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, April 10, 2017


How big is your God?  I noticed last week, in our Bible study (Behold Your God), one commentator made this statement: “(Our) great goal…is to be amazed with the bigness of God and to allow that to infiltrate and affect our lives in every arena of our lives.”

It seems like our culture, our country, and the whole world is rushing headlong into destruction.   Immorality, lawlessness, and godlessness is all around us and every day seems worse than the one before.  Consequently, many people, including Christians, are insecure, worried, and fearful.

It's NOT sufficient to simply acknowledge that God can or may use bad situations for our good.  We need to understand that God is much bigger than all our problems.  So, I continually remind myself; God is Sovereign.  But is He sovereign in ALL THINGS?  Do we really believe that?  Are we sure?

I know that most Christians will admit that God is in control but I wonder if we really believe that He controls ALL THINGS.   I sometimes ask that question of my Christian friends and almost every one of them answers "Yes, God is sovereign." 

But then, when I dig a little deeper and ask more specific questions about things like His control over our health, our environment, our finances, or even our salvation, the answers I get are often surprising.  One person answered, "Well, He is sovereign to a certain extent."

NO!  God is not sovereign to an extent.  There is no extent to God; He is immeasurable and infinite.  He is not limited in any of His attributes.  If your god’s sovereignty is limited, then your god is not the true God as revealed in His Word.

A God who is truly Sovereign is NOT reactive; it's not simply that, because He knows the future, He manipulates circumstances and works to change the outcomes of bad things.  He is not on the defensive.  The truth is that He is proactive.  He has ORDAINED ALL THINGS for His Glory.

HYMN TO A GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN (sometimes called, O God, The Deep Immutable), is a hymn about the “bigness” of God.  It focusses our attention to the mighty power of a sovereign God who rules over ALL His creation.

The first stanza begins with one of His attributes; God is immutable; He NEVER changes.  He doesn’t change His mind or His plans.  And He is not changed by His creation.  He doesn’t learn anything; nothing has ever occurred to Him so He is not caught off guard by anything men do.

God is not changed by time either.  He doesn’t grow older, He doesn’t forget, and He isn’t uncertain or surprised about the future.

The second stanza assures us that He is not caught off guard by nature.   All creation, the entire universe, changes at His command.  (Are you worried about global climate change and the threat of rising sea levels?)  Well, Proverbs 8:29 informs us that, even the boundaries of the seas are set by God’s spoken Word.  He is the Sovereign ruler over ALL things.

He is not only a SOVEREIGN ruler; He is also a GRACIOUS ruler. After the song proclaims the vast, immeasurable wonder of His power and glory, the hymn writer uses the final two stanzas to reveal His grace, love, and mercy. Because He is immutable, His care for us never diminishes; “He who began a good work in us will complete it.” (Phil. 1:6)

God is in control and He, intricately, works all things together for the good of those He is saving.  And that is why, as Christians, we can find peace and great comfort even during times of hardship, persecution, or tribulation.  

But, as the songwriter indicates, the greatest evidence of God’s graciousness is that “(He) demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)

Sing to the tune of, "O Sing a Song of Bethlehem"  KINGSFOLD c.m.d.
O God, the deep immutable,
The changeless, wise and still;
The absolute, eternal One;
You wield the sov’reign will.
Deep Heav’n itself and even time,
Must bend beneath Your sway.
With whispered thought You banish night,
With flash of blinding day.
The seas are bounded by Your Word;
Great mountains heed Your call.
Majestic swirls of galaxies,
Adorn Your royal hall.
The centuries are lumps of clay,
Shaped by Your strength and skill.
You mold the long millennia,
To the dictates of Your will.
The boundless, black-robed skies proclaim,
Your vast, astonishing might;
Their flaming jewels rejoice for You,
In silent shouts of light.
With sure and sovereign strokes, Your hands,
Finger the cosmic strings,
And play celestial symphonies.
As all creation sings.
And silent now, the angels stare;
Stunned seraphs blush, amazed;
Great Michael sheaths the sword that, at,
The Gate of Eden, blazed.
And Gabriel sets his trump aside,
And listens to his Lord,
As Love, incomprehensible,
Becomes the Living Word.
Now, space and time have cracked before,
The size of this event:
The glorious Godhead shudders as,   
The Son, to Hell, is sent.
Though Very God of Very God,
He counts it all but loss,
And comes and suffers as a man,
From manger to the Cross.

Words by Neil Barham (used by permission)

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