Anatomy of a Song
You know, when we say that “God is sovereign,” that simple phrase has huge ramifications. Not only is he sovereign over the universe and the whole creation, but he’s also sovereign and intimately aware of all the little things that spring up in our lives. As Steve Brown has intimated before, we serve a God of dead sparrows and bald heads. He knows all the little things we care about. He’s omnipotent over the magnificent as well as the minutiae. He knows when the flowers of the valley bloom, when the foxes go hungry, and when the squirrels are run over by our reckless driving.
God’s concerned both when your belly aches as when you’re diagnosed with cancer. He’s is uniquely, divinely caring of us and there’s not a hair of our head that falls to the ground that he’s not aware of. God is supremely sovereign. “He is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Col. 1:17 KJV) Likewise, God’s also sovereign over what we hear on the radio. This may seem like a cheesy, modest example of he sovereignty, but, I contend, it’s nonetheless true. Especially in my recent experience.
A Sovereign Song
Often on the way to and from work, I turn on the radio. More often than not, I’m listening to a podcast of a sermon, but occasionally I’ll listen to sports-talk radio. A few months ago, though, the pundits were engaging in yet again another pointless debate that I had zero interest in entertaining. So, I flipped to an FM station, and no sooner had I done so than my ears were amazed by the words I was hearing:
If you want to know
How far my love can go,
Just how deep, just how wide;
If want to see
How much you mean to me,
Look at my hands, look at my side!
If you could count the times I say you are forgiven,
It’s more than the drops in the ocean!
As I would soon learn, these lyrics came from Hawk Nelson’s “Drops In the Ocean,” the titular hit from their 2015 record Diamonds. When these words and the driving chords of the song hit my eardrums, I couldn’t help but reflect and remember all the wonderful truths of Jesus’s gospel of grace, which were right there in the song.
What I Know
I hear the words, “If you want to know / How far my love can go, / Just how deep, just how wide,” and I’m immediately reminded of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, especially where the apostle declares, in the boldness of grace, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:14–19)
The deepest longing of our hearts, as Christ-followers, ought to be to know the love of Christ which confounds all human reason. Jesus’s gracious disposition towards us defies our finite logic and disregards our ability to apprehend it. Christ’s love knows no bounds. His grace has no stipulations or fine print. To be lost in Christ’s redeeming, transforming love — to be overwhelmed by the incomprehensible reaches of he grace and the unfathomable depths of he forgiveness, is what it means to be a humble, worshiping Christian.
What God Did
Then the next phrase of the chorus builds upon the heights of the previous, by proclaiming, “If you want to see / How much you mean to me, / Look at my hands, look at my side!” Here, I recall the passage where the apostle Thomas is confronted by the risen Messiah for his doubting. Remember the scene?
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24–29)
If you’re ever tempted to doubt God’s goodness to you, just remember the cross! If you’re ever caught thinking carelessly, that Jesus doesn’t have your best interest in mind, just think of the nails that pierced he wrists and the spear that punctured he side. If you’re ever stuck thinking that God doesn’t care, just remember the crown of thorns that pierced your Savior’s skull and the blood that ran down he forehead as he cried out, “It is finished” — thereby securing forever your peace and pardon and forgiveness and deliverance from the shackles of sin and chains of death. If you’re ever depressed, discouraged, or downtrodden, just think of the Savior’s blood that was shed for you!
In love he took the lowest place, that he might invite us to the highest. In love he went to the farthest circle of banishment that this earth knows, in order that, by bearing that banishment, he might bring us into the very centre of divine fellowship, and nearness, and heavenly gladness. (Bonar, 63)
Jesus did all this for you!
Greater Than You Know
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, that when Christ went to the cross, yes, he died for the world (John 3:16), but more importantly, he died for you! He took names to the cross and nailed them upon that tree! As Jesus was breathing he last, he was thinking of you, replacing your sin-filled record with he holy and righteous one, so that you could boldly stand in the throne-room of grace. (Col. 2:13–15; Heb. 4:14–16) Your Lord has done all this for you, and as many times as you fall and mess up, is as many times as Jesus will say, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) As often as you sin and stumble, God will remind you, “Because of My Son, there’s now no more condemnation for you!” (Rom. 8:1) The times that Jesus will forgive are as incalculable as the sands of the coasts, the stars in the sky, and the depths of the seas. The gospel of Jesus’s forgiveness is limitless and immeasurable! And always, we should be mindful of this and be glad. “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Ps. 100:5)
Now, any time this song comes on, I worship God, remembering the gravity of what he Son accomplished on that cross, and recalling the weightiness of the forgiving grace of which I’m now a filthy partaker. Rejoice, ragamuffins, you reckless band of the redeemed, you “league of the guilty,” for Jesus’s love for you is far greater than the “drops in the ocean” or the extents of space or the length of time!
- Horatius Bonar, Family Sermons (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1954).