For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.
1 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Southern Sweden was the place where “How Great Thou Art” had its beginning in 1886.
It was written in the home of author and editor, Carl Boberg, a member of the Swedish Parliament from 1912 to 1931. The song was known in several countries before it finally reached the shores of the United States.
Boberg said of the writing of his song, “It was in 1885, and in the time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest coloring; the birds were singing in trees and wherever they could find a perch. On a particular afternoon, some friends and I had been to Kronobäck where we had participated in an afternoon service. As we were returning a thunderstorm began to appear on the horizon. We hurried to shelter. There were loud claps of thunder, and the lighting flashed across the sky. Strong winds swept over the meadows and billowing fields of grain. However, the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared with a beautiful rainbow.”
“After reaching my home, I opened my window toward the sea. The church bells were playing the tune of a hymn. That same evening I wrote a poem which I titled, ‘O Store Gud,’ (How Great Thou Art).”
The poem was later set to a Swedish folk tune. In 1907, Manfred von Glehn translated it into German, and five years later a Russian pastor, Ivan Prokhanoff, made a Russian adaptation.
In the early 1920s, the Rev. and Mrs. Stuart K. Hine left their home in England and went to Poland as missionaries. It was there they learned the Russian version of Boberg’s song, “O Store Gud.” Hine then wrote original English lyrics and made his own arrangement of the Swedish melody.
And so we now have “How Great Thou Art.”
“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.”
“Then sings my soul, My saviour God, to thee,
How great thou art, How great thou art.
Then sings my soul, My saviour God, to thee,
How great thou art, How great thou art!”
J. Edwin Orr introduced Hine’s translation of “How Great Thou Art” to audiences in the United States. A short time later, in 1957, it began its orbit around the world by way of the Billy Graham New York City Crusade where it was sung 99 times.
In my possession is a prized copy of “How Great Thou Art” in the Russian language. All four of the men who helped bring us this song – Boberg, the Swede; Von Glehn, the German; Prokhanoff, the Russian and Hine, the Englishman – carefully preserved the awesome message.
I also held in my hand the original letter from Hine’s daughter, Sonia, dated March 16, 1989, which contained the somber news that Stuart Hine had died peacefully in his sleep two days before. He was 92 years of age. Thus, in quiet dignity, ended the life of the man who brought “How Great Thou Art” to the English speaking world.
“O Lord, how great are thy works!” -Psalm 92:5