Hymnology: Behold Our God

Posted by John Gardner on October 23, 2021
Hymnology: Behold Our God

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
or what man shows him his counsel?
~Isaiah 40:12-13

Hymn Story

In 2011, Sovereign Grace Music released the album Risen (stream for free here) just in time for Easter. As the title suggests, this song collection focuses on on the theme of the resurrection of Christ. While as a whole it's not one of my favorite SGM albums, there are many great options here for use throughout the year. The album contains hymns with a variety of perspectives on the greatest event in history, from the exchange of Christ’s righteousness for our sin, to the hope of our future resurrection, to the assurance of Christ’s return. As we used to say in Tennessee: That’ll preach!

The penultimate track, “Behold Our God”, is certainly the standout tune from this collection. This hymn of adoration for the risen King draws heavily from Isaiah 40, a passage in which the prophet Isaiah gives comfort to God’s suffering people by focusing on the overwhelming power and glory of God, who alone established creation, and who alone is worthy of our worship. The hymn was composed by Stephen Altrogge, along with the sibling trio of Jonathan, Ryan, and Meghan Baird.

With its soaring melody and simple harmonies, this hymn is particularly well suited to being sung by a large number of voices! Here's a majestic arrangement by the Bellevue Baptist Choir & Orchestra from Memphis, TN:

The Shiloh Church Choir, from Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL, has given "Behold Our God" a fun, gospel spin:


Who has held the oceans in His hands?
Who has numbered every grain of sand?
Kings and nations tremble at His voice
All creation rises to rejoice!

Behold our God, seated on His throne
Come, let us adore Him!
Behold our King, nothing can compare
Come, let us adore Him!

Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of His words?
Who can teach the One who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?

Who has felt the nails upon His hands,
Bearing all the guilt of sinful man?
God eternal, humbled to the grave;
Jesus, Savior, risen now to reign!

Men: You will reign forever!
Women: Let Your glory fill the earth!

Hymn Study

We serve a great God, but sometimes it can be difficult to remember that in the midst of our daily struggles. When dealing with anxiety, guilt, and anger, we take our eyes off of Christ and the great work He accomplished at Calvary. Though our heads may acknowledge the truth of the gospel, our hearts waver, and our faith suffers.

We need to be constantly reminded of the greatness and goodness of God. Primarily, this is the role of the Holy Spirit, who bears witness to our spirits and brings us comfort through the words of Scripture. Thankfully, in His providence, God has given us many passages in the Bible that reveal His glory and power in the midst of our weakness!

In the Old Testament, it was quite common for God to speak through his prophets to those who, like us, tried to accomplish through their own strength what only God can do.

After listening to several counselors whose “wisdom” was less than godly, Job was confronted by God himself, who displayed His credentials before telling Job what to do: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?… Who determined its measurements—surely you know!” (Job 38:4-5). You can hear the sarcasm as the Creator puts the creature in his place. Some may not like to think of God as sarcastic, but one cannot argue with the results! He certainly got Job’s attention: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.” (Job 40:4). Once Job quieted himself to listen to God, he was able to reach a point of confession and repentance, and his fortunes were restored (Job 42).

Similar words were used in Isaiah 40 to bring “comfort to my people”. This is the chapter from which many of the lyrics to “Behold Our God” are taken. In verse 12, Isaiah tells the Israelites to behold their God, who has “measured the waters in the hollow of his hand” and has counted the dust of the earth. The nations which afflict Israel are nothing compared to the Lord (40:17)!

Who has given counsel to the Lord? No one! (Isaiah 40:13-14) This passage is very similar to what the oracle Agur, son of Jakeh, writes in Proverbs 30. Here we are also reminded that “every word of God proves true.” Who can question any of his words? Certainly not mortal man!

The hymn’s final stanza points to the ultimate act of God which man needed most but was utterly unable to accomplish himself: the act of redemption by way of the cross. The eternal God humbled himself to the grave, yet rose victorious over death. and is now seated on his throne, from which he will reign forever!

Inevitably, God’s glory will fill the earth, and every knee will bow in reverence of Christ. Yet as heirs of salvation, we have a foretaste of that divine glory, and ought to live in constant reverence of the King who is beyond compare. May God use this hymn to write his word on our hearts to bring us comfort in our distress!


John Gardner

John is the pastor over Music Ministry at Faith Bible Church. He is a coffee aficionado who loves most kinds of music, but has a particular fondness for big band (especially when he's playing trumpet in the band). He and his wife, Laurie, have 3 kids who enjoy reading, hiking, and the symphony.

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