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A Theology of Song

“And so Deborah and Baraq, the son of Abinoam, sang on that day, saying:”

(Judges 5:1)

With the defeat of Sisera and Jabin, we find Deborah and Baraq leading the people in singing a song of celebration with just as much text dedicated to the song as is dedicated to recording the historical narrative, demonstrating the significance given to this song of Deborah and Baraq.

In today’s day and age of sound that governs most every hour of the day, we often take music for granted. We often listen to music on the car radio when driving from place to place, there are musical soundtracks that play behind our favorite movies and television shows, we go to concerts and are entertained by musicians, many of our alarm clocks use music to wake us from sleep and some even go to sleep with music on in the background. Today, music is also no longer limited to a bulky stereo system at home or to the radio, but today our music is compressed, digitized, and loaded onto tiny devices which we can take with us anywhere. It’s no wonder we often take the gift of music for granted.

Yet, music is not something to take for granted, nor is it something to be looked down upon as commonplace (though it could be argued that some music is commonplace). Music is part of our human heritage. It transcends culture and language and it draws people together from all walks of life. If we allow it to do so, music can move us, and move us more deeply than most (if not all) other forms of art. In fact, I would argue that music is part of what it means to be human and to be made in the image of God.

The Bible is filled with song. Even Adam, when presented with Eve for the first time, breaks out into song. The house of God’s worship was also a place filled with song while God also saw fit to teach songs to David and to several other psalmists. So, God is intimately involved in the music of his people. He has given us voices to sing and instruments within our bodies (we can whistle, use our bodies as percussion instruments, and keep rhythm with our feet!).

And this is why Deborah and Baraq’s song is so important. It is also why the singing of God’s people in worship is also important. No, it does not take precedence over the preaching of the Word, but it is lifted to a place of prominence. And thus, we ought to sing and sing with a whole heart when the congregation is gathered. We ought to sing of God’s greatness and of his glory, we ought to sing of our thanksgiving to Him for who he is and what he has done, and we ought to sing our laments even — our great sorrow for our fallen state and for our sin. There is a theology of song found within the scriptures, pay attention to it, it will help make you whole.

Sing! Sing! Sing!

“You must sing to God; you must sing! You must sing to our King; you must sing!”

(Psalm 47:7 {verse 6 in English translations})

 

Some of our translations insert the word “praises” into the text to read: “sing praises.” Though this is not a wrong inference, it is an inference nonetheless. What is most significant to understand about the command to “sing” to honor God is that the form of the verb is in what is called the “Piel” stem, implying repeated action. We are not only to sing praises to God, but we are to do so repeatedly. Notice too, the word “King” is understood properly here to be referencing God as the King, not the king that has his throne in Jerusalem. This is indicated both by the context of the psalm as a whole that speaks of God as the great king over the earth but also by the verse itself that sets up two parallel statements to add intensification. The command is given for us to sing twice and the “to whom” is the same as indicated by the parallel structure of this verse.

And oh, how many of our churches must stand convicted by the words of this psalm. How often people hardly sing as hymns are lifted up to God. While I am not advocating that people stand and bawl over all others, I am advocating that people sing with heart with the same passion as they sing along with the radio in their automobile as they drive from place to place. Sing the words with passion and zeal and with attention to the words that are printed on the page. Do you really mean the words that you are singing? Then again, perhaps that is why people don’t sing with zeal in our culture anymore — they don’t mean the words anyhow! Yikes! Isn’t that convicting!

Loved ones, song is one of the gifts that God has given to us — no other creature shares that capacity. True, some birds and other animals have what we refer to as a “song,” but here I am talking about the expression of ideas to music in a way that is melodious and edifying to all involved. We have been made to sing (amongst other things). So, let us do it! Though the organ might fill the sanctuary with sound, surely several hundred voices — even fifty or one hundred voices — should be able to dwarf the sound of the instrument’s tones. Let us commit to sing, an to sing repeatedly, continually through our lives to the praise and honor of our God and King. Let Christ’s wonderful salvation be your story and your song as you praise your savior all the day long…

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior, all the day long.

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior, all the day long.

-Fanny Crosby

Yahweh Continually Commands His Chesed and His Song is With Me

“By day Yahweh continually commands his chesed

And at night, his song is with me—

A prayer of supplication to the God of my life.”

