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Posts Tagged ‘Scripture in Song’

It is amazing what interesting experiences can surface in our memories, isn’t it? Recently, our children who had gathered at our place for a family birthday party regaled my husband and me with stories of the things we used to let them do—or refuse to—when they were children. Some we could not remember at all—surely they must have made them up? Yet they vowed they were true!

Recently, however, I experienced my own set of much more precious memories from years ago, while wending my way through Psalms again. There I was, happily reading along, when the following words transported me to another time and place in an instant:

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:1-2

Even though these words are from a more modern Bible translation than what was used when I was young, in my mind, I heard them exactly as they had sounded in some of the Sunday morning services at the Anglican church I attended then. I could even hear the minister’s voice and the sound of the pipe organ. And, for a moment, I was back in that old church, with its gleaming brass cross and candlesticks on the altar and its colourful, stained-glass windows, as we sang together:

O come, let us sing unto the Lord, let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving: and shew ourselves glad in him with psalms. (KJV)

After emerging from this memory, I read on, only to stop again at the next psalm:

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name…
Psalm 96:7-8

In this instance, a much later memory from the nineties surfaced of a worship song written by one of our gifted musicians at the church we attended at that time. I remembered how this man would often look over his spectacles at me as I led worship, smiling and encouraging me, while he played the piano. What rich times we all had back then, as we praised God from our hearts!

After a while, I read on through the next few psalms, where so many snippets of sentences took me back even earlier than the nineties to the old Scripture choruses we used to sing with such joy and fervour in the eighties. Again, these were wonderful times of learning and growing in God.

I am so grateful for all these sung words of Scripture that have stayed in my mind, ready to be unearthed, as some small prompt stirs them to life. Music is powerful, in and of itself. But, once combined with the power and authority of Scripture, such songs of praise can pierce our hearts and lift our spirits in an amazing way.

So … let’s keep on singing God’s Word, day after day, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength!

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Psalm 100:1-2

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Psalm 105:2

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Jo 12I wonder if you have ever discovered you misunderstood the words of a song you heard as a child. Years ago, one of our children asked me, ‘Mummy, why does God put the kettle on a thousand hills?’ Eventually, I worked out they had kind of melded together in their mind an old Sunday School chorus ‘He owns the cattle on a thousand hills’ with a nursery rhyme song, ‘Polly put the kettle on’!

On another occasion, this same child asked me, ‘Mummy, is God a lady?’ What a profound question, I thought—I wonder where that came from?’ Then I realised they must have been listening to one of the old Scripture in Song choruses popular in the seventies, ‘God is not a man that he should lie’. Now those words are from Numbers 23:19, where ‘man’ obviously means ‘human’ rather than the opposite of ‘lady’! Certainly tricky for a child to understand.

But I too made similar mistakes when I was around that age.  I well remember listening to my mother singing the 23rd Psalm to the old ‘Crimond’ tune, where the first two lines went as follows:

The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want,

He makes me down to lie

I was unaware of that comma between ‘Shepherd’ and ‘I’ll’, however. The words were sung in one smooth line—which led me to wonder why on earth anyone would sing about a shepherd they did not want! And why would they not want the Lord as their Shepherd? Furthermore, why would he make people lie? That didn’t sound good. But eventually I realised that the Lord wasn’t about to make us tell untruths. Instead he was inviting us to lie down in those green pastures he provides and be restored deep in our spirit. Then in my teens, I discovered I did in fact very much want the Lord as my Shepherd leading and watching over me for the rest of my life.

Sadly even now, when I sometimes think I know better, I still choose to go my own way and turn a deaf ear to the Shepherd, as he urges me to stay close to him and head for a safe place where I can rest. How much these wilful choices of mine must grieve the Lord! Yet he still keeps following me and calling out to me in love, ‘Come this way, Jo-Anne! Here I am—I haven’t left you!’ How much I need to turn then, listen carefully to his voice—and do what he says.

Recently, I finished reading a wonderful novel by Charles Martin, Long Way Gone, a kind of modern-day telling of the story of the prodigal son. The son in the story walked away from his loving father, causing so much pain and heartache for all. He resented his father’s control over his life and decided to go his own way. But the father kept following him and watching over him, finally rescuing him from certain death. And that is what our Shepherd faithfully does for us his sheep too, year in and year out—forever. How amazing is that?

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

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Jo 17I almost did not go to the service that Sunday. It was a cold morning and the church where my husband was to speak was some distance away. On top of that, we knew many would be absent, given it was school holiday time. Still, I should go, I decided in the end.

When we arrived, the young woman who greeted us seemed harassed, so we asked if we could do anything to help.

‘I think we’ll be right,’ she smiled. ‘I’ve organised most things—the music’s ready and someone’s rostered on to play guitar at least.’

‘Well, I haven’t played the piano for a service for years, but I probably could if you were desperate!’ I laughed.

And yes, you’ve guessed it! Just before the service was to begin, a text message came through that their one available musician could not come. I gulped. I had meant my comment as a joke—but it seemed God had other plans!

In the end, I was no match for the pleading look on our young friend’s face—or for the tempting prospect of playing on this church’s beautiful grand piano! Besides, I would have felt mean, letting the congregation flounder along without any music.

‘Um … well, I’ll do it—as long as I know the songs,’ I heard myself say.

And we made it, by God’s grace, which certainly worked overtime, given I had only the top line of music or guitar chords for most songs—and nothing for the final one! To my amazement, as I began playing, it was as if those twenty years since I had played for a service melted away. I certainly muffed a few notes and chords, but it was as if some reliable, old ‘default setting’ took over inside me—and I was back playing as I had when our children were the age our grandchildren are now.

‘It’s like riding a bike,’ my husband said later. ‘You think you can’t do it, but then you get on—and away you go!’

Later, as I reflected on my unexpected and very public Sunday morning challenge, I began to wonder about my responses in those more private spiritual challenges of life. What might my ‘default settings’ turn out to be there? In difficult situations, was my default response one of worry and fear—or calmness and trust in God? In prolonged times of disappointment, did I automatically hold onto my hope in God and persevere? Or did I moan and complain and think of giving up? In times of achievement and success, did I forget all about how God had strengthened and led me and instead, default to taking all the glory for myself? Had I truly changed enough deep down so that my default settings were God’s and not just my own?

I want my roots go down deep into God, constantly tapping into that spiritual wellspring, just as the person mentioned in Psalm 1:3 did as he meditated on God’s law:

 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.

I want God to transform me on the inside as we spend time together so I can respond to those unexpected challenges in the best way possible. Is that your heart’s desire too?

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