I’m looking at what the Bible says about lamenting, in three parts. Part 1 dealt with three biblical figures who allowed their grief to send them into depression, anger, and bitterness (Jacob, Mrs. Job, Naomi.)
In Part 2 I looked at the laments of 2 biblical figures, David and Job, and what they did right, according to God.
Today I will look at explaining more of what a lament is, and also the importance of music to help us when our deep grief turns to lamenting.
On July 8, 2012, Pastor Jim Murphy of First Baptist Church of Johnson City, NY delivered a sermon titled “The Subtlety of Satan“. I can’t believe it’s been almost ten years! I remember the impact of that sermon like it was yesterday. The church synopsized Pr. Murphy’s sermon this way:
"Pastor Jim looked back over the last fifty years of church ministry to suggest the slow, incremental, and subtle changes that have created a theological crisis resulting in a move away from the foundational authority of the Word of God and into an experiential, emotional, and radically individualized form of Christianity. Not only will this review trace the consequences of the "little" erroneous theological conclusions that have defined the current struggle within evangelicalism, it will also define the way back to biblical Christianity."
I wrote about that sermon here. One of the things that caught my attention was the fact that the Pastor repented for not paying attention to some of the other gateway points of encroachment satan uses to enter into the church in order to corrupt it. We all know that elders are charged with guarding the pulpit from satan’s wiles against polluting the word of God. But satan enters in through other points in the church too. He enters in via the church library. Via the women’s ministry. Via the music.
Pastor Joel Webbon of Right Response Ministries interviewed Justin Peters about that very point of entry. Peters called music the “Gateway Drug” to heresy.
Music contains doctrine. It can present good doctrine or poor doctrine or heresy. As the congregation sings good or bad or heretical words, it changes the mind and heart. It’s meant to. Good music points to God and changes one’s affections toward Him and extols His attributes. Bad and heretical music points to ourselves and nudges us away from heavenly affections.
Music is one infiltration point. The music you sing in your church matters. The clip below is 6 minutes. Under the video are some resources about the importance of singing good music in church, and why.
Hymns are wonderful didactic tools, filled with Scripture and sound doctrine, a medium for teaching and admonishing one another, as we are commanded to do in Colossians 3:16… ~John MacArthur
Grace Community Church, Generations of Grace-Hymnody: Here, the ministry of John MacArthur’s church through opera singer Phillip Webb presents a short backstory to a hymn, and then he sings the hymn with instrumental backup. You might need to plug in your email to access the 93 hymns.
Truth for Life ministry by Alistair Begg discusses Music and Worship, with Keith Getty, saying,
Music has been a fundamental element of Christian worship from the earliest days of the church. As Keith Getty points out, though, its power is not guaranteed. Singing lyrics with shallow theology or leaving the actual singing to the “professionals” will not help form the body of Christ. Music’s transformative power in worship is only present when the full Gospel is proclaimed and when the congregation sings God’s truth as one body.
Tend your fences...because satan is subtle.
Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.
― William Congreve
Music does make a difference to our mood. King Saul used music to soothe him when his savagery arose in him, calling for David to play.
And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. (1 Samuel 16:23).
It seems that music does have charms to soothe the savage breast, literally. In another case, Elisha had a hard decision to make and prepared to consult the LORD by asking for music.
Then Elisha said, “As surely as the LORD of Hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not for my regard for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or acknowledge you. 15But now, bring me a harpist.” And while the harpist played, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha. (2 Kings 3:15)
The John MacArthur Commentary says of the 2 Kings 3 verse,
The music was used to accompany praise and prayer, which calmed the mind of the prophet that he might clearly hear the word of the LORD. Music often accompanied prophecies in the Old Testament (cf. 1 Chronicles 25:1)
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says
bring me a minstrel—The effect of music in soothing the mind is much regarded in the East; and it appears that the ancient prophets, before entering their work, commonly resorted to it, as a preparative, by praise and prayer, to their receiving the prophetic afflatus.
Music does have the ability to alter our mood, change our state of mind, even relax us (else why have so much New Age music in spas?), and alternately music can also excite us (else why have a ‘warm-up band’ before the main concert attraction?)
The long “music wars” in church began when millennials wanted more “contemporary music”. War is an apt name for this tussle over which music to play in church, because as we’ve seen from scripture, music is important in worship, and it can alter our mood and thinking. It’s important to ensure that the music we play isn’t for the purpose of altering our emotions without also engaging the mind. Music can alter our thinking because music lyrics are doctrinal. Songs aren’t neutral, lyrics present a way of thinking about God.
Music in church needs to be delivered in a biblical way and a practical way. Biblical as mentioned, because of the doctrine the songs contain (or don’t contain). Practical, because many ‘old songs’ were easier to sing corporately with laymen and many ‘new songs’ aren’t written for the laymen and are just hard to sing.
There are many new songs which exalt the Lord and/or are solidly doctrinal. There are many old ones that don’t and aren’t. The issue isn’t new vs. old, the issue is whether the song is biblical and practical.
My favorite hymns/songs are Amazing Grace, written in 1779, 240 years ago, and Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor, written in 2015, just 4 years ago.
