Is It Not Wonderful?

gospel song written by Elisha A. Hoffman
commentary by:
P.B. Mistretta III

Webster defines wonder as, “a person, thing, or event causing astonishment, admiration, marvel, etc.,” and “the feeling of surprise etc., caused by something strange, remarkable, etc.” Wonderful is an adjective for that which causes wonder.

In the middle ages, a group of historians, following the lead of previous generations, compiled a list of ancient monuments and structures that they called, “The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.” Most of these structures were in ruins at the time, and today all are gone except for “The Great Pyramid of Giza,” located in Cairo, Egypt. In our modern times, attempts have been made to compile a present day list of amazing sites. These sites include, The Great Wall of China, Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon, as well as several other man-made and natural sites. However, a consensus of “The Seven Modern Wonders” has not been reached. 

Even though all of these man-made structures and beauties of nature can put one in a state of awe and wonder while viewing them, none of them can be compared to the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ and it’s effect on those who believe it.

Elisha A. Hoffman (1839 – 1929) has written several gospel songs in his lifetime. None of them are more beloved than this song of testimony about his salvation and walk with the Lord. Let us get right into his message and expound on it with scripture and commentary; for, even though he is presenting it as his personal testimony, it is truly the experience of every person who comes to the Lord and walks with Him.

 

Vs. 1: Wondrous it seemeth to me, Jesus so gracious should be, Mercy revealing, comforting, healing, Blessing a sinner like me.

“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind: and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:1-7)

Every person born into this world is a sinner. By nature they are “children of disobedience,” and “children of wrath.” It does not take much to convince someone that he is a sinner. Most people, even in the church-world, proudly proclaim that they are sinners. Convincing one that he is a “child of wrath” may be a different story. “ God is a God of love,” they say. However, the Apostle Paul explains in the above scripture that by the very nature of a sinner, they are the children of wrath. They are dead in their sins, and walking according to the course of this world in the lust of their flesh.

But, the wonderful truth of the gospel is that one does not have to stay in such a state. “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,” sent his Son into the world to die on the cross for us. Yes, he is a God of love! He loved us so, that he made a way to save us from our sins, and not to leave us in them. He loved us so, that he made a way for a child of wrath to become a child of God! He loved us so, that he made a way for a sinner to be made a saint. That way is the way of the cross. It is through his death that we die to sin, and through his resurrection that we are quickened together “with Christ,” and yes, even raised together with him in heavenly places.

As one looks back from the other side of Calvary, as this songwriter did, it is truly wondrous to behold his love, his grace, and the rich mercy that Christ has bestowed upon their undeserving soul.  All of us, who have been blessed by his rich mercy, can say along with the songwriter, “Wondrous it seemeth to me, Jesus so gracious should be!”

 

Vs. 2    Heart of mine never could know Jesus such peace could bestow, Till the dear Savior showed me His favor, Cleansed my heart whiter than snow.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world givith, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

What is known as the parable of the Prodigal Son, as recorded in the fifteenth chapter of Luke, is a good illustration of verse two of this gospel song. A certain man had two sons. One day one of them asked for his inheritance. This son then left home and began to live for self and indulge in the things of this world. He thought that what he saw in the world would bring satisfaction to his life. Growing up, this son undoubtedly had a good upbringing. His father was well off, and saw to his every need. Surly, the son was a good boy, and worked hard for his father growing up. His father hated to see him leave but had to let him go. He was now of age and he could not hold him against his will. His father gave him his portion of the inheritance and sent him on his way. I am sure the son at first had a feeling of liberation as he left home to fend for himself. He felt that it was his time to do those things that he had wanted to do for some time. He forgot about his good upbringing and began to indulge himself in “riotous living.”

It is important to note at this point that the details of his “riotous living” are not important. I can remember years ago as a young Christian that it was a popular thing in some circles for one to give testimonials about how “bad” one was before their salvation. Some would even go into great detail about their own “riotous living.” I do not believe that this is the lesson that Christ is trying to portray by this parable. It matters not how “good” or “bad” one was, according to this world’s standards, before his salvation. In fact, before salvation, we are all in the same spiritual condition – lost and in need of a savior.

