Apr
26

The Mighty Power is Indescribable

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There are two songs we sing that remind me of each other but – they’re about three hundred years apart in the making. First, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” was published by Isaac Watts in 1715 and was actually meant to be a children’s hymn. To my surprise the words are associated with at least two hymn tunes: Forest Green and Ellacombe. I had only known of Ellacombe. The Forest Green tune seems to me to be a more likely children’s hymn and so perhaps is the more traditional.

Gazing upon the sky


God’s Power Described

Watts declares God’s power, wisdom and authority using examples of creation. And that’s just the first verse! Looking further we see God’s goodness, His care of His creation, and His omnipotence. So while at first glance it may seem that Watts is primarily extolling creation, that’s not the whole story. He is praising the many attributes of God by drawing our attention to His creation.

I sing the mighty power of God, That made the mountains rise;
That spread the flowing seas abroad, And built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained The sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at His command, And all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, That filled the earth with food;
He formed the creatures with His word, And then pronounced them good.

Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, Where’er I turn my eye:
If I survey the ground I tread, Or gaze upon the sky!

There’s not a plant or flower below, But makes Thy glories known;
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, By order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee Is ever in Thy care,
And everywhere that man can be, Thou, God, art present there.

These verses are split exactly in half in the way they speak of God. The first verse and the first two lines of the second address God in the third person. Thereafter God is spoken to and praised directly.

Fast Forward to . . .

In 2002, Laura Story wrote the song “Indescribable”. These ten years since it has become beloved far and wide. This song is in the verse and chorus style, the verses holding the main descriptions of creation. One example from the second verse:

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow

It is the chorus which gives us the praises of God, especially how omnipotent and unknowable He is:

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untamable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

This song almost completely speaks directly to the Lord. The exception is the second verse, which asks the question, who has done all these miracles of creation? At the end of the last chorus Story’s praise of the creation of humanity and His relationship with them is personally expressed.

You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same
You are amazing God

What do you think?

Each hymn of praise expresses itself in the style of its day. For myself, “Indescribable” says something to me in my “native tongue”, the language of today. “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” also combines praise for the wonders of God and creation; using the “Ellacombe” version makes it a vital declaration, while “Forest Green” captures the gentle simplicity of the children’s song it was originally.

Which do you prefer?

Categories : Creation, Hymns, Music

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