Hymn Exploration: How Great Thou Art

by Karl Gustav Boberg and Stuart K Hine (translator)

  • Verse 1:
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works 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 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:
(Repeat Refrain.)
  • 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:
(Repeat Refrain.)
  • Verse 4:
When Christ shall come with shout 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!
(Repeat Refrain.)

How Great Thou Art began as a Swedish poem, written by Karl Gustav Boberg, a young pastor. One day in 1885, while walking home from church, Boberg was caught in a thunderstorm, severe enough that he feared for his life. Then, as the storm passed, the sun came out and the birds started singing, and Boberg was inspired by God’s sovereignty over nature to write a poem he called “O Store Gud” (Oh Mighty God). A local newspaper published his poem. A few years later, he was surprised to hear people singing his poem set to a Swedish folk tune. 

Years later, a German Christian named Manfred Von Glehn was compiling a book of hymns and included “O Store Gud” but translated it into German “Du Gro├čer Gott”. It then made its way into a Russian-language hymnbook compiled by Ivan Prochanov and became “Velykiy Bog” (Great God) and “Wie gross bist Du” (How Great Thou Art).

It became very popular in Russia and the Ukraine. In the 1920’s and ’30’s, Stuart and Edith Hine, a British missionary couple to the Ukraine, heard it, used it in their ministry, re-wrote the verses in Russian, and added new ones. 

There have been numerous translations in many languages. There were even some earlier English translations. 

But in 1957, the Billy Graham Crusade made it popular worldwide. 

Since then, How Great Thou Art has been recorded by many artists and is one of the most well-known hymns. 

And it all started when a young man decided to share his awe at the grandeur of our God in the form of poetry.

Watch and sing along to this performance by Chris Rice:

Let me know down in the comments whether or not you knew the history behind this famous hymn and if you enjoyed this post!

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