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~The Love of God (1)


       Frederick M. Lehman, author and composer, wrote a pamphlet, in 1948, entitled History of the Song, The Love of God. It tells about the origin of this beloved hymn—

       While at camp-meeting 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 line 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, the general opinion was that this inmate had written the epic in moments of sanity.

       Actually, 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 score page by F.M. Lehman, a Gentile songwriter, in 1917.

—Selected

       ++++++++++

The Love of God

      

(1) 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.

 

CHORUS:

O love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall for evermore endure

The saints' and angels' song.

      

(2) 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.

      

(3) 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.

 

 

~The Love of God (2)

       The beloved hymn The Love of God had its roots in a long Jewish poem written in the eleventh century in Germany.

       The Jewish poem, Hadamut, in the Aramaic language, has ninety couplets. The poem itself is in the form of an acrostic. 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 Hadamut poem also speaks of a certain miracle. 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 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 every man a scribe of skill,

The marvelous story, Of God’s great glory

Would still remain untold; For He, most high

The earth and sky Created alone of old.

—Kenneth Osbeck

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