I am the song leader in my church. I am not very proficient as a musician or a choral director. I pray that, someday soon, God will send someone more capable, to take this ministry from me. But for the time being it is my responsibility to select the music and lead the congregation in the singing every week.

I take that responsibility seriously. The hymns and songs that I select must be doctrinally sound, they must be appropriate for worship with a God-centered worldview, and, withing those parameters, I try to select music that will reinforce and, support the text and subject of my pastor’s messages.

Some of us have been singing the hymns for years; the words roll off our lips but the messages often don't engage our minds or penetrate our hearts. With the apostle Paul, I want the congregation to "sing with understanding."

So for the past couple years, it has been my practice to select one hymn each week, research it, and then highlight it with a short introductory commentary so that the congregation will be more informed regarding the origin, the author's testimony, or the doctrinal significance of the hymns we sing.

It is my intention here with this blog, to archive these hymn commentaries for my reference and to make them freely available to other church song leaders. For ease of reference, all the hymn commentaries in this blog will be titled IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Other posts (which will be music ministry related opinion pieces) will be printed in lower case letters.

I know that some of the comments contain traces of my unique style, but please feel free to adapt them and use the content any way you can for the edification of your congregation and to the glory of God.

All I ask is that you leave a little comment should you find something helpful.

Ralph M. Petersen

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Monday, October 3, 2016


Thomas Obadiah Chisholm was a poor, simple man of who experienced God’s faithfulness throughout his whole life.  He was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky in 1866.  He was educated in a little, one-room country schoolhouse, and at the age of 16, he began teaching there.  Later, he worked as an associate editor of the Franklin Advocate, his hometown weekly newspaper.

After God saved him at the age of 27, Thomas learned to find comfort and strength in the faithfulness of God to provide for all his needs in difficult times of illness.

With no formal college education or seminary training, he was ordained to the Methodist ministry at age 36.  He served as a pastor for only one year because of his fragile health. There were many periods of time when he was confined to his bed and unable to work.

Between his bouts of illnesses, he would push himself to work extra, long hours at various odd jobs just to make ends meet.
Thomas loved to write and during his lifetime, he wrote hundreds of poems.  One of them was GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS, which was inspired by Lamentations 3:22-23, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”

This hymn has three verses that demonstrate God’s great faithfulness. 

Verse 1 declares His faithfulness as He has revealed Himself in His Word.  It is adapted from James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  

God is faithful because of His unchanging nature.  He is always the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

In verse 2, the writer points to the witness of nature as evidence of God’s faithfulness. The courses of the Sun, the moon, and the stars; the seasons, and even the ebbs and flows of the tides are all ordered and regulated by Him.  

If you are fearful about global warming and rising seas, you can rest assured that God has it all under control.  It is He who, said, “For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.” (Jer. 5:22)

He has orchestrated all of creation and He holds it all together according to His purposes and for His glory.

Verse 3 then assures us of God’s faithfulness in our lives.  He saves us, forgives us of all our sins, gives us His peace, empowers us for His service, and assures us of our eternal hope. And so we can trust Him for all His benefits, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus Christ has done.  “The Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.”  (2 Thess. 3:3)

He is faithful to deliver us.

About his simple, ordinary life, Thomas Chisholm said, “God has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”

Whatever difficulties or trials we might face in our lives, this hymn reminds us that God’s promises are true, that He never changes, and that His compassions never fail.

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