Only where there is doxology can there be justice,
for such songs transfigure fear into energy.
— Walter Brueggemann (Prophetic Imagination)
Songs have always been important to the church. They have a way way of transcending human speech—even poetry—into something numinous and profound. Then again, maybe that’s just the musician in me talking.
Ezekiel was a singer. Many of his words are structured in such a way that they lend themselves rhythmically to chanting or singing. Modern translations try to accomplish the same effect by indenting the poetry to separate it from the prose. Ezekiel sang the story of Israel—warts and all—to the exiles in Babylon. People enjoyed his song. Apparently he had a good voice.
The problem was, his singing didn’t take root in people’s daily lives. As soon as people left the concert, his words left their ears. People knew enough to listen, but not enough to reform their lives.
. . .
I wonder how often we act the same way. We come to church and sing:
Early in the morning
I will celebrate the light
As I stumble in the darkness
I will call your name by night
—”God of Wonders” (Mark Byrd, Steve Hindalong © 2000 Storm Boy Music / New Spring Pub. / Never Say Never Songs)
Then from Monday to Friday, we’re too busy in the morning to think about God (never mind celebrating him). When something tragic happens, we try everything humanly possible to solve it before asking for help.
There’s nowhere else that I’d rather be
Than dancing with You as You sing over me
There’s nothing else that I’d rather do
Lord, than to worship You
—”Our God Reigns” (Darrell Evans © 1997 Integrity’s Hosanna Music)
Then we can hardly wait for the sermon to finish so we can beat the other churches to the restaurant.
Or how about:
I’m giving You my dreams
I’m laying down my rights
I’m giving up my pride
For the promise of new life
—”Surrender” (Marc James © 2000 Vineyard Songs)
Only to wallow in anger and bitterness when someone steps ever-so-lightly on our egos.
. . .
I’ve said this before, but it’s easy to identify with Ezekiel: the lone prophet speaking God’s words to a corrupt generation. It’s a lot more difficult (but far more beneficial) to identify with the corrupt generation and seek personal reformation.
When the songs we sing are grounded in scripture (and not all are), let’s take a little more time to think about what we’re singing. Maybe even sing come Monday.
. . .
Lord Jesus, thank you for inspiring your children throughout the ages to write songs about you and for you. Help us to take them—and you—seriously. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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