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Hymn of the Month – “Great is Your Faithfulness”

Ministers' letters

Friends, our hymn of the month for August is Great is Your Faithfulness. It was written as a poem by Thomas Chisholm in 1923, inspired by the combination of his experience and Bible truth. Chisholm was a schoolteacher, pastor and editor of newspapers and religious literature.

He sent the text to William Runyan, who was an editor at Hope Publishing Company and a musician associated with the Moody Bible Institute. Runyan saw the great promise of the hymn, and sought to create music that was fitting and appropriately beautiful. He wrote:

This particular poem held such an appeal that I prayed most earnestly that my tune might carry its message in a worthy way, and the subsequent history of its use indicates that God answered prayer.

Runyan published the completed version, and it received wide distribution by being a favourite at Moody as well as through its use at the Billy Graham Crusades.

The first line identifies God as our Father and introduces the hymn’s key idea, which is repeated in the chorus: God’s great faithfulness. The rest of verse one describes him as a promise-keeping God whose love is unchanging and whose character is consistent across the ages. The  first verse and chorus surely echo Lamentations 3:22-23, which says:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (ESV)

Verse two focuses on creation and how the seasons, its produce we harvest for our food, and the cycles of whole solar system and beyond witness to God’s loving-kindness. Here I am reminded of the testimony of Psalm 104 for example.

Verse three describes the impact of the gospel of Jesus in the experience of the life of the believer. God’s great love in sending Jesus results in many blessings such as pardon for sin and everlasting peace, God’s presence and guidance in our lives (i.e. via the Holy Spirit), strength to ensure now along with hope for the future. Romans 5:1-11 is one passage where we find all these blessings connected together with what God has done for us in Christ.

We are going to sing the version with lightly modernised language. For copyright reasons, I will not print the whole hymn here, but just the first section. However I am sure we will be encouraged to sing the whole throughout August. God’s faithfulness to us is indeed great!

1.Great is your faithfulness,
O God my Father,
You have fulfilled all your promise to me;
You never fail and your love is unchanging;
All you have been you for ever will be.

Chorus: Great is your faithfulness!
Great is your faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed your hand has provided;
Great is your faithfulness, Father, to me!

(Tune: W.M.Runyan; Text: Thomas O. Chisholm;
this version from Hymns for Today’s Church, Jubilate Hymns,
© 1923, Renewal 1951 Hope Publishing Company.)

Warmly in Christ,
Sandy Grant

P.S. From the church which came up with the idea of hymn of the month, Bob Kauflin has a little more information on the original author Chisholm, showing how God used an ordinary man with a fairly ordinary story in the writing of this hymn.

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