“I Can Only Imagine” Songwriter: Bart Millard

NOTE: Wendy Lee Nentwig wrote a wonderful article for Crosswalk about the origins of this song here.

https://www.smule.com/recording/mercyme-i-can-only-imagine/1276873554_2001249620/frame/box

I have to admit that I went full worship on this recording and took some creative liberties, but I was so excited with the thought… just the awe… of what it might be like one day.

NOTE: I’m not blissfully or blindly singing this tune longing for the day of the Lord, either — I know Amos 5:18-24 very well and take “working out my salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13) and a healthy “fear of the Lord” (1 Peter 2:17, Luke 12:5, 2 Corinthians 5:11, Revelation 14:7) very seriously.

This is a song about stirring wonder and revealing awe for El Shaddai, Almighty God. In fact, I think this song when lifted as worship in spirit and truth, reveals the very same kind of awe that we see evident in believers like those of Acts 2:43.

Let’s take a look at the lyrics as written by the songwriter:

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk, by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
In it’s whole, this song reminds me of a line in chapter 8 of Paul’s letter to the Romans where he talks about the glory that is to be revealed to us:
Romans 8:18
For I consider [from the standpoint of faith] that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us!
And another verse from Philippians about what lies ahead:
Philippians 3:7-14
7 But whatever former things were gains to me [as I thought then], these things [once regarded as advancements in merit] I have come to consider as loss [absolutely worthless] for the sake of Christ [and the purpose which He has given my life]. 8 But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals, but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; 11 d]”>[d]so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead.12 Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on e]”>[e]so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me andmade me His own. 13 f]”>[f]Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

So, even as believers and saints, we walk with Christ in us today — there is something still greater that we look ahead to that surpasses our wildest dreams:

1 Corinthians 2:9

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

In those first lines that say:

I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When you face is before me

I am reminded of His promise recorded in Matthew’s gospel about those pure of heart:

Matthew 5:8

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

And what of the promise in the Psalms:

Psalm 11:7

For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

Man, to even think of such things seems so far beyond my comprehension and understanding that I’m humbled, I’m brought to my knees, even as I long to jump up and down and praise Him. It’s that state of awe where you’re caught between falling on your face in reverent, passionate, overwhelming humility — yet overcome by the joy of the Lord and the praise welling up inside you.

Yes, this is what this song is sung about.

Surrounded by You glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus
Or in awe of You be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

Yes, I wonder if the above would be our awe inspired state?

Will I dance for you Jesus

In our abandon for any concern about what men might think of us, would we dance undignified like David danced?

2 Samuel 6:14-23
And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.
16 As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. 17 And they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it. And David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. 18 And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts 19 and distributed among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, a cake of bread, a portion of meat,[e] and a cake of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed, each to his house.
20 And David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David and said, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 And David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me above your father and above all his house, to appoint me as prince[f]over Israel, the people of the Lord—and I will celebrate before the Lord.22 I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your[g] eyes. But by the female servants of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.” 23 And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.

Or maybe it will result in a different state:

Or in awe of You be still

I wonder if we would be still long enough to know the true awe that He is God, and we are His?

Psalm 46:8-11
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

How will we react?

Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall

This reminds me both of the beloved disciple, John’s reaction in Revelation:

Revelation 1:17-18 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

And I’m sure that John in Revelation as quoted above knew quite well of the confidence talked about in

hebrews 4:14-
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.