A few weeks ago I went to a worship gathering and they were singing all sorts of new music. I admit, I get into ruts just like anyone else, and sometimes it is fun and exciting to hear the new song that God has put into people’s hearts.
Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name; Bring an offering and come into His courts. Worship the LORD in holy attire; Tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains; Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy Before the LORD, for He is coming, For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness.
– Psalm 96
I love the commendation to sing new songs. But I think sometimes we do not think well about that which we are singing. For instance, we were led to sing a song that the chorus said “I want to be broken” and analogized the desired heart to the aftermath of a hurricane. Yes, I have experienced the deepest communion with God in the darkest hours of my life, but I certainly do not long for those trials. And I am afraid it is a bit masochistic and not biblically founded for anyone to truly mean that. God promises peace, rest and joy and the one who is seeking God is seeking glory, honor, immortality and eternal life (Rom 2.7).
Contemporary musicians are not guilty alone on this front. I grew up singing a song about which I never truly thought until a few years ago:
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can hear the brush of angels wings.
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.
Really? I can feel his power? I can hear angels flying around? God’s shekinah glory is evident on everyone’s face?
Actually, I have never seen someone physically radiate God’s glory. So why would I sing that?
There is a temptation to over-spiritualize and over-state things in music. We do it about love, we do it about everything. But we need to guard our mouths and hearts when we approach the throne of God.
“Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few. For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words. When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God.”
– Ecc 5.1-7
Do we really “surrender all” to Jesus? Will we really go where He goes and stay where he stays? Is he truly “the air I breathe”? Is one day in His courts better than thousands elsewhere? Could we really sing of His love forever?
I like to imagine that I am speaking/singing directly face to face with God to evaluate my heart and the words coming out of my mouth. Would you say over and over to your significant other “I love you”, without giving a reason? Or does the outpouring of your affection lead you to express all of the reasons you feel that way? When you are talking to your mate or a friend, do you say their name at the beginning of every sentence?
I mean seriously.
If I were dating someone and he said my name every few sentences while he was talking to me, it would weird me out. “Hey Alison, how are you? Have you had a good day Alison? I was running errands and I was thinking about you Alison, and Alison, I just wanted to call and say hi and see how your day is going, Alison, and tell you that I care about you, Alison.”
And when you seek to tell someone how much they mean to you, do you say, “I love you. I just really love you. You are amazing, and I love you.” Or do you reflect on his character, “I love your heart, I can see your humility in the way you handled that situation…I respect the way that you honored so-and-so by serving him…You made me feel cared for when you did [this]…”
So why would we sing to God, He who deserves our fullest affection, “I love you” (over and over again) without explaining our reasons?
Let’s go deep. Let’s get real. Let’s guard our words and not speak flippantly. But let’s fall crazy in love with God and express well our feelings and our reasons for such feelings. Let us sing unto the Lord a new song (or old song) of depth, passion and conviction!