"OUR GOD, HE IS ALIVE"
"And God said, ‘I AM THAT I AM’" (Exo. 3.14)
INTRO.: One of the more recent hymns which expresses praise to the God who calls Himself "I AM THAT I AM" is "Our God, He Is Alive" (#9 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #668 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Aaron Wesley Dicus, who was born May 30, 1888, in Festus, MO. While he was still a small child, his family moved to Swayzee, IN, a small town in the northern part of the state, where he grew up and graduated from high school. In 1908 he was baptized into Christ, becoming a member of the Normal congregation. Two years later he married his first wife Bertha, and to this union were born three sons. Almost immediately, Dicus began to pursue two aims: furthering his education and becoming a preacher. In 1912 he received his B.S. degree from Marion Normal, and in 1915 he delivered his first sermon, after which he filled regular preaching appointments. He also taught school, and soon advanced from classroom teacher in a one-room rural schoolhouse to instructor in a large technical high school.
In 1918 Dicus gave up his teaching to develop an invention, the automobile turn signal. However, in the recession of 1922, he was forced to turn all rights over to his financial partner. But he received an invitation to work with the Lincoln St. church in Bloomington, IN, which afforded him the opportunity to attend the University of Indiana and later to receive a student instructor type of scholarship. By scheduling monthly appointments at several churches, he was able to continue preaching while finishing his A. B. and M. A. degrees at there. Then in 1929, after he had completed most of his work on his Ph. D., he was offered a job as head of the physics department at Tennessee Polytechnical Institute in Cookville, TN. Through these years he continued his preaching by accepting monthly appointments at small rural churches and from 1937 to 1939 commuted regularly to Chattanooga to work with the Ridgedale church. During the 1940’s, he became involved in military training and in preparing graduates for nuclear studies at Oak Ridge, TN.
However, his preaching work was lagging, so in 1950 Dicus accepted an offer to become academic dean of Florida (Christian) College in Temple Terrace, FL, near Tampa, that had been made to him by the new college president James R. Cope. This gave him an opportunity to work with churches in Brooksville and Tampa, FL. After moving to Florida, he suffered the loss of his first wife, but in 1953 met and married his second wife, Flora. When he retired in 1954, he preached full time for churches in Winter Haven and Miami, FL, and then identified with the church in Temple Terrace. Also he began composing hymns as a hobby, receiving help from Margie H. Garrett to harmonize and arrange the hymns. In all, he produced approximately 25 songs. The most popular of these was among his first, "Our God, He Is Alive," which appeared in 1966. It quickly became well known as a result of its use by the Florida College Chorus, and copies began to be pasted into the backs of hymnbooks on gummed sheets. The first publication in a hymnbook was as an endsheet beginning around 1973 in Sacred Selections, originally compiled in 1956 by Ellis J. Crum. Eventually, Dicus’s health began to fail, and he died Sept. 2, 1978, in Tampa, FL.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons. Today it may be found in the 1975-1978 edition of the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1977 Special Sacred Selections also edited by Crum; 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 Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song offers praise to God for His greatness both in the physical and the spiritual realms.
I. Stanza 1 reminds us that God created everything that we see and know
"There is, beyond the azure blue, A God concealed from human sight;
He tinted skies with heavenly hue, And framed the worlds with His great might."
A. "Beyond the azure blue" refers to heaven, where Jesus tells us God dwells: Matt. 6.9
B. This being is called "God" which simply means deity, with the power to create: Gen. 1.1
C. He used this power to frame the worlds by His word: Heb. 11.3
II. Stanza 2 reminds us that God gave man a revelation to tell us how to live
"There was, a long, long time ago, A God whose voice the prophets heard;
He is the God that we should know, Who speaks from His inspired word."
A. A long, long time ago this God spoke to prophets: 1 Pet. 1.10-12, 2 Pet. 1.19-21
B. The reason that He spoke is because He wants us to know Him: Jn. 17.3
C. Today, He speaks to us through His inspired word, the scriptures: 2 Tim. 3.16-17
III. Stanza 3 reminds us that God created man and sustains our lives upon this earth
"Secure is life from mortal mind; God holds the germ within His hand.
Though men may search they cannot find, For God alone does understand."
A. It was God who breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life: Gen. 2.7
B. God is the one who holds the germ within His hand because He decreed that man should be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth: Gen. 1.26-28
C. Man may search but there are some things that they will never find because only God can understand what happened when He laid the foundations of the earth: Job 38.4-7
IV. Stanza 4 reminds us that God sent His Son to redeem us from sin
"Our God–whose Son upon a tree A life was willing there to give,
That He from sin might set man free, And evermore with Him could live."
A. This God sent His Son to die on a tree: Rom. 5.8
B. The reason He did this is so that we might have remission of sins: Matt. 26.28
C. God’s ultimate purpose was to make it possible for us to live with Him in heaven evermore: Matt. 25.34
CONCL.: The chorus emphasizes the fact that even though some have declared that "God Is Dead," He is in fact very much alive.
"There is a God, He is alive, In Him we live, and we survive.
From dust our God created man; He is our God, the great I AM."
In an age when the prevailing philosophy seems to be atheism, it is so refreshing to have these bold yet simple words of faith from a man of science. All of Dicus’s songs were printed by his family in a little booklet Songs and Hymns by A. W. Dicus. Several years ago, Bill J. Humble, a former teacher at Florida College, wrote a beautiful tribute to Dicus. The article was entitled "A Scientist With a Song." In it Humble said, "Through the years that I worked under Dr. Dicus, he was a great source of strength and inspiration. As a young teacher, I could go to him for counsel and encouragement. But I remember brother Dicus as more than a distinguished physicist turned college dean. I remember him as a disciple of Christ, a man of deep faith, and a man that expressed that faith in a song. For it was brother Dicus who both wrote the words and music for the song that is so popular in churches….Whenever I hear a congregation singing these words today, and especially a group of young people, I think of brother Dicus, and a lump comes in my throat. It is a source of spiritual strength to me to know that these great words of faith were written by a distinguished scientist. It is also a gentle reminder of the great debt of gratitude that every generation owes to those who have gone before. Brother Discus died at about 90 years of age. But even though he is gone, he still lives on when we sing: ‘There is a God….’" As time goes on, A. W. Dicus may not be remembered for his inventions, his preaching, or his academic achievements. But he will undoubtedly be remembered for many generations to come as one who was willing to proclaim in song, "Our God, He Is Alive."
NOTE: The words and music to "Our God, He Is Alive" were copyrighted in 1966 by A. W. Dicus and assigned in 1973 to Sacred Selections Inc., Ellis J. Crum, owner, Kendallville, IN 46755.