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The Story Behind the Beloved Hymn 'How Great Thou Art'

Posted by Danielle Stringer on


Here is the history of the Hymn How Great Thou Art and a closer look at it's lyrics.

Let's journey through time as we go over the history of "How Great Thou Art." This timeless masterpiece, which has been around for centuries, finds its roots in the scenic landscapes of Sweden and resonates with the hearts of worshippers everywhere.

Imagine the late 1800s in the Swedish countryside, where Pastor Carl Boberg found himself in the middle of a sudden thunderstorm. Nature, in all its grandeur and power, unfolded before him, giving him a sense of awe and humility.

In the wake of this divine encounter, Boberg penned the initial version of "How Great Thou Art," capturing the heart of a soul stirred by the wonders of creation.

Scripture: Psalm 19:1-2
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge."

Carl Boberg wrote the first portion of the classic hymn How Great Thou Art

Now, fast forward to a different time and place, where English missionary Stuart K. Hine comes across the Swedish version of Boberg's hymn. The melody, full of the spirit of worship, deeply moves Hine, prompting him to take on the task of translating and expanding the hymn.

This collaborative effort went beyond the borders, resulting in the version known and loved today. The hymn journeyed from Sweden to the hearts of worshippers worldwide, a testament to the lyrics' power to resonate with believers everywhere.

Psalm 96:3
"Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!"

Now, let's unpack the meaningful lyrics of "How Great Thou Art," verse by verse, with insights into scripture for each line.

"O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made."

In this opening verse, Boberg invites us to contemplate the vastness of God's creation. It's a moment of reflection, acknowledging God's handiwork in the universe.

Job 37:14-16
"Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine?"

"I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed."

The imagery intensifies as Boberg draws our attention to the cosmic wonders – stars glittering in the night sky and the reverberating echoes of thunder. Nature becomes a canvas, displaying God's omnipotence.

Isaiah 40:26
"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing."*

"Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee; How great Thou art, how great Thou art!"

The refrain serves as a crescendo of praise. The soul responds to the contemplation of God's creation with a song of adoration, and a recognition of His greatness.

Psalm 103:1
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!"


Lyrics to How Great Thou Art

"And when I think of God, His Son not sparing, Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in."

The hymn takes a turn, reflecting on the sacrificial love of God. The weight of this truth, that Christ died for us, is overwhelming.

Romans 8:32
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"

"That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin."

The cross becomes a symbol of love and redemption. Christ, willingly bearing our burdens, sheds His blood to cleanse us from sin.

1 Peter 2:24
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed."*

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart."

The hymn turns toward the anticipation of Christ's return – a future moment of triumph for believers!

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

"For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord."

"Then I shall bow in humble adoration, And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!"

The final verse envisions a future posture of worship before God's throne. It's a proclamation of His greatness, echoing the awe-inspired sentiment that began the hymn.

If you prefer to hear about the history and lyrics, be sure to watch this Youtube video where I did a live "Hymn Highlight" segment on this hymn. I even go over a bonus verse that wasn't mentioned here on the blog.  


Then Sings My Soul lyrics to How Great Thou ARt hymn


We pray our hand lettered hymn boards are a reflection of God's greatness and a reminder to praise Him as you see them in your homes!

You can find this hymn in two different formats. I couldn't decide between showcasing "How Great Thou Art" or "Then Sings My Soul" so I created one for each set of lyrics. 

Thank you for taking the time to read the blog today! I'd love to hear which verse from How Great Thou Art is your favorite!




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