By Josie Siler, Crosswalk.com
“I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” is a song about singing the story of God’s love for us. It’s a beautiful hymn that has blessed people for almost 140 years. It’s a reminder of what God has done and a call to praise Him, showing our gratitude for all the incredible gifts He has so generously given to us, His children. But that’s not all. It’s a declaration of our choice to follow God and trust Him through any darkness or sorrow we experience here on earth, knowing He will bring us safely home when our time on earth is done.
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What Are the Lyrics to “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story”?
The full lyrics to the hymn are:
I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ Who died for me.
How He left His home in glory
For the cross of Calvary.
Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.
I was lost, but Jesus found me,
Found the sheep that went astray,
Threw His loving arms around me,
Drew me back into His way.
I was bruised, but Jesus healed me;
Faint was I from many a fall;
Sight was gone, and fears possessed me,
But He freed me from them all.
Days of darkness still come o’er me,
Sorrow’s path I often tread,
But the Savior still is with me;
By His hand I’m safely led.
He will keep me till the river
Rolls its waters at my feet;
Then He’ll bear me safely over,
Where the loved ones I shall meet.
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Who Wrote “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story”?
F.H. Rowley wrote the words to “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story” in 1886. According to 101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth W. Osbech, Rowley was a minister of the First Baptist Church of North Adams, Massachusetts, working with musician Peter Bilhorn to write music for the church. Bilhorn suggested Rowley write a hymn, and Rowley wrote a poem that began with the words, “Can’t you sing the wondrous story . . .” Those words became “I will sing the wondrous story . . .” when the hymn was published the next year.
A profile by John Perry posted on Hymnary.org gives us more information about Rowley. The son of a doctor, Rev. Francis Harold Rowley, was born in Hilton, New Hampshire, in 1854. He attended Rochester University and graduated from Rochester Theological Seminary of New York in 1878. He married Ida Amelia Babcock the same year. They would go on to have four children together. Besides being a pastor and hymn writer, Rowley campaigned for animal welfare.
Among other positions, Rowley served as Secretary of the American Humane Association as well as the president of both the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Humane Education Society. Rowley worked with hospitals and universities around the world. He was given an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree by Rochester University. Schools and hospitals (for people and animals) have been named after him. Rowley—pastor, hymn writer, animal champion, and humanitarian—died in Boston in 1952.
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Does Any Biblical Imagery Appear in the Main Lyrics to "I Will Sing the Wondrous Story"?
Several Bible verses come to mind when reading the lyrics or singing “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story.”
The first stanza (“I will sing the wondrous story…”) reminds me of Paul’s challenge to believers in Philippi. He reminded them (and us) who Jesus is, where He came from, and His incredible sacrifice.
In Philippians 2:5-8, the Apostle Paul encourages those reading his letter that, in their relationships with each other, they should have the same mindset as Jesus. What was Jesus’ mindset? In a word, humble. Although He is, in His very nature, God – He did not use that equality with God to His advantage. What did He do instead? He made Himself nothing. He took on the nature of a servant, came to earth as a human, and humbled Himself to the point of death – and not just any death, death on a cross.
One of Jesus’ most famous parables is the parable of the lost sheep. You probably know it well. In the account in the book of Luke, we read that Jesus starts the parable by suggesting one of the people listening has a hundred sheep and one goes missing. What will that shepherd do? Of course leave the ninety-nine other sheep out in the open country and go find the lost sheep. And when the shepherd finds the lost sheep? Oh joy! He picks it up, puts it on his shoulders, and takes it home. The shepherd makes a big deal of finding his lost sheep. He gathers his friends and neighbors together so they can rejoice with him because he found his lost sheep. And then Jesus drives home the point of the parable. He tells the people listening that there will be even more rejoicing in heaven over just one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine people who are righteous and don’t need to repent.
The third stanza (“I was bruised, but Jesus healed me…”) reminds me of John 8 where Jesus talks about the freedom that is found in Him. He tells people that while everyone is enslaved by sin, those who the Son sets free become truly free (John 8:34-36).
The fourth stanza (“Days of darkness still come o’er me…”) recalls some of my very favorite verses in the Bible, located in Isaiah 43:1-3.
These verses remind the Israelites that God is with them, no matter what hardships they go through. The same is true for us. We can find comfort in these verses from Isaiah too. The prophet Isaiah boldly declares a message from God. God tells the Israelites not to fear because He has redeemed them. He’s called them by name because they are His. He will be with them when they pass through the waters. They won’t be swept away when they pass through the rivers. Flames won’t set them on fire. Why? Because He is the Lord their God. He’s their Holy One. He’s their Savior. And He’s ours too!
The last stanza (“He will keep me till the river…” ) makes me think of a special river we read about in Revelation 22:1-3. The Apostle John has a vision where an angel shows him the river of the water of life. This river will be on the new earth where Eden will be restored, and the curse will be no more!
John writes about what he saw. He says the water was as clear as crystal. It was flowing from God’s throne and down the great city street. There was a tree of life on each side of the river. The trees grew twelve crops of fruit and fruit grew every month. The leaves of the tree were powerful too. They were for healing the nations. In this place, there will no longer be any curse. God’s throne and the throne of the Lamb is in this great city and there God’s servants will serve Him. Can you imagine standing over that river with loved ones who have gone before you and meeting God face to face? What glory!
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Does Any Biblical Imagery Appear in the Refrain to "I Will Sing the Wondrous Story"?
The refrain of the song reminds me of various other Revelation passages, particularly its reference to “the crystal sea.”
Again, we’re reading a firsthand testimony of things God showed the Apostle John. It seems to be more than just a vision; John writes that he was in the Spirit. He saw these things as if they were right in front of him! He writes in Revelation 4:2-6 about what he saw:
“… there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.”
A few chapters later (in Revelation 15:2-4), John writes that he saw another marvelous sign in heaven:
“And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of
its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb:
‘Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.’”
Oh, the glory that awaits us!
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Hymns Similar to "I Will Sing the Wondrous Story"
Several classic hymns are similar to “I Will Sing the Wondrous Story.” I have included links to articles about those songs below. Read the lyrics, listen to the song, and learn the story behind each of these songs. Happy reading and listening!
1. “Jesus Paid it All”
2. “He Lives”
Hymns bring us back to the deep truths of our faith. When we sing them, we remember who God is and praise Him not just for what He has done for us, but for who He is. He is worthy of our praise! Today I will sing the wondrous story, will you join me?
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