The son’s condition began to deteriorate. The world had promised pleasure, peace, and happiness, but had left him penniless and hungry. Again, don’t let these details sidetrack you. Jesus is speaking symbolically through a parable. It matters not if he literally was in this condition or not. Everyone who turns their back upon their heavenly father and lives for self is in this condition spiritually. Jesus spoke to the church of the Laodiceans and said, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Revelations 3:17)

The son finally “came to himself.” He said, “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger.” He said that he would go to his father and tell him that he had sinned against heaven and against him, and that he was not worthy to be called his son anymore, and to make him one of his hired servants.

Now here is where it starts to get good. You see, the son had experienced all that the world had to offer, and the world had left him without peace and in a miserable state. He decides to go back to his father and expecting nothing more than to be one of his hired servants for the rest of his life. Even this, he reasoned, was better than what the world had given him. But, to his utter surprise and amazement, his father would have none of it. Instead of finding his father holding bitterness and resentment over his wasting of the inheritance, he sees his father running towards him with compassion, and accepting him back with open arms. His father calls on his servants to bring the best robe to be put it on him. He calls on his servants to put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. He orders the fatted calf to be killed and calls for a great celebration because his son “was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”

So it is for everyone who comes to the Father through Jesus Christ, for God is no respecter of persons. What he does for one, he is bound by his love and Word to do for all. He does not give as the world gives, but he gives of himself a peace that is so remarkable that it is beyond all human understanding. He exceeds all expectations. His “favor” extends not only to salvation, but his grace is sufficient in every trial that we face as a child of God.

 

Vs. 3     Once I was full of all sin, Now thro’ the blood I am clean; Willing to save me, pardon he gave me, And I am happy within.  

“…These are they which come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelations 7:15)

The songwriter looks back and compares his present life with the one he had before Calvary. Before Calvary, he was full of all sin, as we all were. After Calvary, he finds not only the pardon from past sins, but also a cleansing from all sin through the precious blood of Christ. He finds a new happiness. It is a true happiness that is not dependent upon the things of this world or the circumstances of life. It is a happiness that comes from “within.” As long as this person remembers that he was cleansed from his sin and from the horrible state that he was in before salvation, that very thought becomes the foundation for his true happiness within.

 

Vs. 4     Long I resisted his grace, In my heart gave Him no place, But Jesus sought me till he had brought me, Penitent, seeking his face.

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)

Are you one, like the songwriter, who has resisted the grace of God? This is a dangerous situation to be in. If one dies in this state, they are lost for eternity. But, thank God, he is greater than any deception of the enemy. His desire is for all men to repent, but he will not force any one beyond their will. He may use circumstances, dreams, the preaching of the Word, etc., to try to wake one up. In Revelations, to the Laodicean church, he is seen as the one patiently knocking at the door with the invitation to visit anyone who would open up. (Revelations 3:20) He remains faithful and willing to save, even to those who have left him out. One who has been in this state and has come to a place of repentance, can appreciate even more fully the longsuffering and patience of the Lord.

 

Vs. 5     He doth my new heart control, Cleansing and keeping me whole, Banishing sadness, with joy and gladness, Filling and thrilling my soul.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” (Jude vs. 24)

“But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm until the end.” (Hebrews 3:6)

The Word of God is full of the wonderful promises of God. God is not only able to save but also to keep one from falling.  He controls our new hearts and keeps them whole. He fills those who hunger and thirst after righteousness with his Spirit. He leads us into paths of righteousness for his namesake.

If you are one that has been given a new heart, is he controlling it this very day? Are you praying for his will in your life? Are you seeking God to be filled with his Spirit and to be used of him? Are you fellowshipping daily of his body and blood that was broken and shed for you at the cross? Are you remembering his benefits and seeking God for them to be active in your walk. The Psalmist exhorts us to, “forget not all his benefits.” (Psalms 103:2)

 

Chorus:     Is it not wonderful, Is it not wonderful, Jesus so gracious should be? Yes it is wonderful, strange and so wonderful, That he should save even me! 

“Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.” (Psalms 96:3) 

Even though he is the creator of all things, there is no greater wonder in the universe than for the Creator to extend his love and grace down to man and save his soul. It matters not if one was the vilest of sinners or a very moral and good man, we were all lost and in need of a gracious savior. The scripture records, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:12,13)

Oh, yes it is wonderful. Yes it is wonderful that Jesus should be “so gracious” and so rich in mercy to save poor and lost sinners.

“Yes it is wonderful, strange and so wonderful, that he should save even me!”