(Psalm 42:9 [verse 8 in English translations])

 

How deep it is that this verse is when we come to terms with its language and sentiment. To begin with, do not miss the wonderful title that is applied to God on high. He is called by the psalmist, “God of My Life.” Indeed, what wonderful thoughts come to mind when we apply this title to our great God and King. He is the originator of each of our lives and he numbers our days (Psalm 139:16). He orders all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11) and promises to work all things out for good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28). He has the right to take me here or there for purposes revealed or known only to him and he has the right not only to use me for those purposes but also to expend my life for those purposes. Indeed, every inch of my life is at his disposal from beginning to end and every ounce of my being and my day must be dedicated to his glory alone. Indeed, he is God of my life.

And as God of me life he responds with his dRsRj (chesed) and his song. Our Bibles translate dRsRj (chesed) in a variety of ways, trying to capture the essence of the word, but the idea of dRsRj (chesed) is reflected in God’s covenantal faithfulness toward us even when we fail to be faithful to his covenant. God indeed commands that towards his own. We wander and we stray, we often choose sin, and much like sheep, we can be cantankerous and difficult to keep moving in the same direction. Yet we are never forsaken. What a wonderful promise that is given in that simple principle. When Jesus utters the words, “I will never leave nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, also reference Matthew 28:20), that reflects the consistent testimony of God’s word throughout the Old Testament towards his people:

“It is Yahweh leading before you—he will be with you, he will not let you go, and he will not forsake you.”

(Deuteronomy 31:8)

 

“Blessed is Yahweh, who has given rest to his people, Israel, according to everything he continually promised. Not one word failed from all his good word which he spoke through the hand of Moses, his servant. Yahweh our God is with us as he was with our fathers. May he not abandon us; may he not give us up. He will stretch our hearts toward himself to walk in all of his ways and to guard his commandments, his regulations, and his judgments that he continually commanded our fathers.”

(1 Kings 8:56-58)

 

Even in redeeming his own from sin, God speaks through his prophet Hosea:

“And I will sow her myself in the land and I will have mercy on Lo-Ruhamah and I will say to Lo-Ammi, ‘you are my people.’ And he will say, ‘My God.’ “

(Hosea 2:23)

 

Yet, the promise does not end there. God also gives to us a song in our heart.

“My strength and melody is Yahweh,

He is to me salvation;

This is my God and I will glorify Him—

The God of my fathers, and I will exalt him.”

(Exodus 15:2)

 

“Praise Yahweh!

Sing to Yahweh a new song—

Songs of praise in the assembly of the faithful.”

(Psalm 149:1)

 

And indeed, when John sees the vision of heaven, one of the things he witnesses is the elders and the 144,000 still singing a “new song” to praise our almighty God. Indeed, the words of humanity could never exhaust the praise that is due to our God for what he has done for us, let praises continually fill our hearts and flood from our lips. My our life be a constant praise and witness to the goodness of God and may the song of our hearts not be the songs of this vulgar world, but ones that speak of the glory of the world to come…a subject of infinitely greater worth and beauty.

And thus we come before him with a prayer of supplication, not only asking for forgiveness for the sins we have committed, but also humbly asking God for the needs of the day to come. Indeed, did not our Lord himself teach us to pray for such needs as daily bread (Matthew 6:11)? Not only must we not forsake the privilege of coming before God’s throne, we also must never forget what a gracious gift it is to have been given such a great privilege. Indeed, our almighty God has shone his dRsRj (chesed) into our lives and filled our nights with his song—what more could we desire?

 

 

A Proverb in a Song: part 2

“Hear this, all ye peoples!

Listen carefully, all who dwell in the world!”

(Psalm 49:2 {Psalm 49:1 in English Bibles})

 

Notice to whom this psalm is written.  All too often we only think of the scriptures in terms of being written for God’s people, yet, this psalm is addressing all people of world!  Oh, what an important reminder this is that the oracles of God are to be shared with all of creation—young and old, rich and poor, far and near.  The gospel is for every culture and race and the truth of God is suitable for all.

