In today’s sermon, we’re going to look at the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” This hymn has quite an involved history. It was written by Swedish poet, Carl Gustav Boberg, in 1885. He had the poem printed in a Swedish newspaper and an unknown man put it to music, using the melody is an old Swedish folk song. In 1949, it was translated into English by British missionary Stuart K. Hine, who also added two original verses of his own composition. It was popularized by George Beverly Shea during Billy Graham crusades in 1957.
Boberg is said to have written the words after a thunder storm suddenly appeared on a walk home. A severe wind began to blow, a driving rain and darkness fell. After Mr. Boberg arrived home, wet and chilled to the bone, the storm stopped as suddenly as it came. He looked out his window over the clear bay and heard church bells ringing in the distance. A sense of profound wonder and peace came over him as penned the words O Store God (Swedish for O Great God) — O LORD, my God, When I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands hath made..
Today, we’re going to look at a psalm that expresses that same sense of awe. In Psalm 104, David wrote to encourage himself and others to praise the Lord for His greatness. We can be encouraged by praising the Lord for His greatness.
Below is an automated transcript of this messageWe’re continuing our series entitled, “Hymns, Singing Praises To Our God.” The theme verse for this series is found in Psalm 40:3; it reads like this, Psalm 40:3 (NLT) He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” We’re looking at some classic Christian hymns and then going to the scripture to find their inspiration and “unpacking” the scripture. Last week, we looked at the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” which is considered, by most English speakers, the most favorite hymn of all time. Second only to “Amazing Grace” is the hymn that we’re going to talk about today. The hymn is “How Great Thou Art.”
This hymn has quite an involved history. At least the first two verses were written by the Swedish poet, Carl Gustav Boberg, in 1885, in Sweden. It was printed in the Swedish newspaper and then an unknown person, or at least unknown to us, his name has been lost to history, saw the poem and put it to music. He put it to a well known Swedish folk song, an old Swedish folk song. They began to sing those first two verses in Sweden. I’m looking for the Swedish words here; I don’t speak Swedish. It means “oh mighty God” or “oh great God.” They sang it in Sweden and then it was translated into German, and then, into Russian. Little by little, it started going around Europe in different languages. In the 1930’s, 1940’s, the hymn was translated into English by British missionary, Stuart K. Hine. Stuart K. Hine heard the song when he was in India, of all things. He was working in India and heard the song. It really spoke to him; he decided to translate it into English. He actually wrote two more verses of his own composition. So, now the hymn has a total of four verses and kept the original tune, the old Swedish folk song tune and it was translated in 1949.
“How Great Thou Art” finally started showing up in America, in some of the English hymn books. It really still wasn’t very well known until 1957, when a man named George Beverly Shea began to sing the song nightly at the Billy Graham crusades in Madison Square Garden, New York City. George Beverly Shea began to sing that song and it became an overnight hit in New York and then began to spread across the nation, a song so well known that Elvis recorded two recordings of it and won a grammy both times. He did a more conservative version of “How Great Thou Art” in 1967 and won a grammy. Then, in Las Vegas, Elvis sang a version of the hymn, with the big ending and everything; he won another grammy in 1970 for singing that song. Now for the younger people, Carrie Underwood actually had a rendition of “How Great Thou Art” that topped the charts in 2011. So, this song still has “legs;” from George Beverly Shea to Elvis to Carrie Underwood.
People are still singing this song; it’s still considered one of the top songs. Carl Gustav Boberg, the Swedish poet, is said to have written the words after he was caught in a terrible thunderstorm while walking home. On his way home, a thunderstorm came up very suddenly and the wind began to blow and the sky turned dark. Finally, he got in under the roof of his house. No sooner had he gotten in the house, the storm was gone and the sun began to shine. He lifts up a window and smells the air that you smell right after a storm, that cleansing air. In the distance, he heard church bells ringing and suddenly a sense of awe came over Boberg and he began to write the hymn. “O Lord, my God, how I in awesome wonder. Consider all the worlds thy hands have made.” That sense of awe, that feeling after a loud storm when the quiet hits and just the sense that things are bigger around us. We’re smaller than we realized; we have that sense of awe.
