What Wondrous Love (Psalm 22)

Full Text

1 What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?

2 When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
when I was sinking down, sinking down;
when I was sinking down beneath God's righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.

3 To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing,
to God and to the Lamb, I will sing;
to God and to the Lamb, who is the great I AM–
while millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
while millions join the theme, I will sing.

4 And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on;
and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be,
and through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
and through eternity I’ll sing on.

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Like 103 and 305, the text is addressed to the soul. It meditates on Christ's wonder­ful love (st. 1), which brought about our salvation (st. 2), a love to which we and the "millions" respond with eternal praise (st. 3-4).

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This song reflects the narrative of the suffering and death of Christ on Calvary, events whose significance and purpose is deepened by the confessions of the church. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 15-16, Questions and Answers 37-44 explain the significance of each step of his suffering. Question and Answer 40 testifies that Christ had to suffer death “because God’s justice and truth require it; nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the son of God.”


The Belgic Confession, Article 20 professes that “God made known his justice toward his Son…poured out his goodness and mercy on us…giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.”
Consider also the testimony of Belgic Confession, Article 21: “He endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.”


What Wondrous Love (Psalm 22)

Call to Worship

Holy and loving God,
as we prepare to set aside our busyness
and to focus intently on Jesus’ suffering and death,
we ask for eyes to see all of the amazing things that Jesus’ death
means for understanding you, your love, and our salvation.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

God so loved the world that he gave his own dearly beloved Son
so that everyone who believes in him
will not perish but have everlasting life.
On this day of remembrance and hope, we declare with joy:
God did not send his Son into the world
to condemn the world but to save it.
Let us worship God.
—based on John 3:16-17
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—
and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
—1 John 3:16, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


In Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
by making peace through the blood of his cross.
And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,
he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death,
so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him.
Brothers and sisters: through the cross of Christ
we are forgiven and reconciled to God. Praise be to God!
—based on Colossians 1:19-22, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

May I never boast of anything
except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
—Galatians 6:14, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


May God the Father, who so loved our world
that he gave his only Son;
may Jesus Christ, whose love for us
made him obedient to death, even death on a cross;
and may the Holy Spirit,
who enables us to love God and each other,
comfort, encourage, and protect you.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

Merciful God, some of your children are joyfully singing your praise.
Others are languishing in despair.
Through Jesus you are acquainted with our grief
and in him we have resurrection hope.
Bind up those who are broken, bless those who are dying, shield those who are joyous,
and lead us all to your house, where we may feast together at your table. Amen.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

Jesus expressed his own lament on the cross with the words of Psalm 22:1. The Psalms also
provide us language in which to express honest lament, as well as trust and hope. The following
rendering of Psalm 22:1-11, 22-31 (NRSV) helps us to remember Jesus’ lament, to
express our own experiences of pain, to sense Jesus’ identification with us in our suffering,
and to conclude by offering words of trust and praise.
We hear Jesus say:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And we too at times pray:
“Why are you so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.”
We hear the words of the ancient psalm even as we see Jesus:
“But I am a worm and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
‘Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’”
And we too pray:
“Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near and there is no one to help.”
[Silent reflection or individual laments]
Remembering Jesus, we make bold
even in our lament to offer words of trust and praise:
“I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord , praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord ,
and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.”
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

O Lord Jesus Christ, suffering Son of God,
our minds do not grasp
the length and breadth, the height and depth
of your love for us sinners,
poured out in your precious blood.
Our minds do not grasp your unfathomable love,
but our hearts hold it; our hearts do hold it. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

This resource provides a prayer to correspond with the words of Christ from the cross. These
prayers may be spoken together as part of the prayers of the people, or they may be spoken
during the reading of the passion narrative, with each prayer following the reading of Jesus’
words in the context of the entire narrative.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Loving Father, to whom your crucified Son prayed
for the forgiveness of those who did not know what they were doing,
grant that we too may be included in that prayer.
Whether we sin out of ignorance or intention,
be merciful to us and grant us your acceptance and peace
in the name of Jesus Christ, our suffering Savior. Amen.
“Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
O Lord Jesus Christ, who promised
to the repentant the joy of paradise,
enable us by the Holy Spirit to repent and to receive
your grace in this world and in the world to come. Amen.
“Woman, behold your son. . . . Behold your mother.”
O blessed Savior, in your hour of greatest suffering
you expressed compassion for your mother
and made arrangements for her care;
grant that we who seek to follow your example
may show our concern for the needs of others,
reaching out to provide for those who suffer in our human family.
Hear this our prayer for your mercy’s sake. Amen.
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)
O Lord, I call for help by day,
and in the night I still must cry.
Regard me, listen to my prayer.
My soul is troubled; I am weak,
cut off as one whom you forsake,
forgotten near the pit of death.
Your wrath weighs heavy on me here.
Your angry waves upon me break.
Friends watch in horror from afar.
I am shut in without escape.
My eyes are dim because I weep.
My hands are lifted up to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
Can graves tell out your mighty deeds?
There, who can know that you can save?
Lord, do not hide your face from me.
You have afflicted me from youth.
Your anger is destroying me.
Your flood of anger closes in.
The darkness is my closest friend—
shunned and forsaken, all alone. Amen.
“I thirst.”
O blessed Savior, whose lips were dry
and whose throat was parched,
grant us the water of life,
that we who thirst after righteousness
may find it quenched by your love and mercy,
leading us to bring this same relief to others. Amen.
“It is finished.”
O Lord Jesus Christ, you finished
the work that you were sent to do;
enable us by your Holy Spirit to be faithful to our call.
Grant us strength to bear our crosses
and endure our sufferings, even unto death.
Enable us to live and love so faithfully
that we also become good news to the world, joining your witness,
O Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.
“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Father, into whose hands your Son, Jesus Christ,
commended his spirit,
grant that we too, following his example,
may in all of life and at the moment of our death
entrust our lives into your faithful hands of love.
In the name of Jesus, who gave his life for us all. Amen.
—based on Psalm 88; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:34, 43, 46; John 19:26-30
[Reformed Worship 18:15, alt.; seven stanzas under “Eloe, eloi” by Stanley Wiersma in PsH 88:1-7]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