How often we adopt the attitude, when dialoguing with non-believers, do we back down from holding to this great truth.  We adopt the attitude of our culture which says, “Let me believe what I want to believe and I will let you believe what you want to believe…”  It makes people uncomfortable when you hold fast to the position that the truth of scripture is the only truth and all other things that masquerade as truth have their origins in the pits of Hell.  It does not sound very “tolerant” to say that, does it?  Yet, is light tolerant of the darkness?  Indeed, not!  Light casts darkness away!

We live in a world where people have preferred darkness to light (John 3:19), for in the darkness, the sins of men remain hidden.  Light exposes sin for what it is and light hurts the eyes when it is seen for the first time, yet, beloved, light is where we belong, for God is light.  And as we are in the light, we then must, by necessity, reflect the light of His glory into the world and the world will largely reject us—not for who we are, but for whose light we shine.  Beloved, do not be shy about shining your light amongst men and women, the truth of scripture is for all mankind—without qualification or exception.  Truth is truth, regardless of the circumstances.  So shout to the world, with this psalmist, that they would hear the truth of God’s wonderful revelation!

I will tell the wondrous story,

How my lost estate to save,

In His boundless love and mercy,

He the ransom freely gave.

Sing, O sing of my Redeemer!

With His blood he purchased me;

On the cross he sealed my pardon,

Paid the debit and made me free.

-Philip Bliss

The Contagiousness of Worship! (New Song, part 11)

“The Contagiousness of Worship”

 

            Worship, when it is filled with the Holy Spirit, is contagious.  I expect that this is part of the reason that the scriptures emphasize that believers are to live within a covenant community.  Not only can we support one another, but in our joined worship, we enable each other and lift each other up.  I don’t expect that this principle could be displayed any more graphically than it is displayed here at the end of Revelation, chapter 5.  As soon as the twelve elders finish their song (which we have been looking at), they are joined by the four living creatures, the four cherubim, that are around the throne.  Then they are joined by “myriads of myriads” of angels.

            If you are interested in mathematics, a myriad is 10,000.  Thus, a myriad of myriads, would be 10,000 times 10,000, or 100,000,000.  And John describes “myriads of myriads,” both being plural.  Thus, if we take this number literally, there are hundreds of millions of angels around the throne singing praise (this would require a choir loft that was 10 miles long and 10 miles deep!).  Regardless of whether you take this number literally or figuratively as an uncountable number, it is one heck of a large chorus!

            I had the blessing a number of years ago to participate in a evening worship service at a youth retreat where there were an estimated 90,000 youth and adults—all lifting their praises to heaven.  It was a beautiful thing to behold.  In Exodus 15, we are told that when the Israelites had crossed over the Red Sea safely, they sang praise to God—the men being led by Moses and the women by Miriam.  We can safely assume that there were at least a million people present at this event.  The sound of their voices must have shook the earth!  Now multiply that and imagine for a moment hundreds of millions of angelic voices lifted up in perfect harmony to our Lord and God!  What an amazing thing that must have been for John to witness! 

            And if that wasn’t enough, all of creation lifted its voice to join the heavenly song!  True worship is contagious, oh believer, what joy you have to look forward to!  This chapter closes appropriately, indeed.  Once this amazing chorus finishes it’s last verse, the four cherubim around the throne, say, “Amen!”  And the elders fall on their faces and worship.  Loved ones, this is what God has planned for you.  Don’t be too busy worrying about the individual blessings that are promised in scripture—in comparison to this—they are nickels and dimes.

O For a thousand tongues to sing

my great Redeemer’s praise,

the glories of my God and King,

the triumphs of his grace.

 

Hear him, ye deaf; his praise ye dumb,

your loosen’d tongues employ;

ye blind, behold your Savior come;

and leap, ye lame, for joy.

-Charles Wesley

Reigning with Christ! (New Song, part 10)

“We will reign with Christ”

 

            One of the major themes of Revelation is that the prize to those who overcome is not only eternal life with Christ, but a co-reign with Christ as well (see Revelation 2:26-27, 3:21).  As the Messiah is given authority over the nations (see Psalm 2:8), here we see Jesus, who is the Messiah, sharing that authority with believers. 