Have you ever felt that? Has it been awhile for most of us as we grow up? When we were little, everything gave us a sense of awe, because everything is bigger than us. But when we become adults, we start thinking we’re too big for awe; we’re too big to be impressed. It’s important to have the right perspective, as believers, that our God is a big God, that He’s great and He is awesome. To have that sense of awe and wonder is very closely connected to worship; it’s this idea that we’re looking up and praising the One who’s bigger than us and bigger than our problems and our situation.
I don’t know what brought you here today. Maybe it’s a habit. ‘Well, I just always get up and come over here.’ We are glad you’re here but we hope it’s more than a habit. Maybe, some of you came because you were invited. It’s your first time. Welcome and thanks for coming! Some of you may have come this morning, though, and you’re hoping beyond hope to get some encouragement. ‘I hope I can get some encouragement today because I’m facing this or I’m facing that.’ May I say to you that this message today, on the hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” will help you because it will cause you to take your eyes off of your situation and off of yourself and lift them to the God, Who is greater than all of our problems. That’s what we’re going to be doing today; we’re going to be looking at this, not so much studying the hymn but studying the idea of the hymn, that sense that gave Carl Gustav Boberg awe.
A man named David in the bible had that sense of awe. David wrote most of the 150 psalms. We’re going to be looking at Psalm 4:4; it doesn’t have an “autograph.” In other words, we don’t know for certain who wrote it, but I believe that David wrote it.
Psalm 3 does have an “autograph” at the inscription, at the top. It says, “Of David.” Psalm 3 begins with, “Bless the Lord O my soul.” That’s something that David wrote. Then, Psalm 4 begins with “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” That sounds like David to me; he wrote Psalm 3. In fact, Psalm 3,4,5 and 6 are grouped together. All of them speak of the kind of praises that cause you to lift your eyes off of your situation and off of yourself and to God. I believe that all four of those were written by David, even though the only one that has his “autograph” is Psalm 103. They all share a common writing style and theme. So many have called these, “the soaring hymns of praise.” I believe David wrote this.
I think David wrote it, first of all, to encourage himself. He says, “Bless the Lord,O my soul.” David was one who knew how to talk to himself. Some of us don’t know how to talk to ourselves. We say the wrong things to ourselves, but he knew how to talk and encourage himself in the Lord. I believe he wrote it not just to encourage himself, but to encourage those who would read it and hear it.
How can we be encouraged, now, as we look at it today? How can we say to ourselves, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” How can we lift that up? How can we be encouraged as we look at the text today?
We will see four ways that we can praise the Lord for His greatness. We’ve got thirty-five verses to read. Let’s break it into four portions. I’ll take on the first nine verses and then we’ll talk about it.
Psalm 104:1-9 (ESV) 1 “Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God,(You hear it right there; the inspiration.) you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, 2 covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. 3 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; 4 he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire. 5 He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. 8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them. 9 You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.” This is God’s word, Amen.
We’re looking for four ways we can praise the Lord for His greatness. Here’s the first:
1. Praising Him as the Majestic Creator.
We can praise Him for His greatness by praising Him as the majestic creator. Look at verse one, we see it starts right off by saying you are a very great god. “Oh Lord, my God, you are very great!” We see that he starts off by recognizing the greatness of God. Then, he says, “You are clothed with splendor and majesty.” He sees his royalty, his majesty, his beauty, his splendor; he directs himself towards that. He is going to praise Him for that.
The word, “blessed,” there is the Hebrew word, “Baruch.” “Baruch,” is how almost all of the Hebrew blessings begin; the blessing over a meal. It begins with “Baruch.” “Baruch,” here, could be translated “to praise, to worship, to bow down. The psalmist says, “Bless the Lord.”
