I have sometimes envisioned what it will mean for every tribe, nation, and language to gather together and sing the praises of Jesus, as is depicted in Revelation 5:9 and 7:9. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot of great new hymns and songs once we’re with Jesus, most of which we’ve never heard. But I feel nearly certain that one of those songs we’ll sing forever from this life is “Amazing Grace.”
It is one of those hymns that is cross-cultural and is sung by people in not just hundreds but thousands of languages. In fact, it may well be the most often-sung song of any kind in world history. Agnostics, skeptics, and hardened criminals have shed tears upon hearing it.
That’s why when I picture praise gatherings of countless millions on God’s New Earth, the song I hear them singing in thousands of languages is “Amazing Grace.” So I was particularly moved by this remarkable video, which I encourage you to watch and share with both believers and unbelievers. God has drawn many to Himself through this timeless hymn. May this united song from 50 countries touched by COVID-19 remind us that it is a far greater thing to be forever touched by Jesus.
Some more thoughts about this remarkable song: Imagine a slave ship captain, a cruel Englishman who acquired slaves from Africa and transported them in slave ships to be sold like animals at auction. Imagine that this man later writes lyrics that become the most popular song of English-speaking blacks in the entire world. Unthinkable?
That song is “Amazing Grace.” Some black churches sing it every Sunday. Sometimes it goes on and on, for ten or fifteen minutes. Many African-Americans love that song more than any other—even though it was written by a white man who sold black slaves and treated them like filth.
What can explain this? The same thing that explains how Christians throughout the centuries have treasured the letters of Paul, who zealously murdered Christians. It’s built into the message:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
was blind, but now I see.
The man who abused those slaves and the man who wrote that song were both named John Newton. Both shared the same DNA, but the songwriter was a new man. He became a pastor and labored to oppose the slave trade. Eighty-two years old and blind, Newton said shortly before he died, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour.”
“Amazing Grace” moves my heart more than any song I’ve ever heard. This hymn has been recorded more often by more musicians than any other. It can be sung at the most secular event or pagan concert, and a hush will fall on the audience. Eyes tear up. And not just the eyes of Christians. Grace is what hearts cry out for!
Grace is what people long for, even those who don’t know Jesus.
Especially those who don’t know Jesus.
For more on this subject, see Randy’s devotional Beautiful and Scandalous and his book The Grace and Truth Paradox.