“Jesus, Wonderful Thou Art”

"Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" (Col. 1.15)

     INTRO.: A hymn which identifies Jesus Christ as the image of the invisible God is "Jesus, Wonderful Thou Art." The text was written by Forrest Mason McCann, who was born at Lometa, TX, on Oct. 12, 1931, the son of Dewey Forrest and Jean Olive Salyer McCann. His mother was a descendant of Francis Redford, who settled on land that is now part of Richmond, VA, in 1635. After receiving an education in the public schools of Texas, Forrest attended Florida (Christian) College in Temple Terrace, FL; the University of Florida; and Texas Tech University, where his Ph. D. dissertation was entitled, "The Development of the Hymn in Old and Middle English Language." Having married Clara Lugenia Moore of Gainesville, FL, in 1952, he is the father of three children, Forrest, John, and Carol. While preaching among churches of Christ since 1947, he taught three years in the public schools of Florida, from 1965 to 1968, and then was Professor of English Literature and Language at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, TX, from 1968 to 1996. Also he has served as both a deacon and an elder in the church. In 1973, he was working on the Supplement to Great Songs of the Church No. 2, which had originally been published in 1937 by E. L. Jorgenson, with Bill W. Davis (b. 1917).

     In seeking to maintain the alphabetical arrangement of the hymnbook, they discovered that they needed to fill half a page. Davis said that he had composed a tune (Davis) several years before, in the early 1950’s, and gave McCann the meter. McCann had been reading the book of Colossians in his own private study at the time and produced a text that was the overflow of that study and designed to fit the meter of Davis’s melody. When they brought the words and the music together, they seemed to fit well. The hymn was copyrighted in 1974 and first published in the Supplement in 1975. Since then, McCann served as chairman of the Revision Committee and general editor of Great Songs Revised in 1986, which also included the hymn, and was the author of Hymns and History: An Annotated Survey of Sources, which is the handbook to Great Songs of the Church. He is now retired and lives in Abilene, TX . Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song may be found in the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to the Supplement to Great Songs of the Church No. 2 and Great Songs Revised.

     The song identifies characteristics of Jesus for which He is to be praised.

I. Stanza 1 talks about His omniscience, knowing every heart
"Jesus, wonderful Thou art, Wholly God in every part,
Yet Thou knowest every heart: Dwell in us today."
 A. The prophet Isaiah included the name "Wonderful" in the description of the Messiah whose coming he foresaw: Isa. 9.6-7
 B. Jesus Christ is wholly God in every part because in Him dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily: Col. 2.9
 C. Because He is divine, He knows every heart: Jn. 2.24-25

II. Stanza 2 talks about His omnipotence, being all powerful in creation
"Lord of angel hosts above, Moving force of all that moves,
Firstborn, King, Thy name is love: Dwell in us today."
 A. Jesus is Lord of angel hosts above, and all the angels worship Him: Heb. 1.6
 B. He is moving force of all that moves because all things were made through Him: Jn. 1.1-3
 C. Because of His love for us, He is King, sitting at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven: Heb. 8.1

III. Stanza 3 talks about His omnipresence
"Though we cannot see Thy face, Jesus, Lord of far-flung space,
While Thou rulest every place, Dwell in us today."
 A. Because Jesus is now in heaven, we cannot see His face: 1 Pet. 1.8
 B. Yet, He is still Lord of far-flung space and upholds all things by the word of His power: Heb. 1.1-3
 C. Therefore, we know that He rules in every place because there is nowhere that we can flee from His presence: Ps. 139.7

     CONCL.: What is so amazing is that this being who is infinite in His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence can "dwell in us today" if we just submit to His will and obey Him. Many of the religious songs being written today, even by those associated with churches of Christ, partake of the "praise song" character, tending to be extremely repetitious and highly emotional. In contrast, this is a good example of a modern day hymn which actually expresses intelligent praises to our Lord. Because of what He has done for us, may we always love Him to the point of telling Him, "Jesus, Wonderful Thou Art."

     (Words and music copyright 1974 by Great Songs Press/ACU Press)


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