Then, you’ll notice if you’re looking at your scripture, in the English, LORD. LORD is in all caps. In the original Hebrew, underneath that, is the covenantal name of God. If it were spelled “Lord,” it would mean, “Adonai.” If it is spelled “LORD,” it means “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” as some pronounce it. It’s the covenantal name of God that he is using here. In fact, he uses the name, LORD, ten times in thirty-five verses. He never uses any other name except for the covenantal name. I say the continental name because that’s the name that God gave Himself.
God revealed to Moses, at the burning bush, in Exodus 3:14. Moses said, ‘hey look, I don’t even know Your name. You’re calling me to go back and set people free from Egypt and I don’t even know Your name. We’ve been calling You the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but what’s Your name?’ God tells Moses, in Ex. 3:14, “I am that I am;” this is the English translation. The name is “Yahweh,” which means, the eternal existent one, eternally present.” Not I was, not I will be. I am self existent. The eternally present outside of time One; that’s the name here.
Bless the Lord, praise the Lord, bow down before the Lord and worship the Lord. The psalmist is talking to himself. Is it okay to talk to yourself? Yes, as long as you say the right stuff, some of us say some really bad things to ourselves. We have really negative self talk. The worst negative self talk is called, “worry.” Worry is talking to yourself, ‘what are we going to do about this bill, self? It’s due in three days.’ You’re talking to yourself.
The one thing that worry does is nothing; it doesn’t accomplish anything. Well, it does accomplish something; it has a physiological aspect that will ruin your body. It affects your faith. You can talk to yourself better. One of the ways you can talk to yourself is, instead of worrying and being afraid, you can lift your eyes from your situation and say, “Soul, look up. Quit talking to yourself and talk to the Lord. Bless the Lord, O my soul.” That’s how it starts. It’s an instruction to the self.
Notice, if you flip over to the back page of your bulletin, look at verse thirty-five. It’s bookended. He opens and closes with, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Then, he praises the Lord at the end, which is another way of saying, ‘bless the Lord.’ He bookends it here beautifully. In literature, it’s called an “Anadiplosis;” he opens and closes with the same statement to himself, “Bless the Lord O my soul.”
Then, he writes, “Oh Lord, my God,” like a child, saying, ‘He’s my God. No, He’s not. He’s my God. No, He’s not. He’s my God.’ He is our God. Can you do that? Can you say, ‘He’s your God. He’s my God,’ using the possessive like that? Is that allowed to say that God, the Creator of the universe, the One who made everything is mine? It’s an amazing thing to do here.
First of all, he says, ‘I’m talking to myself, and now, I’m going to tell myself that He’s my God and to consider that He is great. He is awesome. He’s big, He’s transcendent, He’s beyond all things and He’s mine.’ Is that allowed?
Remember, when Moses went up the mountain to get the Ten Commandments and how God spoke to him when He gave him and the people the Ten Commandments? It starts off in Exodus 20:1, He says, “I am the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not have any other gods before Me. That’s how the Ten Commandments begins. It begins on the mountain with this transcendent voice; this voice above all things. The first thing He says is, “I am the LORD thy God.” He invites you into a relationship with Him.
David says, ‘I need to remind myself that He’s great, He’s awesome and He’s mine. He belongs to me and I belong to him.’ That’s the relationship that it opens up with. Then, he begins to use this beautiful, metaphoric language to describe something about God’s greatness. Because God cannot be seen because He is spirit, David begins to talk about how He’s reflected in creation. The way he perceives Him is in creation. He says, 2 “covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.” He clothes Himself with light like a garment. He’s picturing the way God is because He’s the source of light. He pictures God as putting on a coat of light and he’s “camping out” in the heavens. The blue skies are like His “tent.” 3 “He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters.” Can you see Jesus walking on the water here? The floor He walks on is the sea. 3 “… he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind.” David is talking about these different aspects of creation, saying that these aspects portray God to him; they portray God’s greatness.
