I Sing the Mighty Power of God by Isaac Watts, 1715.
I sing the mighty power of God
that made the mountains rise,
that spread the flowing seas abroad
and built the lofty skies.
We sing the wisdom that ordained
the sun to rule the day;
the moon shines full at his command,
and all the stars obey.
Observe: The fifth-century church father Augustine said, “We sing the truth into our hearts.” Expanding on Augustine, Albert van den Heuvel wrote, “It is the hymns, repeated over and over again, which form the container of our faith. . . . Tell me what you sing, and I’ll tell you who you are!”
Today’s hymn was written by Isaac Watts and published in his hymnal for children titled Divine Songs Attempted in Easy Language, for the Use of Children. Watts focused on teaching children through hymns because “The children of Israel were commanded to learn the song of Moses” Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 32:46, ESV). Christians are directed in the New Testament, not only to sing ‘with grace in our hearts’, but to “address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,” (Ephesians 5:19).
This hymn sings the truth of creation into our hearts. Verse 1 restates two verses in Genesis 1. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:10), and “And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.” (Genesis 1:16). I love the ‘throw-a-way” line, “and the stars.”
I sing the goodness of the Lord
that filled the earth with food;
he formed the creatures with his word
and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how your wonders are displayed,
where’er we turn our eyes,
if we survey the ground we tread
or gaze upon the skies.
Watts turns now to Genesis 1, vs. 12 and vss. 21-25, where God’s providence creates a flourishing earth. Plants and animals, all reproducing after their kind, make a vibrant, living home for us. The earth reveals the glory of God. Paul writes, what can be known about God is plain … his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. (Romans 1:19a–20a).
Finally, verse 3 reminds us of God’s immanence, his nearness to us, and his transcendence, which is his otherness from creation. Everything in nature, its beauty, power, mystery, order, and design are kept because the ‘hand of God’ is active every minute of every day. But it is only the physical manifestation of a greater glory that waits to be revealed to his chosen people.
There’s not a plant or flower below
but makes your glories known,
and clouds arise and tempests blow
by order from your throne;
while all that borrows life from you
is ever in your care,
and everywhere that we can be,
you, God, are present there.
Romans 8 explains why things are how they are today. Paul says, the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons and daughters, [for] the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. (Romans 8:22–24).
Notice the past tense verb “were saved.” We groan because our hope is in the promise of a renewed creation and an eternal kingdom. But not without hope! As children of God we sing these truths into our hearts and I can’t wait until we can, once again, sing together. In the meantime, keep singing, stay strong, and we’ll be singing together soon.
Blessings, Pastor Don.