The Love of God

BIBLE REFERENCE:

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved); And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 2:4-6

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 1 John 2:5

The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.  Jeremiah 31:3

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39


The Hymn

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.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of 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.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

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.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

The Composer:
Frederick Martin Lehman – Lyrics & Composer
1868-1953

Born: August 7, 1868, Mecklenburg, Schwerin, Germany.
Died: February 20, 1953, Pasadena, California.

Buried: Forest Lawn Cemetery, Glendale, California.

The Hymn Story

This beloved gospel hymn has its roots in a Jewish poem, written in Germany in the eleventh century, Frederick M. Lehman, the twentieth-century author and composer, wrote a pamphlet, in 1948, entitled “History of the Song, The Love of God.”  Portions of Mr. Lehman’s account in his own wordds are as follows:

“While at campmeeting in a mid-western state, some fifty years ago in our early ministry, an evangelist climaxed his message by quoting the last stanza of this song.  The profound depths of the lines moved us to preserve the words for future generations.Not until we had come to California did this urge find fulfillment, and that at a time when circumstances forced us to hard manual labor.  One day, during short intervals of inattention to our work, we picked up a scrap of paper and, seated upon an empty lemon box pushed against the wall, with a stub pencil, added the (first) two stanzas and chorus of the song.

…Since the lines (3rd stanza from the Jewish poem) had been found penciled on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave, the general opinion was that this inmate had written the epic in moments of sanity.

The key-stanza (Third verse) under question as to its authorship was written nearly one thousand years ago by a Jewish songwriter, and put on the scorepage by F. M. Lehman, a Gentile songwriter, in 1917.

The Jewish poem, Hadamut, in the Aramaic language, has ninety couplets.  The poem is in form of an acrostic, with the author’s name woven into the concluding verses.  It was composed, in the year 1096, by Rabbi Mayer, son of Isaac Nehorai, who was a cantor in the city of Worms, Germany.  The poem may be broken down into two parts.  In the first section, the poet praises God as the ruler of the world, the One who created all things, including the angels, to serve Him.  The poet also includes the creation of the children of Israel as God’s special portion.

In the second section, the writer describes the polemic between the nations of the world and the chosen Jewish people.  He describes how these people have been persecuted and even killed, throughout the ages, for the sanctity of God’s Holy Name.  The poem tells how the nations of the world have attempted to influence the Jewish people to leave their religion and to cooperate with the non-Jewish majority.  This the Jews have refused to do, however believing with absolute conviction, that though this world may be one of hatred and destruction, the world to come will vindicate them, and then all the nations of the world will know that God has chosen Israel for His eternal glory. The Hadamut poem also speaks of a certain miracle, which happened, about which the poet comments.  There are three opinions as to the contents of this miracle.  The first opinion is that the miracle was the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.  Incidentally, it is for this reason that the poem is still read on the first day of the Feast of Shavuot (Fall Harvest-Festival of Weeks, begun seven weeks after Passover) before the reading of the Ten Commandments.

The second opinion simply states that we really cannot know with certainty, from the references, what the actual miracle was.  The third opinion believes that the miracle took place in the city of Worms, home of the rabbi-poet.  It is thought that there was a medieval, German priest who once spoke evil of the Jewish community.  The king called upon the Jews of the city to produce a representative to argue and defend themselves against the priest.  If the Jewish spokesman was successful, then the Jewish community would be spared mass genocide.  But if the anti-Jewish priest proved successful, then all of the Jewish community of Worms would be put to death.  The story has a happy ending, as the Jewish representative was successful in the defense of their faith, and the community of Worms was spared.

Throughout the poem, the theme of God’s eternal love and concern for His people is evident.   One section of this poem, from which the present third stanza of “The Love of God” was evidently adapted, reads as follows:

Were the sky of parchment made,
A quill each reed, each twig and blade,
Could we with ink the oceans fill,
Were everyman a scribe of skill,
The marvellous story
Of God’s great glory
Would still remain untold;
For He, most high
The earth and sky
Created alone of old.

Frederick Martin Lehman pastored Nazarene churches, throughout his ministry in Indiana and Illinois, before moving to Kansas City, in 1911, where he became involved in starting the Nazarene Publishing House.  His later years were lived in California, where he died at Pasadena in 1953.  Throughout his ministry, Frederick Lehman wrote numerous poems and songs, including the publishing of five volumes of Songs That Are Different.  “The Love of God” first appeared in Volume Two of that series, in 1919, although the copyright was obtained two years earlier.  The harmonization of this gospel hymn was accomplished by Mr. Lehman’s daughter, Claudia (Mrs. W. W. Mays, 1892-1973), who also was associated with the Nazarene Publishing House as its secretary for a period of time.“The Love of God” has been widely used during the past several decades as a special number by numerous gospel musicians.  It is presently being included in many of the newer evangelical hymnals as a worthy congregational hymn

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