            We are not given all of the details as to exactly how this will look, though some have built entire theologies around their speculations as to what this is about.  While we don’t know all of the specifics, one thing that we can say is that any authority that we might be given will be given through Christ himself.  The new heavens and earth, will be a world restored to the perfection of Eden, and we, in our glorified bodies, will fill it.  Just as Adam and Eve were given governorship of the world as stewards of God, so too, we will be Christ’s stewards over the world.  If we add much more we enter into the realm of speculation.

            What amazing gifts and blessings Jesus promises to his own!  Not only does he bless us and provide for us while we are here on earth, but he has prepared a land for us and has promised to shower us with blessings upon joining him in paradise.  Simply being in the presence of God is infinitely more than enough, but Jesus goes beyond our capacity to imagine and has prepared a city in which we may live blessedly with him forever!  And yet, at times, we begrudge him the praise he is due…

He rules the world with truth and grace,

and makes the nations prove

the glories of his righteousness

and wonders of his love,

and wonders of his love,

and wonders, wonders of his love.

-Isaac Watts

Our Great High Priest! (New Song, part 9)

“Our Great High Priest”

 

            Though not specifically mentioned here in this particular hymn, where there is a nation of priests, there also must be a high priest.  And, of course, that high priest is Jesus.  He is the one who makes constant intercession for us before the father, and it is he who provided the sacrifice that brought us into fellowship with God the Father.  Jesus is the only head of the church.

            With this in mind, there can be ecclesial hierarchy within the church, though we see hierarchies within many denominations.  Many call themselves Bishops or Arch-Bishops or Cardinals, etc…  These have no place in Christ’s church.  While it is true that the term e∆pi√skopoß (episkopos), from which we get the term “bishop” is a biblical term, it is a term that is used interchangeably with presbuvteroß (presbuteros).  Both of these terms refer to one who is an elder in the church.  In a sense, then, it is perfectly acceptable for any local pastor to call himself a Bishop, yet, given the way the term has been mis-appropriated by certain denominations, it would be the heights of pride for him to refer to himself in this way.  Even the Apostle Peter refers to himself as a “fellow elder” in the church (1 Peter 5:1).

Elect from every nation,

yet one o’er all the earth,

her charter of salvation,

one Lord, one faith, one birth;

one holy name she blesses,

partakes one holy food,

and to one hope she presses,

with every grace endued.

-Samuel Stone

A Kingdom of Priests! (New Song, part 8)

“ Kingdom of Priests”

 

            Just as the Levites (the Old Testament priesthood) were not given an allotment of land when the Israelites entered into Canaan, but rather lived amongst the rest of the tribes of the nation, we as Christians are a priesthood without a land here on this earth.  We are called, just as the Levites were, to live as strangers and aliens in this land, for our land is a land that is not of this world, but has been reserved for us in heaven. 

            With this in mind, there are two things that we must always keep before us.  First is that we are not to allow ourselves too high a degree of comfort in this world.  This world is passing away and it has not been given to us; our world is imperishable.  When the Christian becomes too comfortable with the things of this world, he begins to compromise his faith.  Just as the Levitical priesthood allowed the idolatry of the land to corrupt their pure faith, so too, when we become comfortable in the land, we invariably compromise the truth of our faith, and we sink into idolatry.

            Secondly, the reason that the priesthood was spread about the promised land was so that they would be a blessing to the rest of the Israelites.  Yes, the Levites served an important function within the temple, but when they were not physically serving in the temple, the Levites were to teach the scriptures to God’s people and to be an advocate for the widows and orphans, or those otherwise excluded from the society.  Just as the nation of Israel was blessed to be a blessing to the world around them, the Levites were blessed to be a blessing to Israel.

            And friends, this also remains as our task.  Not only must we seek to keep our faith pure and focused on Christ (as opposed to the things of this world), but we are also to be a blessing to the world around us.  We need to care for the widows and the orphans, and by extension, all those who have been discarded by society.  We are to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people and teach them about our God.  And, as we are priests to God, we have an important role in worship itself, for the writer of Hebrews tells us that our sacrifice (as opposed to the Old Testament temple sacrifices) is a sacrifice of praise to our God (Hebrews 13:15). 

Take my will, and make it thine;

it shall be no longer mine.

Take my heart, it is thine own;

it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love, My Lord, I pour

at thy feet its treasure store.

Take myself, and I will be

ever, only, all for thee.

