It may seem as if most hymns are written as the result of some dramatic experience, but that is not always the case. Some are simply an expression of the blessing of a daily walk with the Lord. Such is the case with “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”.
The hymn was written in 1923 by Thomas O. Chisholm. The author was born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky, in 1866. At age 16, without a formal education, he became a school teacher. At age 36, he received Christ as Savior and ten years later was ordained as a minister, but poor health shortened his years of service.
Chisholm worked as a school teacher, newspaper editor, insurance agent, and minister. Although he suffered with poor health much of his life and lived an ordinary life, God’s faithfulness was quite evident to him. He wrote hundreds of poems and said there were no special circumstances behind this particular hymn. His desire in writing was to use as much scripture as possible and avoid flippant or sentimental themes.
The opening stanza and refrain are based on Jeremiah's declaration of God’s faithfulness: It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23) God’s faithfulness comes from his unchangeable character. Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
Creation makes God’s faithfulness evident, and every season bears witness to this. When seeds are planted, a harvest can be expected. Every sunset is followed by a sunrise. The paths of the heavenly bodies remain true and steady. Most importantly, however, when we accept Christ as Saviour, God is faithful to forgive our sins. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
Thomas sent the poem to his friend and fellow minister, William Runyan, who composed a tune specifically for the words. “Great is Thy Faithfulness” has become one of the most-loved hymns of all time. It reminds us that the Lord has never failed us, and we can be confident that he never will.
"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 wilt 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,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
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What a blessing to read the life of the author of this hymn that has been a blessing to me. It is wonderful to contemplate what beauty the Lord can inspire in the midst of ordinary circumstances. Truly God is faithful to us as we seek to do His will.