A Doxology of Romans 9

The God of Romans 9 is radically different than many people may be comfortable with. While most professing Christians exalt God as an anthropocentric Deity Who seeks man’s benefit above all else, Paul firmly presents Him as a God-centered God Who seeks His glory above all else. These things can be hard to accept. When I first began to see Scripture’s clear testimony concerning the nature of God, I wondered, “What does it look like to worship a God like this?” What does poetry praising the God of Unconditional Election read like? How do I praise God in light of His sovereignty over all things?

To the delight of my easily frustrated mind, God’s sovereignty in salvation is one of the most natural truths to praise Him for. I would like to share ten hymns that I’ve found helpful in drawing doxology from the theology of Romans 9. If you click on any title below, your computer device should be taken to an audio recording of the respective song.

I. Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right

Samuel Rodigast

Whate’er my God ordains is right // His holy will abideth
I will be still whate’er He doth // And follow where He guideth
He is my God, though dark my road // He holds me that I shall not fall
And so to Him, I leave it all // He holds me that I shall not fall

Whate’er my God ordains is right // He never will deceive me
He leads me by the proper path // I know He will not leave me
I take, content, what He hath sent // His hand can turn my griefs away
And patiently I wait His day // His hand can turn my griefs away

Whate’er my God ordains is right // Though now this cup I’m drinking
May bitter seem to my faint heart // I take it all unshrinking
My God is true each morn anew // Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart // Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart

Whate’er my God ordains is right // Here shall my stand be taken
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine // Yet I am not forsaken
My Father’s care is ‘round me there // He holds me that I shall not fall
And so to Him, I leave it all // He holds me that I shall not fall

II. Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Thomas O. Chisholm

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou has been, Thou forever wilt be

Summer and winter, and spring-time and harvest
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own ear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me

III. God Moves in a Mysterious Way

William Cowper

God moves in a mysterious way // His wonders to perform
He plants His footsteps in the sea // And rides upon the storm

Deep in unfathomable mines // Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs // And works His sov’reign will

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take // The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break // In blessings on your head!

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense // But trust Him for His grace
Behind a frowning providence // He hides a smiling face!

His purposes will ripen fast // Unfolding ev’ry hour
The bud may have a bitter taste // But sweet will be the flow’r!

Blind unbelief is sure to err // And scan His work in vain
God is His own interpreter // And He will make it plain!

IV. Our Sovereign God

Tom Pennington

Our Sov’reign God by His own word // Sustains this world and reigns as Lord
No angel, demon, sinful man // Can change His course, restrain His hand
O sov’reign God, we praise Your pow’r // Your wisdom, goodness we adore!
We bow our hearts before Your throne // Help us, O Lord, to trust You more!

When the fullness of the time had come // God sent His own beloved Son
To keep God’s aw, live in our place // To bear our sin, guilt and disgrace
Dead in our sin, estranged from God // We fled as rebels from His love
In sov’reign grace He made us sons // And saved us from the wrath to come

Before our birth He planned our days // Laid out our course, ordained our ways
The moments of our lives He weaves // So all the glory He receives
To those He loved before all time // To all He called, in grace renewed
He cannot lie; His Word is true // He makes all things to work for good!

He has written hist’ry’s final page // His Son’s return will end this age
The Lamb will come in glorious might // Take back His world and end its night
How deep the wisdom of our God // Unknown, unfathomed are His ways!
None counsels Him or knows His mind // We bow before Him all our days.

V. All Creatures of Our God and King

Francis of Assisi; paraphrased, William H. Draper; Thomas Ken

All creatures of our God and King // Lift up your voice and with us sing
Allelulia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam // Thou silver moon with softer gleam
O praise him! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong // Ye clouds that sail in heav’n along
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising morn, in praise rejoice // Ye lights of evening, find a voice
O praise Him! Alleluia!

And all ye men of tender heart // Forgiving others, take your part
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear // Praise God and on Him cast your care
O praise Him! Alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless // And worship Him in humbleness
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son // And praise the Spirit, three in One
O praise Him! Alleluia!

