31st July 2020
A few years ago I did an online course in biblical counselling, called The Dynamics of Biblical Change. David Powlison would begin his lectures by exegeting a hymn – talking us through it and showing us what it means, much as we do with a Bible passage. I’m not suggesting that hymn study is a substitute for Bible study, but it would be a useful addition. After all, the best hymns are Scripture in song.
I thought I’d try and exegete one of my favourite recent songs, Behold our God from Sovereign Grace Music. One of the co-authors, Stephen Altrogge, sums up what he thinks is its appeal: “The conclusion I’ve come to is that people are starving for the glory of God. They want preaching and writing and music that points them to the staggering, stunning, absolutely beautiful character of God.”
This song certainly does that. It began life in 2011 with the writers meditating on Isaiah 40:12-17. The song’s verses invite us to behold God’s glory. By asking questions, they show us that nothing and no one can compare with our God. In verse one, God’s power is in focus:
Who has held the oceans in his hands?
Who has numbered every grain of sand?
Kings and nations tremble at his voice
All creation rises to rejoice
Then, in verse two, it’s God’s knowledge that’s in focus:
Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of his words?
Who can teach, the one who knows all things?
Who can fathom all his wondrous deeds?
But what does a God of incomparable power and knowledge look like? What might he do? It could be a terrifying thought. The New Testament gives the stunning answer that this God is also incomparable in grace. His power and his knowledge take him to the cross:
Who has felt the nails upon his hands?
Bearing all the guilt of sinful man
God eternal, humbled to the grave
Jesus, Saviour, risen now to reign
Having encouraged us to behold God’s glory, the chorus invites us to give him glory, which is only right:
Behold our God, seated on his throne
Come, let us adore him
Behold our king, nothing can compare
Come, let us adore him
So, read Isaiah chapter 40, sing Behold our God, and adore this God for who he is. As as you do so, you’ll be joining a vast choir: the song’s been translated into Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Welsh, which is only fitting because our God is their God too.