Many and Great

Full Text

1 Many and great, O God, are your works,
Maker of earth and sky.
Your hands have set the heavens with stars;
your fingers spread the mountains and plains.
You merely spoke and waters were formed;
deep seas obey your voice.

2 Grant us communion with you, our God,
though you transcend the stars.
Come close to us and stay by our side:
with you are found the true gifts that last.
Bless us with life that never shall end,
eternal life with you.

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Scripture References

Further Reflections on Scripture References

The first stanza of this Native American song carries strong echoes of Psalm 8 and its themes of God’s transcendence, while stanza 2 invokes God’s immanent presence.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

It is worth dwelling on God’s creativity before singing this song. Consider reading Belgic Confession, Article 12 or Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 8: “In the beginning, God—Father, Word, and Spirit—called this world into being out of nothing, and gave it shape and order.”

Many and Great

Additional Prayers

For the earth and the gift of good land,
we give thanks, O Lord.
For the anticipation of a new growing season,
we give thanks, O Lord.
For those who labor on the farm and in the marketplace,
we give thanks, O Lord.
For the abundance of food and the opportunities to share,
we give thanks, O Lord.
For the delight of eating and the challenge of self-denial,
we give thanks, O Lord.
O God, our help, we lift up our hearts for the needs of your people:
to those who continue to be burdened with financial problems,
give strength, O Lord.
To those who have lost their land or livelihood,
who have experienced the pain of displacement,
give hope, O Lord.
To those serving people who are troubled and discouraged,
give wisdom, O Lord.
To those who are strong and have prospered,
give humility, O Lord.
To those seeking to be open to your gifts and calling,
give us grace to be patient in suffering
and sensitive to the pain of others.
Help us to be faithful to that which you have committed to us
so that we may realize your kingdom where we are.
Through Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray,
saying, “Our Father . . .”
[Reformed Worship 14:39
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Many and Great

Tune Information

c minor or modal


Musical Suggestion

This melody matches well the paradoxical themes of both transcendence and immanence. Sing it with a definite feeling of two rather than four, so that it is not allowed to drag. It can be sung unaccompanied, or with a flute or recorder in unison. If percussion is used, a floor tom-tom or a deep-sounding, resonant hand drum is most effective, on the first beat of every measure, or even every second measure. Don’t let the percussion distract from the ethereal nature of the song.
Have young children lead stanza 1 with the following motions:
“Many and great, O God, are our works”             
Look at hands throughout the entire stanza. Moving every two beats, first spread right arm out to the
side, then the left to the left side, then right arm up, then left arm forward.             
“Maker of earth and sky.”                                                           
On “earth” bring both arms down; up on “sky”      
“Your hands have set the heavens with stars;”  
Lift both hands high; wave and wiggle fingers like twinkling stars         
“Your fingers spread the mountains and plains.”              
Cup hands to mouth; then extend hands in front as if spreading over a flat ocean.
“You merely spoke and waters were formed;”  
Cup hands to mouth; then extend hands in front as if spreading over a flat ocean.
“Deep seas obey your voice.”                                   
Reach hands low and bend from shoulders.

Many and Great

Hymn Story/Background

This song has become known as the “Dakota hymn.” It was written in the Dakota language by Joseph Rennville, a fur trader who was half Dakota and half French, and translated by Philip Frazier, a Sioux who became a Congregational minister. The text is based on Psalm 104:24-30 and Jeremiah 10:12-13. The first stanza honors God as Creator of the universe; the second is a prayer for God’s care and blessing in our lives, and communicates the wonder of a God who not only formed the entire creation but is also interested in our daily living.

Author and Composer Information

Joseph R. Renville’s mother was Dakota and his father, French. An explorer, fur trader, and Congregational minister, Renville helped found the Lac qui Parle Mission in Minnesota in 1835. This song, which is also known as the “Dakota Hymn,” was sung by thirty-eight Dakota prisoners of war as they were led to execution at Mankato, Mennesota, on December 26, 1862. This song was first published in the Dakota Indian Hymnal (1916).
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