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Think before You Sing


Do you think about the songs you sing? If you are responsible for choosing the songs for Lord’s Day worship, do you carefully consider the theology they teach? This post is an exercise in thinking through the words of a song. For this purpose, I have chosen one that is nowhere near the worst that is sung in churches today. I have done so because ripping apart blatant, damning heresy is just too easy, and because avoiding the worst is just not good enough—the church must pursue excellence. While a few of the songs popularly sung in evangelical churches today are pure poison, many other less toxic songs contain such sloppy theology that they really amount to nothing more than mystical tapioca. This song, Open Up the Heavens, is closer to the latter variety.

I’ll begin with a line-by-line commentary before summing up.

We’ve waited for this day
We’re gathered in your name
Calling out to you

Yeah, yeah, we’re this, we’re that, blah blah blah. Okay, sarcasm over, and moving on . . .

Your glory like a fire
Awakening desire
Will burn our hearts with truth

Like many of the lines in modern “worship” songs, I’m not really sure what that is supposed to mean. I do know that my desire is not merely “awakened,” but enlivened, by the miracle of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and it is God’s Word, read and expounded from the pulpit—and yes, sung in biblically informed songs—that imparts truth, including the truth of his glory.

Open up the heavens
We want to see you
Open up the floodgates
A mighty river
Flowing from your heart
Filling every part of our praise

God is not going to open up the heavens so we can see him—nothing in Scripture indicates otherwise*—so this is a silly petition. Add to that the fact that if we did see him, we would drop dead (Exodus 33:20), and it becomes extremely foolish. Furthermore, it is not only foolish, but faithless and/or thoughtless (I’ll explain that assertion farther on). Having said that, we can dispense with the sensational vaguery of floodgates and mighty rivers (of what, pray tell?) flowing from God’s heart.

Your presence in this place

Of course God is present “in this place.” God the Father is present everywhere (omnipresence), not just “in this place.” The Holy Spirit, however, is not “in this place.” The Holy Spirit, as I have said before in reference to another, far worse, song†, “does not flood the atmosphere, he indwells believers. He is not an aura to be felt, but a person to be known.” He is present in us, not around us. The unbeliever who might be standing next to you has no part in that.

Your glory on our face

Again, what is meant by this? God’s glory is not “on our face.” Moses’ face shone after being shown, in a very special circumstance, a small measure of the glory of God (Exodus 34:29). That was not God’s glory on his face, but only the after-effects of exposure to it. Seriously, look around you on a Sunday morning, and what do you see but a lot of ordinary, non-glowing faces? There is one face, however, in which we can see the glory of God, and I’ll get to that before this is done.

We’re looking to the sky

Expecting to see what? Oh, right, this:

Descending like a cloud
You’re standing with us now
Lord, unveil our eyes

No matter how many times I’ve heard this song, I’ve never seen that happen. Neither have you. God is, after all, invisible (Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17). Again, Scripture gives us no expectation of such a spectacle.

Show us, show us your glory
Show us, show us your power
Show us, show us your glory, Lord

Again, I don’t know what is expected here, but when I hear “Show us,” I can’t help but think,

For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

—1 Corinthians 1:22–23

Twice above I’ve promised to explain a point before I finish, and now is the time. First, I said that asking to see God is a faithless/thoughtless request; second, that there is one face (not ours) on which we may see God’s glory. Both are explained in the following passages:

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

—2 Corinthians 4:6

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.

—Hebrews 1:1–4

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the trueknowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

—2 Peter 1:2–3

Do you want to see God’s glory? Look at Christ, “the radiance of His glory.” Do you want to see God? Look at Christ, “the exact representation of His nature.” Is that not enough? God has revealed himself to us, as fully as our mortal frames can bear, first in the Old Testament, and finally, in the New, in Christ.

When we hold these Scriptures in our hands, and continue to cry “More!” we expose one or more of at least two serious faults: faithlessness, and thoughtlessness.

If we really believe we need more revelation than we now hold in our hands, we are faithless—we do not really believe that, in Christ, we have been given “everything pertaining to life and godliness.” We do not believe that the glory and nature of God is adequately displayed in him.

I suspect, however, that many who sing this and similar songs are just thoughtless. It is an unfortunate fact that many Christians simply turn off their brains when the music starts. If they can express heartfelt emotions set to a catchy tune, they don’t care much how truthful, accurate, or even sensible the words are. In this way, much error and even heresy is infiltrating the church.

I know many will receive this as unnecessarily picky, but the words we sing are just as important as the words we preach. If a pastor handled the Scriptures as carelessly as many song-writers do, he would not be qualified to preach. When we consider our songs to be little sermons, as they are (Colossians 3:16), we must hold them to a high standard: their theology must be correct and precise.

The Bereans were praised for “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” We must do the same, and we must include our songs among “these things.”

* Unless, maybe, you find yourself in an Acts 7:54ff situation.

† Kari Job, Holy Spirit.



Posted 2017·05·16 by David Kjos
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