Verse four, “he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire.” He could be talking about how God can send messages, using the wind, or how fire can be a servant. That would be a very literal translation here, but if you really look at the Hebrew, it could be translated, “He makes His angel’s spirits.” That would have been allowable, in fact, that’s how the KJV version of the bible translates it. “He makes his angels spirits and his servants a flaming fire.” That’s the way the author of Hebrews interprets verse four. He sees it as speaking of the angelic hosts. God made the angels and He made them spirits; He made him like flaming fires.
5 “He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.” In other words, you set the boundaries of the ocean, so that it stops at the beach. It doesn’t cover the whole earth.
Someone has noticed that these thirty-five verses seem to follow the order of the seven days of creation. Here we are, in the early verses of Genesis, chapter one. In a way, maybe David had the Genesis scroll “over to the side” and he was just meditating on it. Maybe, he thinks, ‘I’m going to write a song about this to encourage my soul. To look up instead of looking down.’ It does seem as if he’s following along with Galatians. The problem that we have, as humanity, is when we look at creation and if we stay in our fallen state, in other words, our sinful state and deny that God exists, we begin to worship the creation rather than the creator. We see that the creation is great and it’s bigger than us and so, we begin to worship it. This kind of worship is called pantheism; it’s the idea of worshiping the creation as if God is in the creation.
The God of the bible is not the creation; He’s the creator. He stands apart from creation. Before He created the creation of the universe, it was just Him and so He stands apart from creation. We have a theistic view of God that He is the prime mover, the One who created all that we are. We worship Him as the creator. If we do otherwise, we fall into idolatry.
Notice what Paul says in Romans 1:22-25 (NLT) “Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people, or birds and animals and snakes. So God let them go ahead and do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever. Amen.”
This is what happens when we say, ‘I’m going to worship the creation.’ In fact, we end up falling towards worshiping the human body and then worshiping sexuality and making it our primary identity. Then, we begin to tell ourselves lies that go against the order of creation; we deliberately tell ourselves lies. We fall under this delusion.
Now, most scientists teach that we “evolved.” The bible teaches that God created us. In fact, the bible goes further and says, ‘instead of evolution taking place with humanity, we’ve devolved. We’ve fallen from our original state where He made us in His image. Our image has fallen.’ So, I reject evolution; I believe that what I see here is “devolution.” I see that we’ve gone down, until we believe in Christ and He restores us.
Notice how Boberg’s hymn begins, with the first verse. “Oh, Lord, my God! When I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made. I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed.” That’s the first verse. He’s talking about when he sees creation, He seeks the creator. It causes him to lift his eyes to the creator.
Have you ever given God praise for a sunrise? As you get older, you’ll just give Him praise if you get out of bed in the morning. Trust me, if you just say, ‘God, thank you. I can get my feet out of the bed and get them on the floor today.’ We need to learn to be saying to ourselves, ‘Soul, come on now. Praise the Lord!’
Let’s look at the second reading. We’ve said that the first section points to Him as majestic creator. Now let’s continue reading:
Psalm 104:10-23 (ESV) 10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; 11 they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. 13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. 14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth 15 and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart. 16 The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, thecedars cedars of Lebanon that he planted. 17 In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees. 18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers. 19 He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. 20 You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. 21 The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. 22 When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens. 23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening.
What’s the second way that we can praise the Lord? The first was to praise Him for His majestic creation. The second is:
2. Praising Him as the Faithful Sustainer.
He’s the majestic creator and He’s the faithful sustainer. I want to look at these next verses and notice now we’ve moved past that moment of the early creation to where he’s now talking about plant life. Remember that I said, it kind of looks like he’s going through the seven days of creation? The plant life, the animal life, and then, finally right at the end, mankind, where he’s talking about the sustenance of the creation. You’ll see these kinds of phrases: He makes “springs gush” and “springs of water” in verses 10, 13 and 14. He causes the grass to grow. I’ve been counting on that lately. Some of you are from this area. I moved down here from Roanoke, Virginia, where I used to buy some “Kentucky 31.” I could throw that stuff on concrete where I grew up and it would sprout grass. Then, I came down here and you have to have a PhD in lawn management. It says here that He causes the grass to grow, so I’ve been trying verse 14 out, ‘Lord cause my grass to grow. You said you would.’ What I keep growing is what comes from sin: weeds. They proliferate; I didn’t plan them. They just come up on their own. God is the faithful sustainer. He can cause grass to grow. He can cause plants for man to cultivate.
