Tracing the Threads of “The Love of God”

a hymn history written by Pastor Brent Brondyke

Hyperbole is used in conversation, story-telling, and especially poetry.

define hyperbole: “exaggeration for obvious effect”

The well-known, well-loved gospel song, “The Love of God,” at first reading might seem to be filled with hyperbole. Descriptions of God’s love as reaching beyond the highest star or the lowest hell, outlasting earth, stretching to eternity, and requiring oceans of ink, worlds of pens and scribes, and skies of paper to begin its telling strain our rational minds.

Yet, these comparisons are not hyperbole because they are literally true. They are not exaggerations, as one cannot exaggerate infinity. God’s love is infinite because God is infinite, and God IS love (I John 4:7-10)!

The song “The Love of God” extols God’s infinite, “unexaggeratable” love in its cosmic heights and depths, its spiritual breadth, and its eternal length. The singer or listener who has personally known this love is swept up by the exuberance of the text.

It is simply a joyous exercise to begin to try to describe God’s love, and the joy of the author leaps from the page to the heart of those who encounter this song who have also encountered this Love. The expansive, descriptive figures used in the song tell the story maybe as well as humanly possible.

God has told the story of His love through His created revelation, designing a universe to perfectly provide for man—His created image. But, He most distinctly demonstrated His love in His redemptive work, the sacrifice of Christ for our sins—the just for the unjust, the Beloved for the enemy!

I Peter 3:18; Romans 5:10

Incredibly, the story behind the song itself is a further revelation of this Love of which the song speaks.

How could an unbelieving Jewish Rabbi and a faithful believer fallen on hard times who were separated by 1000 years and the Atlantic Ocean collaborate on a twentieth-century gospel song aided by an evangelistic meeting, an insane asylum wall, and a California orange-packing plant?

In 1917, Frederick Lehman, the said believer who had fallen on hard times, was laboring in a Pasadena orange-packing plant. He found himself—after pastoring for many years in the Midwest, helping to start a Christian publishing company, but subsequently losing all his money after business downturns—now doing strenuous manual labor. Still, Lehman took joy in the Savior he knew and loved.

After hearing a sermon on God’s love, he awoke the next morning rejoicing. Through the course of the day, a song took shape on that theme. Between his tasks, as ideas came to him, he jotted them down with a stub of pencil. That evening, with the help of his daughter, he quickly set the words to the original, beautiful tune we know today.

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell.
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell.
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When hoary time (edited to “years of time” in many hymnals) shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall;
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call;
God’s love, so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

However, Lehman felt he had a problem.

Songs of the day always had at least three stanzas, but he had only two stanzas and a refrain. Nothing was working in his mind for an additional stanza.

Then, Lehman remembered a poem he had heard in an evangelistic meeting years earlier. It was recorded on a card he had kept as a bookmark over the years.

That could be the third stanza,” he thought.

He retrieved the poem and was reminded of the story behind it by the small print at the bottom of the card. The words had been discovered two hundred years earlier on the wall of an asylum cell by guards after the inmate had died. Lehman thought that fact was remarkable in itself.

To his further amazement, the words fit the meter of his tune with little or no alteration! And there he had it—his final stanza:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies

of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll

contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Remarkably, it was years later—after publication of the song—that the source of the prison poem was discovered. It had been originally penned in Aramaic by a Jewish Rabbi in Germany nearly a thousand years earlier as a prelude to the Ten Commandments.


  • One hundred years ago, a man felt moved by a sermon that touched his heart.
  • It inspired him—while he was packing oranges—to compose a song about God’s love.
  • He then remembered a poem he had heard years earlier, which he later discovered had been written centuries earlier in a prison.
  • Little did he know, the perfectly-themed English words—which also fit his tune nicely and would become his third stanza—had actually been penned an entire millennium earlier.
  • And that these words extolling God’s love and glory were written by a man who probably didn’t know the Savior, Who is the express image of that glory and the absolute culmination of that love.

That is not a coincidence!

Only God could weave such a tapestry from such unmatched threads.

Nor is that hyperbole! I still have a little ink in my ocean, but blogs have a limit as to how much of it can be spread in one place.

Come join us!

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About Friendship Baptist Church

Our purpose is to make much of our Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel through the preaching of His Word and the making of disciples. At Friendship Baptist Church (FBC) we teach the Bible in order to facilitate spiritual growth in all of God’s people and to provide opportunities for Christian fellowship. God has graciously used Friendship to further His work both locally and across the globe since 1965.