What is “matchless love?” It is love that is unrivaled, unparalleled, and incomparable—literally, love without match. In praising God for his “matchless love,” this hymn contemplates what is so remarkable and unique about the atonement: there has never been love like the Savior’s in either its scope or its effects or its purity. The atonement is the unparalleled instance of love and self-sacrifice, and there is no love like it.
This means that throughout the hymn, when we sing that “Jesus died on Calvary” or that he “left his home above” and “came … to suffer, bleed, and die for man,” we are not praising Him for his individual actions, but the love that manifests through all of those actions. In other words, we worship the Lord not for his individual behaviors, but for the charity that motivates them.
Although this hymn, like all sacrament hymns, is about the atonement and the love it manifests, it is just as much about our response to the atonement, as well. According to this hymn, our response is “to sing:”
Then sing hosannas to his name;
Let heav’n and earth his love proclaim.
And, in remembrance of his grace,
Unite in sweetest songs of praise.
Unparalleled love calls forth an unparalleled response.
I’ve been teaching Gospel Doctrine for the past few months, and as we we’ve studied the Exodus, I’ve been impressed with the way Israel responded to their liberation: they sang a song of praise, and instituted the Passover as a way of reliving that experience every year and keeping it fresh and alive in their minds. We can think about the sacrament the same way—we sing a hymn of praise, and then watch as the Savior’s atonement is reenacted in front of us (we watch his flesh being broken); it’s something we relive each week.
And tucked away in a single line of the second verse, this hymn also shares the promise of the sacrament for us:
And thus renew our love and faith
Once again the hymn mentions “love,” but this time it’s our love that is being brought into the equation. I like to think of the Savior’s love, manifest in the atonement and reenacted in the sacrament, as a great fire. Each week we come to relight the candle of our love. We put all our hurt feelings and weariness and unrighteous desires on that altar and rekindle a bit of His love in our hearts to carry back out with us for the rest of the week.
If we use the sacrament as an opportunity to rekindle the flames of our love and faith, and bear that renewed flame and “songs of praise” throughout the week, I believe we will find our lives in tune with the “sweetest songs” possible.