VI. I Sing the Mighty Power of God

Isaac Watts

I sing the mighty power of God // That made the mountains rise
That spread the flowing seas abroad // And built the lofty skies
I sing the wisdom that ordained // The sun to rule the day
The moon shines full at His command // And all the stars obey

I sing the goodness of the Lord // That filled the earth with food
He formed the creatures with His Word // And then pronounced them good
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed // Where’er I turn my eye
If I survey the ground I tread // Or gaze upon the sky!

There’s not a plant of flower below // But makes Thy glories known
And clouds arise and tempests blow // By order from Thy throne
While all that borrows life from Thee // Is ever in Thy care
And ev’rywhere that man can be // Thou, God, art present there

VII. O Father, You Are Sovereign

Margaret Clarkson

O father, you are sov’reign // In all the worlds You made
Your mighty word was spoken // And light and life obeyed

Your voice commands the seasons // And bounds the ocean’s shore
Sets stars within their courses // And stills the tempest’s roar

O Father, You are sov’reign // In all affairs of man
No pow’rs of death or darkness // Can thwart Your perfect plan

All chance and change transcending // Supreme in time and space
You hold Your trusting children // Secure in Your embrace

O Father, You are sov’reign // We see You dimly now
But soon before Your triumph // Earth’s ev’ry knee shall bow

With this glad hope before us // Our faith springs up anew
Our sov’reign Lord and Savior // We trust and worship You!

VIII. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Joachim Neander; tr. Catherine Winkworth

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear // Now to His temple draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration!

Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wonderously reigneth
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen // How thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee
Ponder anew // What the Almighty can do
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him
Let the Amen // Sound from His people again
Gladly forever adore Him!

IX. When This Passing World is Done

Robert Murray McCheyne

When this passing world is done // When has sunk yon glaring sun
When we stand with Christ in glory // Looking o’er life’s finished story
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe

When I hear the wicked call // On the rocks and hills to fall
When I see them start to shrink // On the fiery deluge brink
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe

When I stand before the throne // Dressed in beauty not my own
When I see thee as thou art // Love thee with unsinning heart
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe

When the praise of heav’n I hear // Loud as thunders to the ear
Loud as many waters’ noise // Sweet as harp’s melodious voice
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe

Chosen not for good in me // Wakened up from wrath to flee
Hidden in the Savior’s side // By the spirit sanctified
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show
By my love, how much I owe

X. My Lord, I Did Not Choose You

Joseph Conder

My Lord, I did not choose You // For that could never be
My heart would still refuse You // Had You not chosen me
You took the sin that stained me // You cleansed me made me new
Of old You have ordained me // That I should live in You.

Unless Your grace had called me // And taught my op-ning mind
The world would have enthralled me // To heav’nly glories blind
My heart knows none above You // For Your rich grace I thirst
I know that if I love You // You must have loved me first.

Advertisements

Beholding God: The Function of Melody in Helpful Worship Music

You can read the prerequisite to this essay here.

Melody

Melody is a fundamental facet of musical composition – the only element absolutely intertwined with the lyrics. A musical arrangement can be changed but the melody is intrinsic to the identity of a song. Without the melody, lyrics become poetry.

The melody of a worship song must serve as an aid to the lyrics. It must elevate, not subvert, the lyrics. With this in mind, we recognize that melody has influence. Music wields the power to emotionally stir us and move us in various ways. Various melodies affect us in different ways. Because the melody has such an influence on us, it must be considered another tool in the construction of a helpful worship service.

As I have already suggested, melody should exalt the lyrics. How can melody serve this purpose? It is perhaps easier to see how the arrangement of a song can exalt the lyrics: by letting the words have center-stage (i.e. getting out of the way). However, what about the melody? This is not the performance of the song, with its environment and dynamic, or the tamber of the instrumentation. We are simply considering which notes correspond to which words and the compositional picture they paint when strung together in rhythmic sequence.

I suggest that the melody compliments the lyrics when it moves the singer in an emotional direction appropriate to the lyrics that he sings. First, I will explain the relationship between principles and implications. Second, I will explain how a melody exegetes the lyric. Third, I will show how the influence of melodies can be positively used in corporate worship.

A. Principle and Implication

A proposition necessarily has an implication. That is, a fact always implies something else. “If this is true, then this must be true.” For the principle to be an argument, it must have another principle which is coupled with it, which then implies something. For example, consider this principle: “All whales are mammals.” From that, I immediately know the implication: “Shamu is a mammal.” How is this an implication? Well, because we understand a second proposition to be true: “Shamu is a whale.” Each truth statement we learn or confess, when coupled with a fact we already know, can be seen to imply something else.

