Monday, June 29, 2015

The Love of God (1917)

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"This hymn was written in a citrus packing house in Pasadena, California, by a German-born Christian named Frederick M. Lehman. At age four, Frederick and his family had migrated to America, settling down in Iowa....

In 1917, his finances had gone sour, and he found himself working in a packing factory in Pasadena, moving thirty tons of lemons and oranges a day. One morning as he arrived at work, a song was forming in his mind. He had been thinking about the limitlessness of God's love, and during breaks he sat on an empty lemon crate and penned down words with a stubby pencil.

Arriving home that evening, he went to the old upright piano and began putting notes to his words. He finally had a melody and two stanzas, but almost all gospel songs of that era had at least three stanzas. At length, he thought of some lines he had recently heard in a sermon. (Editor's note: in another version, some say he remembered these lines from a poem on a card, received from a friend).

Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every 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.

--- The above extracted from Then Sings My Soul, Robert J. Morgan


The words from this poem were found to match the melody that Frederick had written! But who is the original author of this third stanza? It was later discovered that the original version of this verse was written long ago in Hebrew, by a Jewish poet Meir Ben Issac Nehoria. The first english translation, however, was found carved on a prison wall by some painters, and one of them was so impressed by the words that he jotted them down, preserving it in the process. So "coincidentally", these words matched the metre of this song that Frederick M. Lehman would write hundreds of years later.

So complicated, and while some historical facts may be unreliable in this case, one thing is clear. This hymn was incomplete without the third stanza, and God completed it through His perfect timing and perfect plan :) It is amazing to see how God cares and exercises His providence, even in hymns... so that many years down the road, countless people are edified through the words of this song.

photo: (Write of God's Love Pencils/Notebook -


pp said...

looking at these designs and knowing more about the origins of this hymn have created a greater appreciation for this hymn. and to be able to sing with deeper affection and understanding. How true also is it with God's love, in that He will enable us feeble man to know about His love more and more.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing! I love the lyrics of this hymn.
We also used it as one of the songs during our wedding service. Fond memories everytime we sing this in church. :)