-Francis Havergal

The Scope of the Atonement! (New Song, part 7)

“The Limited Scope of the Atonement”

 

            At the same time that Jesus’ ransom was for people from every tribe and nation, do note that it is not performed for all people or tribes without exception; rather, it is for all people and tribes without distinction.  Christ’s atoning work was fully effective for the people he came to save, often referred to as the elect.  The names written on the Lamb’s Book of Life were written before the foundation of the earth, nothing could ever erase them, and Jesus died to atone for the sins of those whose names are written within.

            This does not mean that others, who will eventually and eternally reject the work of Christ, do not benefit from the blood that was shed by Jesus.  Yet, the benefit they enjoy is secondary and it is not salvific.  The world benefits from the good work of those who are saved.  Hospitals, schools, relief agencies, and homeless shelters almost always have their roots in the work of Christian believers.  Missionaries have been willing to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to every corner of the earth, where others would never dream of going, in the hopes of taking the gospel to some.  Missionaries have often had to create a written language based on the spoken language that a culture used so that they can translate the Bible for them, this allows the tribes to communicate and learn, preserving their thoughts in written form for future generations.

            God also gives some general blessings to all people.  He gives rain to the crops without distinction; he gives air that is breathable, and new life in the womb.  It is through Jesus that God the Father created and it is through Jesus that all things are held together, thus, without Jesus, the fabric of the universe would have torn itself asunder.

            Were the scope of Jesus’ work to have been universal, there would be no people in Hell.  Yet, Jesus talks more about the reality of Hell and those who will be sent there than any other New Testament writer or person.  He ought to know, I think.  Thus, if Jesus’ work is effective and unable to be frustrated, and if there is a Hell and it is populated, then by definition, Jesus’ atoning work was only for those he came to save.

            Can you have any assurance that you are elect?  Sure.  If you have a genuine faith in Jesus Christ, if your life was drastically changed by him, if you are holding to him, clinging to him as your Lord and Savior, if you have served him by serving others, if you hunger and thirst for the things of God, and especially if you have remained faithful even through many difficult valleys, then you are one of the elect.  These things mentioned above are works done within you by the Holy Spirit; they were not things you did on your own strength.  And if Christ has begun a good work in you, he will bring that work to completion (Philippians 1:6).

Come, thou fount of every blessing,

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;

Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet,

Sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount!  I’m fixed upon it,

Mount of Thy redeeming love.

-Robert Robinson

A Mission to the World! (New Song, part 6)

“A Mission to the World”

 

            The Jews assumed that the Messiah, when he would come, would be a political ruler who would restore the Jewish nation state to independence, as in the time of David.  Yet, this is neither how the Old Testament prophets anticipated the Messiah to be, nor was it how Jesus was.  He came as the suffering servant of Isaiah’s prophesies (Isaiah 49:6) who would be a light to the nations, drawing people from every corner of the earth to himself. 

            Yet, how would this ministry be ultimately fulfilled?  Jesus would tell his disciples to “go and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:16-20).  And that job has been passed down to us.  Believe it or not, even after all of these years, there are still parts of this world that have never been confronted with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There are still un-reached tribes in un-reached regions; there is still much work to do.

            We must also remember the commission is to go and make disciples.  That means that we need not only go to convert the people in these nations and regions, but we need to plant churches, build schools, and establish seminaries to teach and train these people up in the truth of the gospel.  This is an ongoing work.

            And this work is work that we all can participate in.  If we are unable to go ourselves, we can send.  We can raise up our children to see missions as a normal and regular part of Christian service.  We can help fund missionaries who are working in the field so that they can concentrate on the work that they have been sent to do.  And we can pray for the missionaries that are at work and pray that God will raise up more missionaries, even from our midst, to go into the field. This is what God has commissioned us to do, that people from every tribe and tongue and nation would come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

We’ve a message to give to the nations,

That the Lord who reigneth above,

Hath sent us His Son to save us,

And show us that God is love,

And show us that God is love.

For the darkness shall turn to dawning,

And the dawning to noonday bright,

And Christ’s great kingdom shall come to earth,

The kingdom of love and light.