The principles in Scripture exemplify this. There is truth proposed in the text, but there are implications of the truth that are not explicitly stated by Scripture. For example, the evangelical confession of Trinitarian theology is not found in one place in Scripture, but pulled from several principles found throughout the text. In no place does the Word state, “The Divine is one God in three persons.” The church has long recognized, though, that this is a necessary implication of what the Bible speaks concerning each member of the Trinity. This is a doctrinal implication.

The second kind is practical implication. This would be how we are to live in light of a particular fact. For example, if God is ultimately the One Who draws people to Himself in salvation, then what implications does that fact have on my evangelism? Well, it gives me great peace in knowing that the ‘success’ of my preaching is not dependent upon me, but God. So I’m not going to focus on pragmatism, on trying to entice people to accept Jesus. I’m just going to preach the gospel and pray for conversions – this is a practical implication of the fact that God is sovereign in salvation.

What I want us to recognize is that the relationship between an implication and its respective proposition is not subjective, but objective. I don’t get to decide what the doctrine of Sola Fide implies. Logic tells me that it doctrinally implies that God does not accept my labor as grounds for justification and that it practically implies that I do not have to do good works to be right before God (there is a bit of inter-changeableness in how one might state a doctrinal or practical implication – much depends on how you read the implication). The relationship is one of necessity, such that an implication is intrinsically linked to its respective truth. For the relationship to be broken would be an act of insanity, or foolishness, because you would literally be denying logic.

This may seem irrelevant. Hopefully the next section will clear things up.

B. The Exegetical Function of Melody

I suggest the melody is an implication of the lyric, in this sense: it communicates what emotion is appropriate in response to specific truth claims. We want our lyrics to be filled with truth. All truth calls for certain emotional responses. For example, we are to shout for joy in light of God’s salvation (Ps 35:27). Isaiah felt ruined in light of God’s holiness (Isa 6:1-6). John fell down as a dead man in light of Christ’s glory (Rev 1:17). We are to respond to God’s self-revelation in appropriate fashion.

When should be happy while reflecting on the glories of heaven and the end of earthly suffering. Christ’s death on our behalf should cause gratitude to swell within us. Seeing the wrath of God against sin should compel us to fear His power and soberly rejoice in the cross. No doctrine is without an appropriate response. Singing these doctrines, there are proper and improper reactions. Who would shout for joy that our sin made Christ’s suffering necessary, in some sense? Who would weep in sorrow because of God’s gospel?

Inappropriate responses to doctrine are exercises in foolery. As we worship God through song, the melody can aid us in appropriately responding to the doctrines we sing. When the lyrics call for joy, the melody reflects this in a joyful composition. When the lyrics call for reverence, the melody does likewise. So on, so forth. In order for the melody to do this, it must accurately communicate to us the practical implication of the truths we are singing. So: the melody must accurately interpret the doctrine.

The melody must faithfully exegete of the lyric. When a text is exegeted, its meaning is drawn out. The melody must be able to exegete the text and, in knowing what it means, see clearly what it implies, and communicate that to us.

The melodies we sing preach to us the lives we should live in light of the truths we confess. A helpful worship song boasts a melody that preaches to us in this manner. In our hymns of praise, we want melodies that faithfully explain to us how we should respond to God’s self-revelation. The exegetical function of melody proves invaluable when we contemplate the dying, sin-loving bodies we still live in.

C. The Helpful Influence of Melody

As saints of God, our spirits have been raised from death to life to love Him (Eph 2:1-10). Though it is not a perfect love, it is a true affection (Eph 6:24). However, our bodies have yet to be resurrected (Rom 8:18-25). We live presently with spirits that love God and bodies that habitually love sin. On top of this, our bodies are dying – still under the effects of sin. We are prone to laziness, apathy, lust, pride, and the like. This conflict wears on us even in a Sunday morning, corporate worship service. As I contemplate God’s character and work presented in the lyrics, my spirit rejoices in the truth. However, my body leaves me prone to a disaffectionate state. I am compelled by my flesh to not revere God in His omnipotence and holiness, to remain apathetic in light of His gospel, etc.

