As we come into the summer months of 2017 I have decided to try something with my preaching that I have never tried before
I have decided to use the stanzas of one of the most loved hymns of all time to orchestrate a sermon series
To that end, over the next 4 weeks I want to take a look at the theology that makes up each of the 4 verses of How Great Thou Art
The song was originally written as a nine stanza poem by a Swedish sailor/lay preacher named Carl Gustav Boberg in 1885 when he was inspired by the sound of church bells ringing during a thunderstorm
It wasn’t until 3 years later that someone came across the poem and decided to put it to the music of a traditional Swedish melody
The song made it’s way around the world and was translated into many different languages but it wasn’t until George Beverly Shea sang it nearly 100 times at Billy Graham’s 1957 New York crusade that it became so well loved in North America
As you can imagine the English version that we sing today has gone through some changes over the decades and the original 9 verses were shortened and combined until we now have 4 so let’s take a look at verse 1 together
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Refrain: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!
Verse 1 of this great hymn focus’ our attention on the cosmos, on space and so that is the subject of the message today
As per the lyrics of the song I believe that if we stop to take notice of the heavens they can play a specific role in our faith and so I want to draw your attention to 3 of those things here this morning
The song says
The first of those things is that the heavens are a revelation of God, they teach us about who He is
Times may change, kingdoms may come and kingdoms may go and societies and cultures may change the ways that they think and may have different moral values and so many different types of revelation may be open to personal interpretation making truth vulnerable to error
But none of this has any effect on the Heavens
Think about it, the same skies that the Israelites stared at from their captivity in Egypt are the same skies that Daniel looked to and are the same skies that led the wisemen to find Jesus and are the same skies that have revealed God to people for thousands of years
is often considered by theologians to be one of the most beautiful of all the poems in the Psalms
C.S. Lewis wrote “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world”
Let’s read David’s thoughts about the cosmos
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
Regardless of who you are, when you were born, or where you live and whether or not you have access to a church or even a Bible, it seems unlikely that you could look to the Heavens and not conclude that there is a God
As you consider the
As I share a few numbers with you I want you to imagine the last time you were at gazing up into the starry night sky
The galaxy that we are a part of is called The Milky Way and it is estimated that there are 2 trillion (with a “T”) stars just in our little galaxy
That’s 12 zeros just in case you’re keeping track
Now if that number doesn’t make your head spin try out this one, our galaxy is not alone in the universe and most astronomers agree that there are billions of galaxies and one source I looked at claims that the math equation suggests that there are 20 trillion galaxies (give or take a few)
now try multiplying 20 trillion galaxies by 2 trillion stars in each and you get.... well I don’t know what you get but it’s a really big number and the NASA site pegs it at 2 X 10 to the 23rd power
Now there are those who believe that this all happened by coincidence, that matter and antimatter collided and that this caused a really big bang (there’s no sound in space) and the universe was created
If you ask me that takes a lot more faith than to believe that if there is a creation, there must be a creator
The Heavens are literally screaming at us, “Are you kidding me? You think that all of this is just an accident? Look again. Open your eyes and see that there is a God! We are showing you that God exists”
But not only are they revealing to us that there IS a God, they are revealing just how incredibly awesome that God is and instilling within us a sense of awe when we think about Him
Again let’s go back to David and hear what he has to say about this in the 89th Psalm beginning at verse 5
The heavens praise your wonders, Lord, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord? Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
Dictionary.com defines the word “Awe” this way, “an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like”
The reason that this is such an important point goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when mankind was first tempted to sin
Listen to what the serpent said to Eve to get her to eat of the forbidden fruit,
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
“You will be like God”!!!!!!
The fall of mankind also resulted in the loss of the proper kind of Awe that God should be held in for man now thinks that he is just as good and powerful as God
Well let me share a few more cosmos details with you this time focusing on the stars
Did you know that the circumference of our sun is 2,713,406 miles? and that according to space.com 1.3 million earths could fit inside it
Solar flares from our sun can reach 10 million degrees C and each on has the energy of more than 1 million atomic bombs
But our sun is relatively small compared to most other suns, the largest sun discovered to date is R136A1 with a mass of over 300 times that of our puny little sun
And when one of these giant stars explode into a supernova, the small dense core that is then pressed by gravity forms what is called a Neutron Star
These Neutron stars spin at a rate of up to 600 rotations per second, that’s 36,000 rpm in case you were wondering
Not impressed well keep in mind that these stars are still 1 and a half times the size of our sun which is 1.3 million times bigger than the earth which only rotates once every 24 hours
Oh and if you could somehow get a hold of some neutron star material it is estimated that one tablespoon would weigh 10 Billion tons because they are so dense
Now in light of all of that how can we not but echo the words od David in
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?
Don’t ever give heed to the lie that man is like God, just look up and it should be obvious
The third thing that the cosmos do is to remind us how great and powerful God is
“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.
Let me just give you a few more details about space before I get to why this is so important
Did you know that the equator on Saturn has constant sustained winds in excess of 1100 mph? (That’s almost 1800 kph!)
Light travels at 186,000 miles per second and a light year is a measure of distance using how far light would travel in one earth year, or 186,000 X 31,536,000 (number of seconds in a standard year) which equals 5.88 trillion miles (12 zeros) in a light year
the width of the Milky Way (our solar system) is 100,000 light years meaning that it is 100,000 times 5.88 trillion miles wide
The furthest discovered Galaxy is GRB090423 which is 13.6 Billion light years away from earth
And finally a black hole is a region of space where matter has collapsed in on itself resulting in a huge amount of matter being concentrated in an incredibly small area and the largest black hole discovered so far is known as Quasar OJ287 and it has a mass 18 Billion times that of our sun!
Now why should any of that matter? After all we’re not theoretical scientists and I’m pretty sure that we’re not going to encounter a black hole or 1800 kph windstorms any time soon
At least I hope not, but here’s the point, if God is the one who not only created all this but holds it together and keeps it going just as He planned it to, what is it that you are facing today that He is not capable of taking care of?
Honestly when fear and uncertainty and calamity overwhelm us and we feel like we will drown under the weight of it, all we need to do is to look up to be reminded that the God of the universe loves me and died for me and so what have I to worry about?
Listen to what Paul says,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And to the Ephesians he said,
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Tonight as you gaze up into the sky I challenge you to remember that what you are seeing is far more than just a mixture of gasses in distance places
Remember that what you are looking at is a revelation of the God of the universe to you His most treasured creation , remember to consider these things with an awesome wonder and be encouraged that this same God loves you and is for you and that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can stop Him
How Great Thou Art Verse 1