October 30, 2009

How Sweet And Awful (Is The Place) – Isaac Watts – Lyrics

Posted in Devotionals, Hymns / Songs / Lyrics tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:30 pm by Sarah Bosse

How the Doctrine of Election and the Great Commission Live in Harmony

What an amazing hymn to tie together some of the more recent sermons we’ve heard at Sovereign Grace Church in Apex, NC during the month of October.  We’ve been studying the Doctrine of Election.  And last week, we were entreated by the Great Commission to share the Gospel actively.  When these two ideas (the Doctrine of Election and the Great Commission) are combined so that they work in harmony rather than causing disunity, the wisdom and wonder of God is displayed powerfully!

God chose us – we would never have chosen Him.  We are utterly depraved, yet He reached down.  But more…oh, friends!…He did MORE THAN JUST REACH DOWN!  Listen!  Listen!!  He CAME down Himself into this sinful world that exalted itself against Him and threw up its hands in revolt against His plan and purpose for its very existence (to enjoy and glorify its Creator).  And He took on Himself the just punishment of all whom the Father had chosen and given to the Son (Jesus Christ).  While He received what we deserved, those who believe receive what Christ has earned.  This is AMAZING GRACE!

Now look at the Great Commission.  While God chose us, He also called us to be a reflection of His love to the world.  We don’t know who has been chosen, but we are called to share the Gospel with everyone and God is responsible for the result.  We are called to be obedient, by the power of His Spirit working in us.  It’s something of a grand mystery how man’s will and God’s will work together, but with faith, we can trust in God’s character and know that He intimately comprehends all the things that we don’t yet understand.  At the end of the day, we know that Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone.

I want to show you why I love this song.  In verse one, the word “awful” is interesting.  Some interpret it to be “awesome” in more modern language.  But I prefer to leave it as written.  These days, the word “awesome” is used so flippantly that it can be a synonym of “cool” or “neat”.  But in the versions of this song where the word “awesome” is used, it means “full of awe”.  Because of this potential misunderstanding, however, I prefer to keep the word “awful” where it was intended.  So, what does “awful” mean?  Surely it’s not awful to be with Christ “within the doors”!  But oh, if the Lord is near and we understand Him more fully for Who He Is, then we will see how Big, Holy, Righteous, Just, Loving, Perfect, Glorious, and Sovereign is our Lord.  And as we see Him in Truth, we will begin to see ourselves through the same Truth and come to abhor our sinfulness.  The presence of God brings conviction.  As I’ve studied revivals, I’ve seen this pattern over and over.  When a revival begins, people tremble before the presence of God.  And then, they repent.  Repentance leads to joy in Christ and fuller communion with Him as we understand His love more perfectly.  As our understanding of love increases, our fear of judgment decreases because perfect love casts out all fear.  So I think of this “place” – with Christ within the doors – as a spiritual place rather than a physical place.  It’s being in the presence of God, being in awe of God and seeing our need for God, then looking closer and seeing God’s evidences of LOVE.

Verses two and three causes my heart to nearly leap out of my chest.  “Oh Lord, why did you choose me?!  Thank you, Lord!!”  What a reminder of how unworthy I am, but how Gracious He is to me!  Giving thanks to the Lord is the most appropriate thing we can do and ultimately fulfills the purpose for which God made each one of us.  Thankfulness is expressed not only through what we say, but also through what we do and think.  I am reminded of how God calls the lowly.  Over and over, in the Gospels, you see Jesus inviting the societal cast-aways to hear the Good News.  As I wrote in my last post, He uses broken things…broken people with broken lives and broken dreams.  He doesn’t heal the well; He heals the sick.  He healed me.

Verses five and six are reminders of the effect that the understanding of the previous verses and the Great Commission should have upon us as we seek to obey God’s word with thankfulness.  Obeying means following the Great Commission.  And how our hearts should long to follow this call to proclaim God’s love and our love for God!  I admit that I’m often not “there” because I idolize my comfort (how sinful!) over God’s value.  So pray with me, please, that God will cause me to love Him more than my own comfort!  This life is so temporary.  I want to live for the Eternal Life with My Lord that is coming.  The one who tries to keep his life will lose it, while the one who loses this life will receive Life Everlasting.

Sarah Bosse

How Sweet and Awful Is the Place

How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast
Each of us cry with thankful tongues,
“Lord, why was I a guest?”

“Why was I made to hear thy voice
and enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice
And rather starve than come?”

‘Twas the same love that spread the feast
that sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste
and perished in our sin

Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send thy victorious Word abroad
and bring the strangers home.

We long to see thy churches full,
that all the chosen race
may with one voice and heart and soul
sing thy redeeming grace.


  1. Jane McFarland said,

    I recently saw on another site, this version of the fourth (my favorite) stanza, and I was wondering how to verify what Watts’ original words were:

    “Twas the same love that spread the feast
    That sweetly forced us in;
    Else we had still refused to taste
    And perished in our sin.”

    This magnifies the aspect of God’s shepherd-ly and fatherly love His irresistable Grace, even more. I’d really like to know if these were the original words or not.


  2. […] ~ Isaac Watts  (to read my blog post about this hymn, click here) […]

  3. Will said,

    No, Jane, someone has modified the line, tho i would be curious who & why – What was their motive?
    Was it deliberate and/or impure, due to a prejudice against and rejection of God’s sovereignty? Or was it just an accidental, momentary lapse?

    Regardless, almighty God’s sovereignty is certainly a force to be reckoned with!
    However, His previous love for His elect results in a sweet and wonderful drawing in … that I am ever so thankful for!!

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