When the melody properly interprets the emotional implication of the lyrics, it utilizes its powerful influence to show me the appropriate response to what I am singing. It opposes my flesh, saying, “No – you will not be apathetic to this. You will bend to the sway of these doctrines.” The melody can serve as a softener of my sinful flesh, appropriating it to the emotions implicated by the doctrines I am singing. Essentially: the melody submits my body to a posture of worship. That, I believe, may be the best way of putting it.

Melody submits my body to a posture of worship through the influence it has on my emotions. As we already stated, music has power to stir us in certain ways, depending on its composition and arrangement. The composition of the melody, then, should be used to exalt the lyrics by submitting the flesh to the practical implications demanded the truths of God’s character and work. The melody, when properly written, will put the flesh in its place: “Be joyful here. Be sorrowful here. Be hopeful here. Be reverent here.”

Closing Thoughts

In light of the above meditations, I have two brief thoughts.

  1. We need melody-writers who are theologians. If the melody interprets the lyrics and communicates the appropriate response to it, then it follows that we need melody-writers who understand doctrine well. Melodies don’t write themselves! Hymn-writers, even non-lyricists, should saturate themselves in the Word of God. Systematic and Historical theologies would prove helpful tools in this work of composition.
  2. Hymns help prepare us for receiving the Word. If the influence of melody is appropriately used, it submits the flesh to the truth of God. It serves as a form of discipline. After three to five helpfully composed and performed songs, the worshiper will be in a much better position to accept and submit to the Word of God. His flesh has been disciplined by the hymns he sang the previous twenty minutes.

May God be exalted in the praise of His people!

Beholding God: The Foundation of Helpful Worship Music

In this article, I argue that worshiping God is a response to beholding God. Therefore, helpful worship music aids the worshiper in beholding God – which means giving precedence to truth-filled lyrics.

The Biblical Example

I submit three passages as a brief case for Biblical worship: Exodus 34:6-8 (Moses), Isaiah 6:1-4 (Isaiah), Matthew 14:28-33 (Disciples).

Exodus 34:6-8 comes after Moses asked to see God’s glory, in chapter 33. For something to be “glorified” means that it is made-known or revealed. Moses’ request essentially was to received a greater revelation and comprehension of Who God is. This is evident both in what Exodus records Moses requesting, but also in how God answered the request. God gave Moses a glimpse of His glory when He proclaimed truth about Himself to Moses. Notice that in verse 8 Moses responded to this revelation by making haste to boy low and worship. Worshiping God was Moses’ response to a revelation of God.

Isaiah beholds God in a vision (Isaiah 6:1-5). Verses 1-3 depict a terrifying display which verse 3 sums up well: holy, holy, holy. God’s holiness is of the superlative degree, with nothing and no one coming close. When God’s attribute of holiness is revealed to Isaiah, he is ruined. I can see the man ripping his clothes and falling to his knees. Isaiah’s sight of God destroyed him, because of how utterly un-godly he was. Isaiah’s worship is more implicit in this passage, for by highlighting his sinfulness he was proclaiming the sinless-ness of God. He agreed with the Seraphims’ claim that God is superlatively holy. Worshiping God was Isaiah’s response to a revelation of God.

Jesus demonstrated His power in Matthew 14:28-33. First, He walked on water. Second, He made Peter walk on water. Third, He calmed the storm. Immedietaly following these three demonstrations of Jesus’ divine power, the disciples worshiped Him. They declared what their eyes had seen: “You are certainly God’s Son!” Christ’s demonstration of power manifested to the disciples Who He was. In light of this revelation, the disciples worshiped Him. Worshiping God was the disciples’ response to a revelation of God.

The Biblical example is that worshiping God is a response to God’s self-revelation of God. Moses saw God’s love and justice, and responded by worshiping Him. Isaiah saw God’s holiness, and responded by worshiping Him. The disciples saw God’s omnipotence, and responded by worshiping Him. Why is this the Biblical example?

Definition

Worshiping any particular thing is responding to said thing by glorifying it. By worshiping something, you revere and draw attention to it – you show its worth by broadcasting its value. If this is worship, then worshiping God is a response to revelation of God. In worshiping God, we glorify Him and magnify Him as being worthy of attention – just as we do with anything else we worship. I believe this is why the Biblical example of worship is a response to revelation of God.