I finally got around to planting some “stuff” this weekend. We had that late frost in April and I was hesitant, but I finally went and bought some tomato plants and pepper plants. I put those out over the weekend. I like doing those kinds of things. But, I didn’t make them. I went and bought the plants. God gave us the seed to do it and we can cultivate it. That’s all that we can do. He’s the one that provides it and He doesn’t just give us simple things. He gives us nice food with variety. Verse 15, “and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” Hegives a variety.
What animal, I think it’s the panda, that, if it doesn’t have a particular kind of bamboo shoot, it will die? It’s got a singular diet. When we receive one of those pandas from China, which is where they originate, we have to study and make sure we give them that particular diet. I’m glad we don’t have to live just on bamboo; God has given us a variety. Wine tastes a certain way. If David speaks of oil, he’s talking about olive oil. He lived in the Middle East, so he’s talking about olive oil. Then, he talks about bread.
I can’t help but think about this just for a second; when you go to one of those Italian restaurants where they come out with freshly baked bread. It’s still warm. They come out with a plate and sprinkle some pepper and some spices on it. Then, they pour olive oil on the plate of spices. I slice off some of that bread and dip it into the olive oil mixture. Oh boy. Ok, now, let’s get back to the scripture.
God, You sustain us and with such beautiful variety and tastes. It brightens the face; it makes the face shine. Maybe, he was talking about the way it tastes, it just made him glow with happiness. Or, maybe, he took that olive oil, because you can use it for a lot of things, mixed it with some frankincense and myrrh and made himself some good “aftershave.” I don’t know. He put it on and it made his face glow.
He’s just talking about the beauty of God’s provision. He goes through all the provisions. God God planted trees and then he then made a place for the birds to build their nests and a place for storks. He made the mountains for the wild goats. He made the rocky caves as a refuge for the rock badgers. I’ve been to Ein Gedi, which is this valley that David hid out in in Israel. He had to have been thinking about those mountain goats and those rock badgers because they proliferate in the Ein Gedi valley, right close to the dead sea. It’s all desert; it looks like a “moonscape,” but then, you turn into this one valley that has a spring bursting forth from a cliff. This fresh water flows down and makes a river. There is an oasis of green. These little goats are jumping around everywhere and these little creatures, who look like groundhogs, live in these caves. I’ve seen this place that David is talking about, He’s basically saying that for everything He had made, He made a place and a provision for it.
19 “He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.” He even made the moon, so it helps us mark the seasons. That’s where we get the months from; from the moon. He makes the sun do what it’s supposed to do; it comes up on time.
20 “You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about.” He made darkness for certain beasts that He gave and extra ability to see in the dark. They actually work the “night shift.” 21 “The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.” They go hunting at night and then, when the sun comes up, they lie down in their dens. 22 “When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens.”
When the lions lie down, man gets up. We go to work. For each, He’s made provision. He’s given supply. He’s been faithful to sustain us. He didn’t just make us, but He sustains us.
Psalm 54:4 (NIV) “Surely God is my help; the LORD is the one who sustains me.” Hebrews 1:3 (NLT) “The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven.” He holds everything together. He is the Lord of creation and He’s, also, the sustainer.
