Sing A New Song: What Is At Stake
Last week we learned that a value is three things:
1. An abstract concept
2. That you voluntarily embrace
3. At the expense of personal comfort.
We also learned that every new generation will choose their own values unless mature men and women show them what is valuable, again and again. But God also has values. While those values never change, He has and will give us new understanding about His plans. Let’s see how.
Throughout history God has shared His heart and mind with His followers. In the Old Testament He revealed His law. In the New Testament He revealed His Son. Then He revealed His Holy Spirit and His plan to include all the nations of the earth in the new Israel- His church.
Going back and rereading His word, we see the hints God dropped along the way. It seems obvious now, but we missed it in our human understanding. God planned it that way. He made the way difficult to understand so that He could extend grace to everyone. But He used prophets, teachers, and I argue, His songwriters and artists among others. This is because He loves to involve His children in His plan.
“The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them.” Psalm 25:14
David is known as a man after God’s own heart. He is also a little bit of a whiner. At least that’s what I used to think. I like the triumphant songs, but some of his tunes seem like real downers. But let’s look at a psalm Jesus chose to honor.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1
Most Christians will recognize that sentence not because David sang it, but because those were some of the last words of Christ. But think of it- Jesus was slain before the foundations of the world (Rev 13:8). He knew what He was going to say. So He moved on David to speak those words in his own anguish, so that Jesus could quote David later on. What an honor to carry the heart of God in your song, and even in your pain!
Jesus did this with others like Isaiah, Hosea, and Malachi. But God also had Abraham and Isaac (nearly) perform a prophetic act of sacrifice to show people what God intended to do generations later. It even says in Revelation 19:10 “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy.” God shares His mind and heart and values with people who love Him. He wants us to talk about them, teach them, and sing about them.
If you look at the songbook of Southern Gospel Music you notice a clear value: going to Heaven. Songs like “In the Sweet By and By”, “Looking For a City”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”, and my Grandpa’s favorite “The Hallelujah Side” all talk about expecting Heaven. I think there were cultural reasons for this, including the difficulty of life in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the prevailing understanding of the end times. But knowing the way God likes to speak through songwriters, I believe those writers were picking up on God’s mind and heart. But what about today?
Broadly speaking, we don’t write songs about going to Heaven the way we used to. We sing more about God’s kingdom coming to earth. Songs like “Our Father” and “Build Your Kingdom Here” are good examples. We also sing a lot about identity- God’s identity and our own identity in Him. “No longer slaves”, “Who You Say I Am”, and “Way Maker” come to mind. God is speaking, and we are hearing a part of it. But there is much much more.
The Church is not monolithic. Each one has different assignments. That’s why Paul wrote so many letters to so many churches. The more each church cultivates a community who hears from God for themselves, the clearer picture we will have of God’s heart and mind for our families, cities, and nations.
However, if churches, pastors, and worship teams abdicate this precious role, we lose something. If we view the worship team’s job as simply “playing the hits” rather than listening to God and writing new songs from His heart, we’re in trouble. If pastors content themselves with sermon series that come with graphics, we’re in trouble. And if congregants come to church to only “get fed” and not participate in hearing God’s heart, we’re in trouble.
In future posts we will talk about the nitty-gritty of song creation and music. But here are the values behind the technique- the “why” behind the “how”.
1. God has shared, is sharing, and will share His heart and mind with those who love Him- if we choose to listen.
2. Families of believers who aim to reveal God’s heart and mind in the church, arts, media, education, government, business, family, and every other area of life will hear Him more and more.
3. Churches who only package and distribute the creations of other ministries will find themselves less able to hear the heart and mind of God for lack of trying.
The stakes are high. Let’s begin.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19