful but is sadly omitted by some modern popular singers on their albums. The last verse is added by Hine and does not relate to the original. When he comes with shout of acclamation probably relates to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, ‘For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command …’. Here it is; we sang it a few weeks ago.
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the works Thy Hand has 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. 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.
And when he comes, with shout of acclamation, And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart; Then I shall bow, in humble adoration, And then proclaim: ‘My God, how great Thou art!’