September Hymn: "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"
Thomas Obediah Chisholm wrote Great Is Thy Faithfulness as a poem in 1923. Chisholm was born in Kentucky in 1866 and came to faith in his late twenties under the guidance of evangelist H.C. Morrison. Afflicted at a young age by health problems, Chisholm battled between periods of employment and illness. Through his trials, Chisholm kept Christ at the center of his life and clung to Lamentations 3:22-23 as encouragement: “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” This verse became the basis of the poem which Chisholm penned and which we now sing as a hymn.
Chisholm sent this poem, among others, to his composer friend William Runyan. Moved by the words, Runyan sought to put it to melody, eventually publishing it in his private song pamphlets in 1923. The hymn was adopted by Dr. Will Houghton of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago and became the theme song for the community there until Houghton’s death. But the song didn’t gain popularity immediately. In fact, it wasn’t until it was used extensively during Billy Graham’s international crusades in the 1950’s that it became known among church communities. Since that time, it has become a staple lyric in many church traditions across the globe.
Thomas Chisholm lived in relative obscurity for the remainder of his life in New Jersey. He passed away in a retirement community there in 1960. He leaves behind a wonderful lyric legacy in Great Is Thy Faithfulness and O To Be Like Thee, two hymns we are familiar with at Westgate! This hymn reminds us that God is steadfast amid our earthly struggle. Even though we are a community of believers with hope in the Lord, we are often accosted with very real trials in life that threaten to shake our faith. These words from Lamentations assure us that no matter our circumstances in this temporary life, God never changes and His desire is always to supply more of Himself in our time of need. Let this hymn be a comfort for your everyday. Let’s root ourselves in the truth of God’s faithfulness as we enter a new season! God is good and He is faithful, always.
Great Is Thy Faithfulness (No. 60 in The Worshiping Church)
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!