Before we were confined to our homes Robin and I had the great privilege of seeing the Gaither Vocal Band with a couple of our friends. It was a great concert and all of us enjoyed it very much. One of the songs they performed was their arrangement of the old hymn “The Love of God”. I had not thought about the song in a while and their arrangement really stayed on my mind for several weeks (it’s actually still there). I was telling Daddy about the song one day and he said you know where that song originated don’t you? I didn’t, so he showed me in a song book. There was a footnote below the song regarding the origin of the third verse; then I wanted to know more about the history of the song. So… from the website nickel-notes.blogspot.com here is a condensed history of the song.
Frederick M. Lehman was a California businessman that lost everything through business reverses. He was forced to spend his working hours in manual labor, working in a Pasadena packing house packing oranges and lemons into wooden crates. Not an ideal environment for writing love songs, but this was the environment the Lord chose to use.
Mr. Lehman was a Christian who rejoiced in his salvation. He was so moved by a Sunday evening sermon on the love of God that he could hardly sleep. The next morning, the thrill of the previous evening had not left him. As he drove to the packing house, the makings of a song began to come together in his head, with God’s love as the theme.
The next day after work he hurried to his old upright piano and began arranging the words and composing a melody to fit them. He soon had finished two stanzas and the melody to go along with them, but now what was he to do? In those days, a song had to have at least three stanzas to be considered complete. He tried and tried to come up with a third stanza, but to no avail. The words just would not fall into place.
It was then that he remembered a poem someone had given him some time before. Hunting around, he found the poem printed on a card, which he had used as a bookmark. As Mr. Lehman read the words, his heart was thrilled by the adequate picture of God’s love they pictured. He then noticed this writing on the bottom of the card:
“These words were found written on a cell wall in a prison some 200 years ago. It is not known why the prisoner was incarcerated; neither is it known if the words were original or if he had heard them somewhere and had decided to put them in a place where he could be reminded of the greatness of God’s love – whatever the circumstances, he wrote them on the wall of his prison cell. In due time, he died and the men who had the job of repainting his cell were impressed by the words. Before their paint brushes had obliterated them, one of the men jotted them down and thus they were preserved.”
Lehman went to the piano and began to voice the words with the melody he had just written. They were a perfect fit. It was a miracle! The song was published – and remains today – with these words as the last stanza.
In later years, the origin of these words became known to Alfred B. Smith, which reveals an even greater miracle in the writing of this song. The original third stanza was written in Hebrew around the year 1000 by Meir Ben Issac Nehoria, a Jewish Rabbi. God, knowing that Lehman was going to write a song, also realized that Lehman would have trouble writing a third stanza and so He chose this Rabbi, who though not accepting Christ as the Messiah did possess the skills to graphically paint a picture of God’s love in words. He would preserve these words and then hundreds of years later He would have them translated by this prisoner into a language that did not as yet exist, namely English.
And to think, He did it in the exact meter to fit Lehman’s melody!
THE LOVE OF GOD
1 The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.
Chorus O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
2 When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call;
God’s love, so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
3 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.
Having just celebrated Easter, these words really do drive home the magnitude of God’s love for His creation and mankind.