Sometimes a gift finds you when you’re not even aware of who sent it or why. It isn’t until you sit with it and feel the full measure of its weight in your hands, that you realize that not only this gift, but many others, carefully wrapped ages ago, present themselves to you to be unwrapped at the precise moment that you need them.
If you believe in God, you know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him. He is Love and He loves; out of that all-sufficient Love, He gives. This is my completely inadequate summation of the immeasurable immensity of God’s love as it plays out in my life repeatedly.
I recently sat down to work on a Bible study Disciplines of Disciples with Psalm 119. On one of the days, we were instructed to meditate on ‘God’s steadfast love’ in verse 64 (ESV): The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes! We had to listen to a song about God’s love and then spend some time journaling about it.
Many songs came to mind, but there was only one obvious song for me to pick. For someone who dabbles in writing, the lyrics are timeless. They are from the third stanza of a hymn called The Love of God written a little over a hundred years ago:
“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.”
I listened to a couple of different versions of the hymn. The words make me cry every single time, no matter who sings it. I had never wondered about the story behind the hymn or the hymn writer Frederick Lehman until now.
There are few different versions of the story; some versions say that Lehman had his first two stanzas written, was stuck, and then serendipitously found this third stanza. Other versions say Lehman already had the third stanza and then composed the first two to complete the hymn. You can read one version here.
This is my own simplified version: Two hundred years before Lehman wrote the hymn, the third stanza was discovered scribbled on the wall of an insane asylum in Germany after the inmate had died. Either Lehman heard the words being read in a sermon or found them while traveling through Germany; either way he held onto them for some time.
Years after the hymn was completed, it was discovered that the third stanza could be traced to rabbinic liturgy written in the 11th century by a Jewish rabbi. The biggest miracle of all is that the asylum inmate who had written a translated version of original Aramaic words had done it in the exact meter and style in which Lehman would later write the hymn.
So what, Rosh? Who cares? I do and I’ll tell you why.
This blog space exists for one reason alone. It is to declare the immensity of the Love of God as demonstrated through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Having this space to write and to share is a dream come true. There’s no comment section or subscribe button because they have to be managed. I don’t have the time or the headspace for that right now.
That being said, I would be lying to you if I didn’t confess this little detail. Since I started sharing this week, I have been plagued by the following thoughts: So what, Rosh? Who cares? Even if you find the time to write, who would read? A place for thoughts and prayers? Don’t they make really funny memes out of #thoughtsandprayers? Haven’t you laughed at some of those memes?
Are you starting to see why the story of an ancient Aramaic prayer translated and scratched out centuries later in moments of lucidity on the cell wall of an insane asylum would flood me with all the assurance I need? The unexpected story behind this hymn tells me that God can use my scribbles on this wall in any way He chooses and pleases. I don’t have to see the end result as long as I keep my eyes fixed on Him.
Fix your eyes on Jesus and you will see that His Love is an unscalable Everest that has yet to be sufficiently mined. Once encountered, you will happily put yourself out on a limb of The Tree planted by Living Waters. Fully surrendered to Him, you know that even if you fall, there is no better outcome than drowning in His Love.
May you encounter the width, length, height and depth of this Love in some way, shape or form today! Even if it feels incomprehensible to you, may the weight of its Living Waters fill you, wash over you, flood you, and overflow from you to all you meet today and every day of your life!