Back in July 1933, John Jacob Niles was in Murphy, North Carolina and encountered a traveling evangelist named Annie Morgan. He met her as she was singing the words to this song, which he later put to its current tune, and had her sing it over and over until he had it memorized. It was published a year later.
I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor orn’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
I love the honest simplicity of these few lines. They come across to me as a humble honest, and perplexed confession, and a brilliant song of praise, much like the words of Psalm 8, especially verse 6 :
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8 ESV)
Maybe tonight I’ll take a walk down the sidewalk through my neighborhood, check out the lights on the homes of my neighbors. Then wander into a less-lit, darker area and look up at the sky.
And thank God for sending his Son.
For a poor orn’ry person like me.