If worship is a response to God, then responding to something other than God is worshiping something other than God. A response to anything else by definition would be a worship of said thing and not God. I can claim that I’m worshiping God by watching a football game, but if my elevated pulse, loud voice, and sweat are because of the game itself, then I am not worshiping God. I’m responding to the game. I am giving the game my attention and, in my actions, proclaiming it to be worthy of attention. My life at this moment glorifies the football game as being something valuable and pleasurable.

Helpful vs. Unhelpful

If worshiping God is by definition a response to His self-revelation, then how should our congregational worship music be written in order to reflect this? Perhaps our worship music should be filled with the self-revelation of God. We need worship songs filled with truth. Doctrine should saturate our hymns. Essentially, we are looking for melodic doctrine. If we want to worship God through song, then lets put God in our songs. In fact, why not make the lyrics all about God and what He has done? Is this not most helpful?

What about the music? If the lyrics are to be exalted due to their unique role in revealing God, then the music needs to take a back-seat to them. The music should compliment. A worship song should not be built to exalt the music. A song in which the lyrics fold into the music, so as to make the music something of a focal point, is not a helpful worship song. A helpful worship song would be one in which the music serves to lift the lyrics up into the spot-light.

What about the performance? It must do as the musical composition does: compliment the lyrics. Lights, instruments, media – everything serves the purpose of lifting-up the truth-filled lyrics. If the performance draws attention to itself, it is unhelpful.

The Contemporary Worship Movement

If you have participated in both contemporary and a traditional worship services, you probably notice the different responses evoked in each. In practically every instance, contemporary music will coincide with an increased crowd dynamic (in terms of energetic expression, at least). Why is this so?

There are typically lights, louder music, more repetitively rhythmic instruments, and more dynamic performances. The biggest variable of all, however, is how the contemporary songs are written.

Contemporary worship music compositionally models popular “secular” music. The song structure is designed to lead the listener through a series of dynamics that keep him engaged. These dynamics are designed to provoke the listener emotionally. The composition needs to stir the listener. The techniques used in this form of song-writing are the foundation of every contemporary worship song. When a contemporary song abandons this technique (ex. “In Christ Alone“), the song is dubbed “hymn.” We can tell it isn’t composed in the same dynamic technique as “contemporary worship music.”

There is nothing wrong with any particular expression during worship, but we are interested in what is stirring one’s emotions. Is the composition or performance stirring your emotions, or is God’s truth?

Imagine singing “Nothing but the Blood” in a contemporary service: synth, airy guitars, repetitive kick drum, ambient lights. The song lasts 9 minutes, the chorus runs 20 times. Now imagine singing “Nothing but the Blood” in a small congregation: out-of-tune piano, daylight, old pews, no dynamic changes in the performance. What would the difference be between the first and second scenario, emotionally? The variation is the amount of emotion evoked by the “contemporary” qualities of that first performance.

The contemporary worship service provokes a response to something other than God. The songs are composed with a dynamic technique designed to affect the listener emotionally. This dynamic is the focal point of the contemporary worship service. The lyrics are thereby downgraded to serve the dynamic. The lyrics complement the dynamic. Even with theologically rich lyrics, the dynamic structure and performance create an atmosphere in which the worshiper has an obstacle course of emotionally distracting elements to traverse through in order to arrive at a position where his worship is principally a response to God’s self-revelation.

If I am responding to the lights, I’m not worshiping God: I’m worshiping the lights. If I am responding to the bass, I am not worshiping God: I’m worshiping the bass. I am worship what stirs me unto a response. How is it helpful to lead a brother or sister into such an environment?

Scripture is silent in reference to a “holy genre” or worship music. However, Scripture does reveal what is helpful and unhelpful in a worship service. It may be that the contemporary worship movement is unhelpful. Not sinful, but unhelpful.

The Biblical example of worship doesn’t include charades. It points us to this: beholding God. As worship songs are filled with God’s self-revelation, they will be helpful. As worship songs are filled with fluff and rhetorical devices, they will be unhelpful.

Moses, Isaiah, and the disciples beheld God. They received Divine self-revelation and in light of it glorified God. We too have received God’s self-revelation: Scripture. May we flood our worship services with Scripture! As it is done, I believe we will quickly begin to see the positive affects of God-centered worship music.