Just think of how Jesus showed that in His ministry. As He was lying asleep in the boat and a storm came up (you know we’ve been talking about storms a little bit so that’s what inspired this hymn) and the disciples were afraid. These were professional fishermen and this storm came up on the Sea of Galilee. They say, “Lord, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?” He woke up and looked around. Some movies have depicted Jesus standing up in the boat and doing this big gesture and saying, “Peace, be still!” This is how I visualize it. I don’t think He got up. I think He just got up, on one elbow, and said, “Peace, be still,” because the creation obeys the creator. It says that the disciples were afraid of the storm. When Jesus says, “Peace, be still,” they were afraid of the Man in the boat because they realized this: He is divine. He tells storms and winds to obey and they obey. He turns the water into wine. He multiplies the fishes and the loaves. He’s the creator and He’s the sustainer.
Notice, the second verse of the hymn. This is a verse that we never sang when I was growing up. We must have always skipped this one. I knew that first one, “Oh Lord! My God;” I knew that one. Verse 2: “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.” That verse sounds a lot like the section I just read about creation, birds and animals and so forth. David seems to point to his role, ‘I’m praising my God because He didn’t just make me; He sustains me. He keeps me. Praise the Lord for His provision.’
Do you ever thank the Lord for the fact that He sustains you? ‘Lord, thank You for the food on the table that we can eat. Lord, thank you that I have clothes to wear and a roof over my head.’ Not everybody does that. ‘Thank You that I was able to drive to work today in a car that didn’t break down. Thank you, Lord , that I was able to attend church in a country that still allows us to come together and hear the word of God proclaimed and we can sing praises to the Lord.’ It changes your perspective; it’s important. It’s like we’re tithing the first part of the first day of the week, we’re giving Him the first part of our week. We’re saying, ‘Soul praise the Lord. Bless the Lord for Your sustaining power.’ He’s a faithful sustainer.
Well, let’s keep reading; we’re at verses 24 through 30:
(ESV) 24 O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. 26 There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it. 27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
He’s the majestic creator. He’s the faithful sustainer. Here’s our third way that we can praise Him for His greatness:
3. Praising Him as the Giver of Life. Notice the repetition here, at the beginning. 24 “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” He’s the creator; He made it. He’s the owner and since He’s the owner, that gives Him the right to to put the owner’s manual in the glove box and to tell you and to tell me how we should live, how we should think about the creation, how we should treat others and how we should treat and think of ourselves. It gives Him the right because He made it; He has a purpose and it belongs to Him.
Not only does He sustain us, but He’s the source of life. 25 “Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.” Now, for the Middle Eastern mind, during David’s time, the sea was a mysterious thing. They had not circumnavigated the globe. They didn’t have ships that could do that, but they did have a small sea that they could practice in. They had the Sea of Galilee that they could practice in. They had another medium-sized sea called the Mediterranean Sea that they could practice in; even if they got lost and stayed alive, they would bump into land eventually because it’s a kind of an enclosed sea.
As David would look at the Mediterranean Sea, it was so deep and wide that he couldn’t see to the other side. He began to think about how great it was. So, if you look at the sky, it’s great. If you look at the sea, it’s great. You think, ‘God made that.’ But, not only did He make it, He gave man the ability to make the ships that are out there. He names a creature that we’re not sure what it is; it names it a leviathan. It’s a sea creature or a sea monster. It’s something, it could have been a whale, it could have been a squid, it could have been a prehistoric creature that had not yet lost its place in the world. It could have been one that had not gone extinct yet. We don’t know, but it was some kind of creature that was so huge and impressive to look at . God, You made the sea and then, You made that giant sea monster so it could play in it.
It’s kind of like, when you’re with your kids and you put them in the bathtub. You give them some toys to play with in the bath water. Here’s God. The sea is His “bathtub” and He puts His little “rubber ducky” in the water, like a leviathan, that would probably not even fit in this room. It’s just something He dropped in there; He likes to see it play; He takes joy in that. He’s a creative God and He’s the giver of life. He’s the source of life.
David is meditating on all these things. 27 “These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.” They all look to You as the provider, as the giver of life. 28 “When you give it to them, they gather it up; and when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” If You don’t keep giving life, if You don’t give us the next breath or You take away the next breath, they die.
