God’s Love Has No Limits

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9)

Some time back, I heard a sermon in which the pastor told a story about a verse from one of my favorite hymns, The Love of God, which was written by Frederick M. Lehman in 1917. The verse goes like this:

Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade.
To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.

While the songwriter would love to take credit for the best-known verse in that song, he never did. In fact, Lehman wrote many years later that these lines “had been found penciled on the wall of a patient’s room in an insane asylum after he had been carried to his grave…” We picked up a scrap of paper and, seated upon an empty lemon box, pushed against the wall with a stub pencil, added the (first) two stanzas and chorus of the song.”

It’s hard to believe that such beautiful lyrics could come from the mind of someone in an insane asylum. But it’s true. Those words were actually found on the wall of an insane asylum, written by a patient. What that pastor didn’t know, however, is that while that patient wrote those words, he only recited them, for they were written a thousand years earlier in a Jewish poem called Akdamut.

Here’s another little known fact about that third verse. Lehman knew when he read it that it wasn’t original. He had heard it many years earlier at a Nazarene camp meeting. It inspired him then and obviously inspired him again.

Music does inspire, but the kind of music I love doesn’t just inspire, it gives hope. It comforts. It reminds us that we can have joy even when we can’t find happiness.

That’s what this song conveys. The finished product, Lehman’s stanzas followed by the words found on the wall in that insane asylum, is undoubtedly one of the greatest tributes to God’s infinite love for us. Think about it. Our Savior’s love was strong enough to lift Him from His throne in Heaven and lead Him to a place where He suffered pain so unbearable and humility so great that He even wondered whether God the Father had forsaken Him.

Somehow I think Frederick Lehman realized the infinite value of that sacrifice when he penned the song. I also don’t think the man in the insane asylum was as crazy as his doctors once believed.

So with that backdrop, perhaps we can more fully appreciate the words Lehman used to try to explain just how much God loves us.

The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star, and reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care, God gave his son to win;
His erring child he reconciled, and pardoned from his sin.

When years of time shall pass away, and earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;
When men who here refuse to pray on rocks and mountains call.
God’s love so sure, shall still endure, all measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—The Saints’ and Angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade.
To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure, how measureless and strong;
It shall for evermore endure, the Saints’ and Angels’ song.

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