The Gospel In Songs

We all like music. The most tone-deaf of us enjoy music. You can sometimes hear them, in the shower or in their car, dissonantly barking out a tune. We might not like a particular style (like rap or rock) but we all seem to enjoy music.

You know, I think that it might be something built into people. We take what moves us emotionally, or even just what is important, and put it into song. Knowing the truth of the alphabet is important: we put it into song. Our country is pretty important: we put that it into song. I really love my wife, my kids and my dog and have dreams of a mini-van: I better make a song. And if we want to get really serious, we sing about ideals which we cherish: like freedom, hope, goodness or love. Ooh: good songs. We sing what we believe in. What we think is important. What we hope for.

Animals just don’t do this.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know we have other songs. Silly things like “Let’s Do the Twist” or “Can You Mash Potato”. But I think all that does is bring out the problem.

Many of our songs suffer from a fatal flaw which, I think, points to our main problem. The Twist isn’t only fun, it’s funny—remember when people actually did the Twist? Not anymore. Singing about my dead minivan or my last dog is sad but—hey, you don’t know them.

In fact, don’t we sing national anthems with an unstated concern in the back of our minds? Something we just don’t say aloud? We know that there have been other countries, and other anthems, that are no longer sung since those countries are long gone. No one sings the national anthem of ancient Assyria, anymore. Can this happen to our country?

All our music, we realize, falls short in what it praises. What is the praise of love if those meant to be loved are gone? What is the point of singing about Jane, if Jane loves someone else? What is the purpose of singing about a dance move if dances come and go?

Scripture says that God has placed eternity in the hearts of man (Ecclesiastes 3:11) but with our main problem, we have a relative sense of the sheer abruptness of life. We know that relationships break. Nations fail. Life ends. And what we sing about just fades into the past.

Our songs must fail. They ground themselves on what fades away. We’re people who mess up, who purposefully do wrong, who do things that ultimately don’t stand in a world that is always changing, and who add insult to injury by praising things that aren’t permanent.

Relationships fail for tons of reasons often bound in selfishness. Nations burn in war and poverty. Lives end in ruin. Scripture tells us that everyone has sinned; everyone has messed up, and has fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23) and that the payback for sin is death (Rom 6:23) —a life that ends—and that one day, the world will change drastically. We mess up, we fall short, and the temporariness of it all reflects that reality.

And yet our songs keep striving and hoping without the right focus. They want to reach outward and hold onto love. They want to sing of countries that really stand as a bulwark for something. They want to sing about something that you can bank on, forever.

Enter God.

God, unlike us, is perfect. He is great. He is awesome. He doesn’t change. His love never fails. He’s forever constant.  God is the one subject that can rightly ground all songs. You can’t sing about that time when God broke down. You can’t sing about that time that God failed. You can’t even sing about that time when God once, upon a time, loved you.

So you’ll find in Scripture that songs pointt to one who is always there, who always loves, who can never be conquered. Large swathes of scripture devoted to singing about, and to, God. The Scriptures say that the stars themselves sing out the glory of God (Psalm 19). As Christ entered a city, the people had to sing out praising Him—and if they didn’t, the rocks would (Luke 19:28-40).

Then, in Revelation 5 we hear a new song.

“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

And

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

And

“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”  (Rev 5:9–13).

A Song, rightly grounded in God, sung to a lamb who was killed. And yet lives.

Songs like this can only be sung by those who have bent the knee to him alone who is rightly found song-worthy. Every single tune, every single song, every single whistle falls short and screams for a need to be permanent—but the songs that are sung to Him are the only songs that are grounded in unchanging truth and unfailing love.

You can’t properly sing songs like this without trusting that He is in fact Lord, that He in fact reigns, that He really died, that He in fact bled for you, that one day you will bow to Him in his very presence. Yet some of us sing along without really believing. These songs point outward at a reality that demands to be wrestled with; demands allegiance to the one has died, gave himself for you, and has risen again victoriously—according to the Scriptures— to receive all glory, honor, power and praise.

So what will you do with this? Will you continue on, humming along with songs you don’t really believe, or will you dare to wrestle with the reality on which these songs are permanently grounded: the second person of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ? Trust is rightly placed in Him. Hope is rightly placed in Him. Acclamation is rightly heaped on him. And songs are rightly sung to him.

But can you rightly sing to him? Do you really trust him and his work? Do you really hope in what he did on a cross when he died and when he rose again? Can you really sing out that “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; BECAUSE HIS JUDGMENTS ARE TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS” (Rev 19:1-2) while crying out “Jesus is Lord God who died and bosily rose again”?

Can you?

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4 thoughts on “The Gospel In Songs

I think it’s sad that there’s some unspoken rule that you can’t sing a song in praise of another country, whether its national anthem or some other song. I think that would foster both awareness and appreciation for other cultures.

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