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'How Great Thou Art' Celebrates 75th Birthday with New Fifth Verse from Matt Redman & Friends

Peyton Garland | iBelieve Editor | Updated: Jan 26, 2024
'How Great Thou Art' Celebrates 75th Birthday with New Fifth Verse from Matt Redman & Friends

'How Great Thou Art' Celebrates 75th Birthday with New Fifth Verse from Matt Redman & Friends

Inspired by a Swedish thunderstorm in 1885, “How Great Thou Art” has withstood the test of time as a worship staple for Christians worldwide. The classic hymn hails from Europe but was formally published in America in 1949, gaining popularity when it was televised on June 16th, 1957. Baritone singer George Beverly Shea performed the song in collaboration with Billy Graham’s New York Crusade, introducing an estimated 19,000 attendees to the song.

In an exclusive interview with Christianity Today, Shae shared that listeners requested the song be sung nearly 100 times throughout the Crusades, serving as the televised introductory to its broadcasts, and spreading its now-infamous lyrics to millions:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed:

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art! 

Its powerful words gripped the heart of the Protestant church, and today, on its 75th anniversary, “How Great Thou Art” still grips the nation, no matter age, gender, or denomination.

To celebrate its birthday, Integrity Music invited Christian powerhouse songwriters Matt Redman and Mitch Wong, both Grammy Award winners, to create a collaborative tribute of the song, calling in other well-known Christian performers like Chris Tomlin, Matt Maher, Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, and Naomi Raine.

Together, this team faced what Redman told Christianity Today was a “daunting” task of making the slightest changes to the song and even composing a new fifth verse, one that matched the richness of the previous verses introduced by Stuart Hine. Hine was a British missionary who heard the hymn in Russian, translated it into English, and also shared it with WWII Ukranian refugees.

Making small edits, and certainly building a unique verse, to such a timeless hymn seems a beautifully intimidating project, as “How Great Thou Art” has been influenced by centuries, cultures, poetry, and personal testimonies. Yet Redman and his team composed a commanding fifth verse that not only matches the traditional ebb and flow of the song but calls out the scenes that inspired Hines’ fourth verse:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Redman further shared with Christianity Today, “I wanted the word ‘war” in there. It’s kind of a gritty word. But we have to sing about both the everyday and the eternal.” Seventy-five years later, as Ukraine faces another grueling war, Redman, Wong, and their band of musicians crafted a fifth verse that offers hope for the oppressed, healing for the hurt, and an eternal home for the lost:

Until that day
When heaven bids us welcome,
And as we walk this broken warring world,
Your kingdom come,
Deliver us from evil,
And we’ll proclaim our God how great You are! 

This fifth verse was formally recorded at LA’s Gold Pacific Studios and Nashville’s renowned RCA Studio B. The latter studio was Elvis Presley’s recording home, the very place he recorded his Grammy Award-winning version of “How Great Thou Art.” Presley dubbed “How Great Thou Art” as the title track for his 1967 gospel project and won not one but two Grammies for his cover of the hymn, notably Best Inspirational Performance and Best Sacred Performance.

Billboard spoke with Redman, where he shared his hopes for the song to continue growing, witnessing new verses as believers continue to put their testimonies to song: “Redman says that there could be additional versions of “How Great Thou Art” (including the new verse) on the way: ‘The Stuart Hine Trust has commissioned, I believe, an orchestral version, a choir version, welcoming different versions of the new arrangement as a way of resourcing out to the wider church.’”

The song officially releases today, January 26th, 2024, and its proceeds will be tributed to the Ukrainian humanitarian effort. Whether listening on YouTube or sharing with friends through social media, consider how paying tribute to this revised classic hymn can serve others around the world.

Image credit: ©GettyImages/Paha_L

Peyton Garland headshotPeyton Garland is an author and Tennessee farm mama sharing her heart on OCD, church trauma, and failed mom moments. Follow her on Instagram @peytonmgarland and check out her latest book, Tired, Hungry, & Kinda Faithful, to discover Jesus' hope in life's simplest moments.

'How Great Thou Art' Celebrates 75th Birthday with New Fifth Verse from Matt Redman & Friends