48. Great Is the LORD Our God

Text Information
First Line: Great is the LORD our God
Title: Great Is the LORD Our God
Meter: SMD
Language: English
Publication Date: 1982
Topic: Anniversaries; Praise & Adoration; Return of Christ (3 more...)
Source: Psalter Hymnal, 1987; (st. 1-2) Psalter, 1887, rev. 1987; (st. 3-5)
Copyright: Text © 1987, CRC Publications
Tune Information
Composer: George J. Elvey (1868)
Meter: SMD
Key: D Major

Text Information:

A celebration of the absolute security of the city of God.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 1-2
st. 2 = vv. 3-8
st. 3 = vv. 9-10
st. 4 = vv. 11-13a
st. 5 = vv. 13-14

Traditionally associated with the Levitical "Sons of Korah," this celebration song matches the exuberant faith of Psalm 46 (see also 76, 84, 87, 122, 125, and 137). In the post-exilic liturgy of the temple, this psalm was sung at the time of the morning sacrifice on the second day of the week. Because the LORD
Almighty is present in Zion, that hill's rather modest height is likened to Mount Zaphon (North Mountain), the Mount Olympus where the Canaanite gods supposedly sat in counsel. Jerusalem, unlike the imperial capitals of Egypt and Mesopotamia, was no grand city. But her walls and citadels are impregnable because "the Great King" lives there. And in Jerusalem's temple "we meditate on [God's] unfailing love" (v. 9).

In this psalm we proclaim the greatness of the LORD and the glory of his city (st. 1), extol God's triumphs over Zion's enemies and his people's sense of security (st. 2), and praise the LORD's love, grace, and righteousness (st. 3). Zion rejoices in its King and in the ramparts God maintains (st. 4). The psalmist exhorts the people to let succeeding generations know Zion will not fail-for God, the unfailing guide, is present there [by his Word and Spirit] (st. 5).

Emily R. Brink (PHH 158) versified stanza 1, and Bert Witvoet (PHH 4) versified stanza 2; stanzas 3 through 5 (with some alterations) are from The Book of Psalms (1871), a text-only psalter that was later published with music in 1887.

Liturgical Use:
Beginning of worship; various points in festive services (including church anniversaries), since the New Testament temple is the whole people of God.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

George Job Elvey (b. Canterbury, England, 1816; d. Windlesham, Surrey, England, 1893) composed DIADEMATA (Greek for "crowns") for the Matthew Bridges text "Crown Him with Many Crowns" (410). It was first published in the Appendix of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1868). The tune is a splendid example of a nineteenth-century English hymn tune and is equally appropriate for this joyful psalm of Zion. A stately tempo is helpful, combined with a ritard on the final phrase of the fifth stanza. See 410 for a setting of DIADEMATA with the descant.

As a young boy, Elvey was a chorister in Canterbury Cathedral. Living and studying with his brother Stephen, he was educated at Oxford and at the Royal Academy of Music. At age nineteen Elvey became organist and master of the boys' choir at St. George Chapel, Windsor, where he remained until his retirement in 1882. He was frequently called upon to provide music for royal ceremonies such as Princess Louise's wedding in 1871 (after which he was knighted). Elvey also composed hymn tunes, anthems, oratorios, and service music.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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