I understand that you can go without water for about three days. I haven’t tried that, but I’ve heard that’s the case. Apparently you can go without food for 21, 30 or maybe 40 days. You will start losing muscle and you get in real trouble, but you can go a lot longer without food. Even the most heroic of those deep sea free divers, a sport where people dive without carrying an oxygen tank on their backs, can “free dive” for only six minutes or something like that. Some of you are holding your breath right now. Go ahead and breathe. How far away from death are you? One breath? He’s the giver of life.
Verse 30 says, “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” You’re the source of life. I want you to think about that for a second.
This is how John writes in his letter, 1 John 5:11-13 (ESV) 11 “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” How can you know that you have eternal life? Eternal life is not just a quantity eternal; it’s also a quality eternal. It’s abundant. It’s full and overflowing . How can you know that you have this life? John put “the cookies on the bottom shelf” so all the kids could reach it. ‘Got Jesus? Got life. (bad grammar coming this way) Don’t got Jesus? Don’t got life.
Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior? You have received eternal life. He’s the source of life. He says, “I am the way the truth and the life. No man comes to the father except by me.” If you don’t have Jesus, you don’t have eternal life. He’s the creator, He’s the sustainer. He’s the giver and source of life.
This third verse was written by that British missionary that heard the song in India and it became famous later as we’ve told you. Here’s how that third verse goes. It sounds just like what David talked about here, except it has more experience now because we have the New Testament. Verse 3: “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.” Chorus: “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee…” I’m glad we got that third verse. I know that one. It’s about life in Christ and how He gave His life so I could have life.
We have a little bit more to read. If you want to know that life, you have to have Jesus. We’re at verse 31 and David is concluding. You can tell by the way he gets here; he gets loud. He gets excited. Psalm 104:31-35 (ESV) 31 “May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works, 32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke! 33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. 35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!”
I told you that there were ten instances of the covenantal l name, LORD. Well, six of them are in these final verses; he’s talking about the glorious LORD. That’s the fourth way that we can speak to our souls and bless the Lord and bless Him for his greatness. It is by:
4. Praising Him as the Glorious Lord.
Notice, as we look at the very first verse here, verse 31, “May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works,” May the glory of the Lord endure forever, the glory, the beauty, the manifest appearance of the Lord, the splendor, the weight.
Then, he makes these two determining statements. These are acts of the will. He’s made a decision about how he’s going to live. This is the first time he says, in verse 33, “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.” He’s made a determination; He is going to do it today and when he gets up tomorrow, He is going to do it again. “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live.” He’s decided, for the rest of his life, he will sing.
What kind of songs is he going to sing to the Lord? There’s all kinds of songs, right here in the bible. We have 150 psalms that were written to be put to music. What is he going to sing? He tells us that he will sing praise to hisGod. “I will sing praise to my God.” I’m going to sing; this is what I’ve determined.
Some of you might be sitting here thinking, ‘I’m not a very good singer.’ Well, it’s not saying that you have to be a good singer. You will get better at it if you would say, ‘I will just sing. I will sing praise to my God as long as God gives me breath, as long as my heart beats and I can get my mouth to work.’
Have you ever been present in the room when a loved one was about to “graduate” from this world to the next? Have you ever been present with someone, who knows the Lord, is nearing death? My grandmother passed away in her late 80’s; she had dementia. She didn’t know who I was when I would come in but she would get really excited because some part of her brain related that to my face. Sadly, she couldn’t put a name to my face. But, if we start singing hymns, if we sang, “Oh Lord, my God,” she would jump on the alto part. She not only knew the words, she could sing the parts. Tears would start pouring down her face. Even right until the end, when she could barely speak a word, she could hum and sing a chorus of a hymn. David said, ‘As long as I have being, I will sing praise to my God.’ He is your God. If you receive Jesus, He is your God. I will praise Him as long as my heart beats. 34 “May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.” Even if he wasn’t singing and even if his mouth’s not running, may his meditation be pleasing to the Lord.