What Wondrous Love (Psalm 22)

Hymn Story/Background

Although various sources have attributed this text to a number of different writers, it remains anonymous. "What Wondrous Love" was first published in both Stith Mead's hymnal for Methodists, A General Selection of the Newest and Most Admired Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1811), and in Starke Dupuy's hymnal for Baptists, Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1811).
The text is addressed to the soul. It meditates on Christ's wonder­ful love (st. 1), which brought about our salvation (st. 2), a love to which we and the "millions" respond with eternal praise (st. 3-4).
WONDROUS LOVE was first set to this text in William Walker's  second edition of Southern Harmony (1840). Publication of the hymn in B. F. White's The Sacred Harp (1844) further promoted the combination of text and tune. The meter of "What Wondrous Love" derives from an old English ballad about the infamous pirate Captain Kidd:
My name was Robert Kidd, when I sailed, when I sailed;
My name was Robert Kidd, when I sailed;
My name was Robert Kidd, God's laws I did forbid,
So wickedly I did when I sailed, when I sailed
So wickedly I did when I sailed.
Described by Erik Routley as "incomparably beautiful," the tune is in ABA form and in Dorian or Aeolian mode (depending on which version is used or which "authentic" performance is heard). The setting is by Emily R. Brink. The Hymnal 1982 includes the original three-part setting with the melody in the tenor; that setting could be useful for choirs alternating with the congregation on the hymnal setting. Sing unaccompanied, or use light accompaniment for stanzas 1 and 2, gradually becoming more forceful through stanza 3, and use full organ (or piano) for stanza 4.
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Emily Ruth Brink (b. 1940, Grand Rapids, MI) graduated from Calvin College (BA in Music), the University of Michigan (MM in Church Music) and Northwestern University, Evanston, IL (PhD in Music Theory). She taught at Manhattan (Montana) Christian School (1964-1966), the State University of New York (New Paltz; 1966-1967), Trinity Christian College (Palos Heights, IL; 1967-1972), and the University of Illinois (Campaign/Urbana; 1974-1983), also serving as organist and choir director in both Episcopal and Christian Reformed churches in those areas.

In 1977 she was appointed to the Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee, and in 1983 moved to Grand Rapids in a change of careers to become the first music and worship editor of the Christian Reformed Church. She was the founding editor of Reformed Worship; editor of the Psalter Hymnal (1987), Songs for LiFE (1994), Sing! A New Creation (2001, 2002); co-editor with Bert Polman of The Psalter Hymnal Handbook (1998), and editor of many other worship-related publications. Since 1984 she has been an adjunct professor at Calvin Theological Seminary, directing the seminary choir in the first years, and introducing courses on church music and worship before being granted emeritus status in 2009. 

Her ecumenical work began with the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, becoming the first woman president (1990-1992); in 2006 she was named a Fellow of the society in recognition of distinguished services to hymnody and hymnology. She served in both local and national offices of the American Guild of Organists, and has been a member for more than twenty years of the Consultation on Common Texts, serving as chair from 2008 to 2014.

In 2002, she became a Senior Research Fellow at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, contributing to The Worship Sourcebook and other publications; serving as program chair of the annual Symposium on Worship; and helping to plan and participate in worship conferences in more than fifteen countries. 
— Emily Brink

Song Notes

For many years, Calvin College hosted a Tenebrae service for students and the community. I’ve had the privilege of helping to lead a number of these, but there is one service in particular that I will never forget. This was the second year that we had used the first two lines of “What Wondrous Love” as a refrain sung throughout the service after each Scripture reading. As we heard and reflected on the last hours of Christ, each time we sang this refrain it was more and more powerful. Near the very end of the service, as we sang this refrain during the “Shadow of the Crucifixion,” an older visitor from down the road slumped against his wife, having just suffered a fatal heart attack. The congregation sat in tears and prayer as campus safety administered CPR and a defibrillator, to no avail. In the midst of this reflection on Christ’s suffering for our sake, this man had gone home to be with his Savior. As I left that place, the last stanza of the hymn came to mind: “And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be, and through eternity I’ll sing on.” Indeed, what wondrous love this is, that frees us from the fear of death, and causes us to lift our voices in wonder at the love of the Lamb.
— Laura de Jong
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