Recently, I wrote about the church’s need to recover the doctrine of God’s transcendence. You can read that post here. As an extension of that recovery which ought to come most naturally and fundamentally from the preaching of God’s Word is song selection. Our theology is largely influenced by our doxology and vice versa. We sing what we believe and believe what we sing. Martin Luther had this to say about the power of song:
“We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely, that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. No greater commendation than this can be found — at least not by us. After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming [the Word of God] through music.”
Songs are powerful and shape our lives. With that in mind and on the foundation laid in my previous post, I would like to offer eight songs and hymns that prominently feature God’s transcendence. This list is not meant to be exhaustive and some of these songs are very well-known. However, I hope these songs push you to ponder God’s transcendence, and if you play a role in your church’s music selection, lead your church to sing some of these.
1. Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise
This song was written by Walter C. Smith in 1867 and highlights God’s transcendence more than almost any other song I’ve come across. Smith writes of God’s inaccessibility in light of his glory. I’ve attached Jason and Katherine Kamin’s version below which is a beautifully simple but folksy version of this great old song.
2. O Worship the King, All Glorious Above
This well-known hymn was penned by Robert Grant in 1833. A highlight:
O measureless Might, unchangeable Love,
whom angels delight to worship above!
Your ransomed creation, with glory ablaze,
in true adoration shall sing to your praise!
3. How Great Thou Art
Everybody knows this one. This classic was written by Carl Boberg in Swedish in 1885. The song was then translated into English by Stuart K. Hine and became a standard in evangelical churches after prominent use in Billy Graham’s crusades. Though the melody is beautiful, the arrangement can prove difficult for a congregation to sing, so song leaders ought to take care to lead the song, rather than perform the song. I think Chris Rice’s version from 2006 is a great model for song leaders who are considering congregation singability and ease of play.
4. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
This hymn was written by Joachim Neander in 1680(!). I love Bob Kauflin’s (Director of Sovereign Grace Music) version of this song, which he led at Together for the Gospel.
5. Behold Our God
This song, written in 2011 by Jonathan Baird, Meghan Baird, Ryan Baird and Stephen Altrogge from Sovereign Grace Music, has quickly become a staple in many worship song rotations around the world. I love the bridge that so simply proclaims of God: “You will reign forever!”
6. Only a Holy God
If you’re not following and listening to CityAlight, it’s time to hop on the bus. This group, hailing from Australia, has been putting on Christ-centered, theologically-rich hymns since 2014. Only a Holy God is a great example.
7. Ancient of Days
Here’s another by CityAlight. This song captures the essence of the biblical theme of God as the “Ancient of Days,” an idea that encompasses his transcendence.
8. All Creatures of Our God and King
The lyrics of this song are attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) and have been rearranged and covered by countless ministries and artists. My favorite version comes from Sovereign Grace Music’s Prayers of the Saints Live album (You should download and listen to the entire album).
What songs come to your mind when you think of God’s transcendence? I would love to hear them, so make sure you comment below!