Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote this hymn during a strong thunderstorm. The storm reminded him of the power of God and His coming judgment.
He titled it “God the thunderer; or, The last judgment and hell” and then added the following note:
[Made in a great sudden storm of thunder, August 20, 1697.]
Sing to the Lord, ye heav’nly hosts,
And thou, O earth, adore;
Let death and hell through all their coasts
Stand trembling at his power.
His sounding chariot shakes the sky,
He makes the clouds his throne;
There all his stores of lightning lie,
Till vengeance darts them down.
His nostrils breathe out fiery streams
And from his awful tongue
A sovereign voice divides the flames,
And thunder roars along.
Think, O my soul! the dreadful day,
When this incensed God
Shall rend the sky, and burn the sea,
And fling his wrath abroad.
What shall the wretch the sinner do?
He once defied the Lord;
But he shall dread the Thund’rer now,
And sink beneath his word.
Tempests of angry fire shall roll
To blast the rebel worm,
And beat upon his naked soul,
In one eternal storm.
Behind the lines
We often sing of God’s grace, mercy, and love, but we should also sing of His attributes of justice, holiness, and wrath. For when we clearly see the later three, it makes the first three all the sweeter.
Some of Watts most loved hymns are, “Joy to the World,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” and “Alas! and Did my Savior Bleed.”
The Christian Classics Ethereal Library has made available a free PDF of the “Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts” and you can download it from their website.