-Colin Sterne

The Ransom Paid! (New Song, part 5)

“The Ransom Paid”

 

            We must be careful when we talk about the ransom to be paid, or the debit owed, because we must be absolutely clear as to whom that ransom was paid to.  Through the history of the church, some have argued that Jesus’ death was a ransom paid to the Devil for sin, to redeem his people from the clutches of the enemy.  Loved ones, this theology is wrong, for God owes no one, especially not the devil, anything at all.  Scripture tells us that God chose the elect even before he began creating, which means that he chose the elect before there was sin in the world and before there was any need for a ransom.

            Yet, there is a debit that is owed, and that is a debit that we owe to God.  In ancient days, when countries were at war with each other, if one country was loosing badly and wanted to bring an end to the warfare, they would sue for peace.  They would pay a large sum of money to the other nation, and the war would be considered over.

            In a way, that is the same with us.  We, in our sin, have been rebels against God for hundreds of generations.  Our sin is an affront to a Holy and Righteous God, and there is a just penalty—a price—that is owed to God as a result.  The promise is that no matter what we do, and no matter how good we are, we can never hope to repay that debit.  Not even someone like Mother Theresa or William Carey could do it.  Yet, Jesus chose to do it on behalf of those who put their faith in him as Lord and Savior—the elect.  And, oh how grateful we should be!

            John tells us that Jesus is the propitiation for our sin (1 John 2:2).  Propitiation is different from atonement.  Atonement is the making of peace between two parties.  Propitiation is the act that brings atonement.  We stand convicted and guilty of sin.  Jesus acknowledges that and he acknowledges the price we owe as a result.  And Jesus paid the price, beloved; he paid it all.

For nothing good have I

whereby your grace to claim—

I’ll wash my garments white

in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.

Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe;

sin had left a crimson stain,

he washed me white as snow.

-Elvina Hall

Jesus Was Slain! (New Song, part 4)

“Jesus Was Slain”

 

            To those who would deny the crucifixion, this song affirms even this gruesome detail of Jesus’ ministry.  Without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22); each year, the priest, on the day of atonement, would slay a lamb for the forgiveness of the people’s sins (Exodus 30:10), and Jesus has become that lamb for all of the elect (Matthew 26:28), and as Jesus’ sacrifice is perfect and effective, it is a sacrifice that never needs repeating (Hebrews 9:25-26).

            In addition, it is a reminder to the historicity of the crucifixion.  So many liberals would simply say that there was no real Jesus of history, and if there really was, he wasn’t anything like the Jesus we find in the Bible.  Friends, ignore their lies.  This song, as does all of scripture, affirms the historical sacrifice of Jesus.

            Friends, Jesus was willing to pay a gruesome price for the redemption of believers.  If you are a believer, born again by the Spirit in Jesus Christ, then he paid a terrible price for your eternal redemption.  Yet, This is something that Jesus gladly did.  Don’t take it for granted.  It is too easy to relegate the words of scripture to a list of abstract concepts.  There was nothing abstract about Jesus.  He lived and he died, living in this world as you and I.  He was slain for the sins of you and me.  Yet, he arose, and therein lies our hope, for he has promised that if we put our faith in him as our Lord and Savior, then he will raise us as well on the last day.

Death cannot keep his prey—

Jesus, my Savior,

he tore the bars away—

Jesus, my Lord.

Up from the grave he arose,

with a mighty triumph o’er his foes.

He arose a victor from the dark domain,

and he lives forever with his saints to reign.

He arose!  He arose!

Hallelujah!  Christ arose!

-Robert Lowry

The Scroll! (New Song, part 3)

“The Scroll”

 

Though there is some debate as to just what the scroll that is depicted here in Revelation represents, in context, it seems that the scroll represents God’s redemptive plan for history, namely as is unfolded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  For that book to be opened, God’s righteous judgments against mankind need to be brought about (the opening of the seals).  And Jesus is the only one who is worthy to unfold the plan of God in history.

Paul speaks of God having chosen his elect since before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 1:4).  That means that before God even began the work of creation, God wrote this scroll.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, he wrote your name on this scroll before the ages began.  And he sealed the scroll up with the judgments that would come as a result of the fall.  Yet, these judgments are only opened up through the mitigation of Christ—Christ who God promised to Adam and Eve at the fall (Genesis 3:15).  Were it not for Christ, we would have perished long ago.  Judgment and redemption are intimately interwoven with the person of Christ.  What a gracious God we have.  What a wonderful savior we have been given!

