During that turbulent year of campus riots in 1970, on July 16, I became a Christian. Just over a month later I went to a camp with other college students from the Southeast for three weeks (in case you’re wondering, this wasn’t one of the many cults of that day), and for the first time I heard the hymn, O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.
This is a hymn in which the music exactly fits the words because the rolling nature of the sound is like the ocean that’s used to describe the love of Jesus. The music was written by Thomas J. Williams and the tune is titled Ebenezer.
“EBENEZER was named for the chapel in Rhos, Pontardawe which Williams attended at the time he composed the tune. The word is Hebrew for “Stone of Help” [1 Samuel 7:11–13].”3
It’s so fitting that the title of the music means “Stone of Help,” because in piecing together the story of the man who wrote the lyrics, Samuel Trevor Francis, I learned that as a teenager he was despondent to the point of thinking of suicide.
“…as he was crossing Hungerford Bridge, he halted, and a message was borne into his soul, “You do believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?” At once he exclaimed, “I do believe,” and that moment took place the change called “New Birth”…1
“Tempted to end his life by jumping off London’s Hungerford Bridge, he instead discovered afresh the amazing love of God in Christ.”2
These are the wonderful lyrics Francis wrote years later in 1875:4
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!
I have two videos I want to share with you. In this one from a church in Pennsylvania, the sound of the men’s voices provides the deep resonance of the ocean. It also reminds me of us singing together as a large group in praise to God. The accompaniment is piano—and that was ours as well.
In the next video the hymn is rung on tubular bells by Laurie Alexander, Church Caretaker and Bellringer at St John’s Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia. I love the sound of the bells, and his clothes come a lot closer to the way we looked that summer as we sang to the Lord!
In our time together that summer we lived out the reality of the answer to this prayer of Paul’s as together we comprehended, knew and sang of the deep, deep love of Jesus.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.”
May you also comprehend, know and sing of His love.
1Henry Pickering, “Samuel Trevor Francis,” Chief Men among the Brethren, 1918, via gospelhall.org. When I reference a site, it does not necessarily mean I agree with everything on it. As in this instance, I may be looking only at one specific item.
2Rev. R Scott MacLaren, Hymn: “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.” Trinity Hymnal #453. First Presbyterian Church Perkasie, PA.
3Ebenezer, The Center for Church Music, Songs and Hymns.
4O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus, The Center for Church Music, Songs and Hymns.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter