1 Timothy 1:17
The text of 1 Timothy 1:17 speaks clearly through the words of the classic hymn, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” The song’s composer Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908), was a hymnist, poet and minister of the Free Church of Scotland. His poetic side flows freely throughout this beautiful song, describing the Christian’s life experience in expressions as timely today as they were at the hymn’s creation.
Smith invites us to approach this “God only wise” with sure footing and childlike trust. God is swathed “in light inaccessible,” rendering us unable to see Him clearly with our human eyes. The angels even “veil their sight” in His great presence. Yet this seemingly unapproachable God is the source of “all life…both great and small.” The Lord, Smith writes, is “the true life of all.” God is “invisible” to us in the earthly realm, but we “know” Him through the eyes of faith and through the words of Christ. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus says in John 14:9.
“We blossom, we flourish,” the lyrics continue, as Smith reminds us that the Lord knows “the plans (He has for us), plans for (our) welfare and not for harm, to give (us)a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). His acts of love and mercy are all around us. Smith describes the clouds as “fountains of goodness and mercy,” and the mountains as God’s “justice…soaring above” us. His power is absolute and is from everlasting to everlasting: He is the Ancient of Days.
Yet Smith’s lyrics remind us too that, as we “quickly grow frail…wither and perish,” Our God will “never fail.” He counts the very hairs on our head and concerns Himself with our daily discontents, even unto our departure from this life. Then, we will see the “Father of grace…in splendor,” no longer veiled but fully visible “face to face.”
You may be a fan of newer Christian music that Smith’s old hymn, but Immortal Invisible can communicate with our spirits in a hopeful and powerful manner. Next time you hear or have a chance to sing this fine old hymn, meditate deeply on its words and meaning.
Ancient of Days, thank You for the words of these wonderful old hymns! Amen