My church service in Sundays goes from 2-2:45 (Sunday School), then the main service from 3:00-4:30. I love the afternoon schedule. It gives me time to prepare my heart in the morning, arrive unrushed at church, and enjoy the day in a different way than the usual10-12:30 timing of other churches.
On the way home from church one Sunday I stumbled onto a radio station which I had not heard before. Driving home from a sweet service filled with good music, I want to keep that atmosphere going. It’s hard with today’s radio programming.
In being frustrated one day with the quality of radio stations I had set on my buttons, I took some time to really search around and found WWQE “The Life”. It’s a Dove-award winning station. During my drive home there is a particular show called Gospel Vinyl Gold. These are Southern Gospel songs from the 50’s onward that are considered classics.
I love older Southern Gospel songs, I always have. That is strange because I didn’t grow up in the South and I didn’t become converted until I was 42. Even as a newbie I liked these older songs. The radio station played some good ones.
Newer songs are good too. Matt Papa and Keith Getty write good lyrics. Some of these are included in the new hymnal John MacArthur and others created called Hymns of Grace. I am not against new songs. But oftentimes newer songs leave out important doctrines.
I wrote previously about a song I heard back along while driving that struck me so much I had to stop the car. It was a song of eschatology, where the rapture happened and a father was left behind. The man turned out to have been having a dream, but the song focused on the scripture from Matthew 7:21-23 where (in his dream) he discovers he is a false convert. He faces Jesus and Jesus tells him ‘Depart from me, I never knew you.’ When the man in the song awoke to discover it was only a dream, he hastened to fall on his knees and really repent.
My pastor friend posted this morning from Patheos (a site I don’t generally recommend for women) and the section of that online magazine called Church for Men. The article was titled, Where did the Call-to-Repentance Songs Go? by David Murrow.
The author is reminiscing about singer-songwriter Ketih Green. Murrow says,
As my wife and I listened to Green’s music, we were struck by how strange his late 1970s lyrics sounded to our 2019 ears. Green employed a lyrical technique that used to be common in Christian music, but is virtually absent today: the call to repentance, or CTR. CTR songs are designed to convict the singer of his own sin. Here are two reasons CTR songs sound so out of place today:
1. While most contemporary worship songs focus on comfort and assurance, CTR songs point out our shortcomings. CTR songs are anything but positive and encouraging.
2. While most of today’s praise songs are sung from the perspective of the disciple, CTR songs are sung from the perspective of God (or a prophet). In praise and worship, we are the speaker, telling God how we feel about him. With CTR, God is the speaker, telling us how he feels about us.
CTR songs are sometimes hard to listen to. Too much CTR can lead to discouragement and even legalism. However, I can personally testify to their effectiveness. Keith Green’s songs were the slap in the face I needed as a young believer.
Slap in the face is a good way to put it. When I heard Sego Brothers And Naomi’s song Sorry, I Never Knew You, it WAS a slap in the face. I was dumbstruck. Lyrics like that catch your attention and re-orient the mind toward eternal things, holiness of Jesus, and our own sin. It’s good to get back to that occasionally.
Bible Studies aimed at women, the publishing industry aimed at the female demographic, the songs aimed at ladies these days, tend to focus on phrases and concepts that assure women of their worth, that they are loved, that they have power and abilities, that they are esteemed, and so on. Where are the songs that call us sinners to repentance? Remind us that we are sinners? Remind us of the eternal consequences of sin? Largely absent.
I agree with Murrow that a steady diet of call-to-repentance songs would lead to dispirited attitudes and/or legalism. But a stead diet of affirming-only songs also isn’t healthy. Those simply puff us up and don’t always point to the real hero, Jesus. We must forget what is past but also remember we are sinners called to daily repent – as the Lord’s Prayer says. (Philippians 3:13-14; Matthew 6:12). We look forward to eternity but examine ourselves now to see if we are in the faith. (2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 13:5).
I told the Lord that I had been
A Christian all the while
But through his book he took a look
and sadly shook his head
then placed me over on his left
and this I heard him say,
“Sorry, I never knew you.
I find no record of your birth.”
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
What is the frame? Did you ever wonder? It makes sense in the song without having to explain it. Like, intuitive sense. But if one is going to explain it, how would one?
The word is used in Psalm 103:14, For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
I looked up the word frame in Hebrew. The word is yetser. It means-
a form, framing, purpose…
of what is framed in the mind …
is common in sense of impulse: of good and bad tendency in man.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says of the Psalm above,
For he knoweth our frame – Our formation; of what we are made; how we are made. That is, he knows that we are made of dust; that we are frail; that we are subject to decay; that we soon sink under a heavy load. This is given as a reason why he pities us – that we are so frail and feeble, and that we are so easily broken down by a pressure of trial.
He remembereth that we are dust – Made of the earth. Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:19. In his dealings with us he does not forget of what frail materials he made us, and how little our frames can bear. He tempers his dealings to the weakness and frailty of our nature, and his compassion interposes when the weight of sorrows would crush us. Remembering, too, our weakness, he interposes by his power to sustain us, and to enable us to bear what our frame could not otherwise endure. Compare the notes at Isaiah 57:16.
So in the song, frame could mean frame of mind, or our frame like our infrastructure. It could mean our nature, the good and bad tendencies in man.
I dare not trust my sweetest tendency
I dare not trust my frame of mind
I dare not trust my own self
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