Friday, April 22, 2016

Songs That Witness Against Us

“Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.” (Deut. 31:19)

         We have children and grandchildren who are songwriters, so I’m familiar with the work that goes into it and have had the wonderful pleasure of hearing a new one for the first time. I love being able to say, “Oh, that will be a blessing to God’s people!” After all, that’s as it should be, right? Yes, unless you’re Moses, and God has (by Inspiration) given you one for the purpose of witnessing against His children. That’s what the verse says, does it not? And that’s exactly what Moses did (v. 22).

         When I read this, I began to think of songs I have sung through the years with a congregation or as a solo that I would have to say fall into just that category…songs that convict instead of comfort, reprove more than bless, and are more sobering than exciting. Oh, I’m like you; I love the songs and hymns that thrill my soul and make me want to clap my hands. But I fear there are times when I need my own mouth to condemn me. Music is (or should be) all about the message. At least, to my way of thinking. Here are a few songs that have “witnessed against me” through the years.

         The first, I am thankful to say, was not a song of conviction to my own heart because I was saved as a child, but I can tell you, those many, many years ago when I sang it to congregations in churches, a great stillness would come over the audience as the Spirit of God made it personal in hearts. I’m afraid there are few churches where I could sing it today. Pity.

I dreamed that the great judgment morning
Had dawned, and the trumpet had blown;
I dreamed that the nations had gathered
To judgment before the White Throne.
From the throne came a bright, shining angel,
And stood on the land and the sea,
And swore with his hand raised to heaven
That time was no longer to be.

     And, O, what a weeping and wailing
    As the lost were told of their fate.
   They cried for the rocks and the mountains;
   They prayed, but their prayer was too late.

Few songs move me to soul-searching as does this great old gospel song written by the son of slaves who taught himself to read at seventeen and put himself through seminary by being the janitor of a church in Philadelphia that he later pastored. Oh, how it still moves me!

Nothing between my soul and the Savior,
Naught of this world’s delusive dream;
I have renounced all sinful pleasure -
Jesus is mine! There’s nothing between

Nothing between, like worldly pleasures:
Habits of life, tho harmless they seem;
Must not my heart from Him ever sever -
He is my all! There’s nothing between.

Nothing between, like pride or station:
Self or friends shall not intervene;
Tho it may cost me much tribulation,
I am resolved! There’s nothing between.

     Nothing between my soul and the Savior,
     So that His blessed face may be seen;
    Nothing preventing the least of His favor:
    Keep the way clear! Let nothing between.

Finally, I could not leave out that great, old hymn of the church that questions the allegiance of each of us who name the name of Christ to His cause. Our older son knew every verse at the age of three or four, and, more than once, chose to sing it loudly as I wheeled him in a cart through the grocery (much to my consternation). Do these questions not convict us one and all?

Am I a soldier of the Cross? A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?
Sure, I must fight if I would reign – increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.

This has been longer than usual, but I wanted to share the words to these songs that have been used of God to “witness against” me and others. They’re seldom sung anymore and perhaps that’s one of the reasons the Church is anemic today in so many ways. Generally speaking, straight, powerful, Bible preaching is becoming more and more scarce, and so is heart-penetrating singing. May God send us a revival of both.

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