A wonderful savior is Jesus my Lord,

a wonderful savior to me;

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock.

where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock

that shadows a dry, thirsty land;

he hideth my life in the depths of his love,

and covers me there with his hand,

and covers me there with his hand.

–Fanny Crosby

Jesus is Worthy! (New Song, part 2)

“Jesus is Worthy”

 

Jesus is worthy of our praise and no one else is.  Mohammed was not worthy, Buddha was not worthy, Krishna was not worthy, our governments are not worthy, humanistic teachers are not worthy—no one but Jesus is worthy of our praise and adoration. 

Jesus is worthy first because of his perfect character.  From the beginning of time, Jesus is and was infinitely perfect in all of his ways.  He is God.  And for that simple fact, he deserves our worship.  Friends, not only is the unbelief of the non-Christian a sin, but the refusal to worship both of the non-believer and of the casual churchgoer is also a sin.  Had Jesus never done any work of redemption, he still would have been infinitely worthy of our praise and honor.

Yet, in his work of redemption, how much more worthy is he!  He condescended to take on flesh and walk with us.  He came to us while we were still rebels against God, wallowing in our sin—and he called us to himself.  He did the work of redemption that bridged the infinite gap between a Holy God and a sinful man.  He did that for me.  And if you are a born-again believer, he did that for you as well.  Because he did for me what I could have never done for myself, how much more is he worthy of my praise!

Praise Him! praise Him!  Jesus our blessed Redeemer!

Sing, O Earth, his wonderful love proclaim!

Hail him! hail him! highest archangels in glory;

strength and honor give to his holy name!

Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard his children,

in his arms he carries them all day long;

Praise him!  praise him!  tell of his excellent greatness;

praise him! praise him! ever in joyful song!

–Fanny Crosby

A New Song!: Introduction

Introduction:

 

While we often think of the book of Revelation in terms of God’s judgment being brought upon his enemies, one of the major themes of Revelation is that of worship.  In fact, nearly half (24 of 60 uses) of the New Testament uses of the verb proskunew (proskuneo), which means “to worship,” are found in the book of Revelation.  It is a book that depicts both proper worship in heaven in the here and now and proper worship in heaven when all of the elect are finally gathered around the throne of Christ. 

With that in mind, Revelation is also a book that contains quite a few songs to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (and especially to the Son for his redeeming work).  It is as if the Apostle John can’t help but break out in joyful song as he relates his theophany to us. 

In the church today, there are (and I expect will always be) debates surrounding the use of new hymns being used in the church.  Some churches even go as far as to exclusively sing the psalms, as God’s inspired songbook.  I think that singing the psalms is great!  I also think that singing the New Testament songs is a great thing to do (though in the New Testament we are largely only given fragments of the song itself)!  And, I think that the inclusion of songs in the New Testament sets a precedent that each generation should always be contributing to the body of hymnody.  Yes, that means that some hymns will pass into obscurity as new ones are added, but the best ones will not.  I can’t imagine a day when a company will print a hymnal without standards like “Amazing Grace”, “O For a Thousand Tongues,” and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” 

The key that we have to keep before us is to be careful that the new songs teach good theology.  So much of the theology that we learn is from the hymns.  Hymns often touch us deeply and stick with us, thus helping to shape the way we think about God and the Bible.  One of the great things about the “tried and true” hymns of the faith is that they have been tried and tested by generations as to what they teach.  As a generation that is adding new songs to the hymnody of the church, it is our responsibility to weed through the good and bad hymns on the basis of what they teach about our Lord.

Jesus is worth a hundred thousand generations of hymns and more!  His glory is beyond the capacity of our language to convey!  And once this world passes away, we will have an eternity to try and properly praise his worth.  I look forward to that day.  But for now, even in our limited capacity, we should be giving our all to the joyful task of that praise. 

These two verses contain a fragment of a hymn that John witnessed the angels singing in heaven.  As I mentioned above, there is a lot of theology that is contained within our hymnody.  I thought it would be useful to look briefly at some of the theology that is taught within this wonderful hymn fragment.