Hello again, friends! It’s been a bit since we’ve posted to the blog because we’ve been focused in on our efforts for the Neue Thing Challenge—memorizing Scripture with you has been such a joy for us—but we are resurrecting the blog space in 2022 with monthly Worship Spotlights again! My dear friend, Emily Heaton, is going to be leading us in song and written devotions through 12 beautiful hymns this year, one each month, and you do not want to miss these as they roll out!
Our first Worship Spotlight for 2022 is the old hymn The Love of God. Whether you are familiar with this hymn or not, I guarantee that her writing and worship leading will bless you. So, grab a cup of coffee and curl up for a few minutes with us as we take a look at the background and profound message of this age-old anthem of our faith.
The Love of God
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;
His 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 ancient 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, and were the skies of parchment made;
Were ev’ry stalk on earth a quill, and ev’ry 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 stretched from sky to sky.
Sometimes, I love to simply read through the lyrics of worship songs, letting the truth of their words soak in. It’s especially good for me to practice this because there are times when I become familiar with songs and let autopilot take over during some powerful proclamations! I don’t want to miss out on the truth I’m singing, and I never want to “autopilot” my times of worship. Even beyond reading the lyrics, another helpful way to rekindle worship is to dig into the origin stories of the lyrics being sung.
Many hymn writers have amazing stories surrounding the well-known stanzas we have sung for hundreds of years. This year, we’re going to share some of these stories with you! In our monthly worship focus, we’ll dig into the stories of 12 hymn writers of the faith, detailing the context behind the songs they wrote. We’re beginning with The Love of God. Whether this song is new or old to you, I know you’ll be just as fascinated with the story as I am. The lyrics have traveled through hundreds of years in history to become what they are today. Let me tell you what I learned when researching this hymn of our faith.
Rewind all the way back to the 11th century. We’re in Germany, in the city of Worms, and we find a Jewish church leader and cantor (someone who chants portions of worship) named Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai. He was also a poet and is credited for penning the words of the final stanza sung in the hymn, The Love of God. In one article, I read he wrote the words only months before Crusaders attacked and killed many Jews in this region. The written words of this stanza speak of the great heights and depths of the love of God, which is unable to be measured.
I’m reminded of Psalm 103:11 which says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His faithful love toward those who fear Him.”
But the story isn’t over! Fast forward 800 years later…within the confines of an asylum, one man scratched these very words onto his wall. It wasn’t until this man had died that the words were discovered on the walls. How beautiful to know that, regardless of what this man was struggling through, no matter the pains and sorrows he faced, he had moments of worship in his asylum room—writing reminders on the wall of God’s great love.
Years later, it was this inspiring work on the asylum walls that prompted Frederick Lehman in 1917 to finish a hymn he had been writing, The Love of God. He needed a third verse because in that day, it was very important to represent the Trinity within a three-verse framework of the song. Thanks to this centuries-old poem from Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, describing the love of God, and the written work on the walls of the asylum, we get to sing the same words today. Let the lyrics be a reminder each time you hear them of the immense love God has for Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, for the inmate at the asylum, for Frederick Lehman, and for you.
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