Look back to verse 31, “may the LORD rejoice in his works.” David is saying, ‘I hope the Lord rejoices in what He’s made.” I would like to make it more personal. ‘I hope the Lord is rejoicing in me because I was a mess until He got ahold of me. I hope He looks at me now and I hope He looks at you now, brothers and sisters, and says, I rejoice in you, I am well pleased with you because you’re following My son, Jesus, and it pleases me when you sing to me .’
Now, I’ve seen on facebook, some of your little kids singing and it’s cute to you. I don’t know some of them and I’m thinking, ‘okay, it wasn’t very good.’ But then, all of the grandparents got on there and talked like they were going to make it on “American Idol.” When someone you love sings to you, you put it on facebook and you celebrate it. When we sing to God, He says, ‘That one is mine’ and He loves it.
Verse 35 is a disturbing verse, “Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!” As David concludes here, he begins to speak of end times and he begins to speak of that day when judgment will come. He couldn’t help it; he studied all creation and he’s given God the great praise. Some day, those who have not bent the knee to bless the Lord, judgment will come. God has been patient, but judgment will come.
Titus 2:13 (NLT) “we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.” On that day, those that know Him will say, ‘You’re my God’ and He will say, ‘You’re My child.’ It will be a day of glory. But, for those that are far from God who have never bent the knee, who worship the creation, but not the creator, it will be a day of judgment. This is what the bible teaches. Even so, David closes, “Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!”
We have the fourth verse of the hymn and it seems to fall right into place with the end times, just as “Amazing Grace” did with the seventh verse last week, “When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun.”
Here’s how verse four of “How Great Thou Art” goes: “When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation and take me home. What joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow in humble adoration. And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art.” Chorus: “Then sings my soul, my savior, God to thee. How great thou art. How great thou art. Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee. How great thou art. How great thou art.” Do you look forward to Christ’s return? Are you able to say to your soul, ‘Come on, soul, praise this great and holy God of ours.’ It will change your perspective. It will encourage you.
On May 15, 1957, Billy Graham’s New York Crusade meetings began in Madison Square Garden and continued for an unprecedented 16 weeks. People said that those New Yorkers were tough people and they probably wouldn’t be open to that North Carolina boy’s preaching. It lasted an unprecedented 16 weeks ; the entire summer. Seven nights a week, Madison Square garden was packed. Nearly 70,000 people committed their life to Jesus. Almost every night, they wanted to hear that new song, the one they’d never heard before by that fellow, George Beverly Shea. They wanted to hear him sing “How Great Thou Art” and it became a staple for the Billy Graham crusade through the years, night after night. We can sing. We can join David and we can sing.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank You for Your word. Thank you that it encourages us to lift our eyes from our own situation to You. You’re a great God. I pray for that person that’s here today, that you would today say, ‘I want him to be my God. I’ve been living my life according to my own wisdom, my own direction, but today, I want to surrender my life.’ Would you pray that right now? ‘I surrender my life. I’m a sinner. I need a Savior . I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins, that He was raised from the grave and that He lives today. I believe that. I surrender my life. Would you come into my life, Lord Jesus, and forgive me of my sins and make me a child of God. I want a relationship with You. I want You as my Lord and Savior.’ If you’re praying that prayer, believing, what really matters is the faith that you want this; that you desire this. He’ll save you and He will receive you as His own. That’s why He came. You can say, ‘He’s my God’ and He will say, ‘You’re my child.’ Others are here today and you know that relationship, you have that relationship with Him, but you’ve been looking down lately. You’ve been looking at your situation, You’ve been looking at your problems. You’ve been anxious and worried. Would you repent right now and say, ‘Lord, help me to sing to You? Help me to lift my eyes to You.’ Talk to your soul right now and say, ‘Soul, listen to me. I will praise the Lord. I will bless the Lord.’ We bless you now, Lord and we lift our souls to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.