Song Notes: November 23rd, 2014

Brothers and Sisters, here are the songs we will be singing this coming Lord’s Day. Just a reminder we sing four songs outside of our service music (Doxology, etc.) and the Lord’s Supper.

I have included links to various people singing the hymns. Sorry about the icon on the first link.

Entrance Hymn: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, p. 241
The same event can call us to different responses. Christmas is one of those events. Christmas is about joy. There should be presents and trees and parties and gifts. There should many good things that we do at this time of year just to remind us that Christ came to save. There should be celebrations and joy that reflect the wonder and delight of the season.

But Christmas also provokes silence as we stand amazed at the mystery of a God who would descend to dwell with us. And not just dwell with us, but come to die and deliver us. Our entrance hymn this week provokes this second mood. It tells us to be silent and stand with fear. It also reminds us that Christ came to bless us. It is hard to imagine that just a few years ago I did not even know this song. Now it has become part of my Christmas memory.

There are so many great truths in this hymn, but my favorite line is “As the Light of light descendeth from the realms of endless day/that the powers of hell may vanish, As the darkness clears away.” Christmas is not about defeat. Christmas is about victory.  Christ came to destroy death, sin, and the devil. Here is why celebration is not just a good thing to do at Christmas. It is absolutely necessary. Without joy and celebration Christmas has been emptied of its meaning. So despite its somber tone the hymn still leads us to rejoicing.

Hymn of Thanksgiving: O Sacred Head Now Wounded, p. 263
The song we sing after the confession of sin can go two directions. It can look forward to a Christian life that has been cleansed of sin focusing on joyful obedience. Or the song can look back to the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross so our sins could be taken away. This old, famous hymn does the second. The tone is somber, but fitting as we think about Christ’s death. This hymn reminds us of the horrors of Christ’s sacrifice. He was holy, yet God laid on him the iniquity of us all. That sacred head worn no crown of gold, but a crown of thorns as he was crucified.

The line that I enjoy the most is “Mine, mine was the transgression/but thine the deadly pain. Lo here I fall my Savior/Tis I deserve thy place.”  There is a wonderful truth expressed in these lines. We deserved the cross, but Christ was our substitute.

This hymn ends where all our meditations on the cross should end; thanksgiving. “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee dearest Friend.” The cross is not simply something to study. It is something to glory in and give thanks for. The song also reminds us that Christmas was just the beginning. Should we think about the cross during Christmas season? Yes, a hundred yeses.  The manger was just the one chapter in the story of our great salvation. A story that goes through the cross, but does not end there.

Worship Song #1: Be Thou My Vision, p. 342
Be Thou My Vision call us to wholehearted devotion to God. The author wants God to consume his vision, his thoughts. He wants the Lord to be everything to him. For this man the presence of God is valued above all else. Much like King David, he knows that God with us trumps everything else (Psalm 84:4, 10). The author also realizes that money can draw us away from the Lord. Riches can slowly sap our desire for God. So he prays that he will not give heed to riches. The praise of man can also cause us to abandon God. Our longing for flattery can replace our longing for the Lord. The author asks the Lord to keep him from giving heed to man’s empty praises.

In the last verse there is a hint at what else can draw us away from God. The author says “whatever befall, still be my vision.”  To paraphrase: No matter what happens good or bad, painful or comforting, pleasant or sad, help me to cling to you Lord. This world is filled with things, experiences, people, that would draw us away from our Lord. But the greatest danger lies within us. Our hearts are prone to wander. If God is our vision then the allure of the world and all its treasures will diminish.

This is a great hymn. But it is also a prayer. Perhaps here is the greatest truth of this hymn. If we want God to be our vision, our treasure, our Father, then we need to cry out to him for aid. Our own efforts, unless they are supported by His Spirit, will fail.

Worship Song #2: Psalm 119 (Before Thee Let My Cry Come Near), p. 158
We love singing this Psalm. It is a delight to sing and hear the different parts. This Lord’s Day we sing this just before I preach. It is a perfect hymn for this slot. As I am sure you know Psalm 119 is all about God’s Word. The Holy Spirit decided that the longest chapter in Scripture would be devoted to the many glories of God’s Word.  Singing this Psalm before we settle in to hear the Word is a perfect combination of three key elements in worship; singing, the Word, and prayer. We sing a prayer about God’s Word. It is tough to beat that.

The Psalm uses several different words to describe the Scriptures. Here they are in the order they appear:Word, Promise, Statutes, Word, Commands, Precepts, Holy Law, Ordinances, and Commands.

A tone of joy over God’s word pervades the Psalm. Since God teaches David his word, he sings God’s praises (vs. 2). David goes on to make sure his tongue is singing the praises of God’s word (vs. 2). He rejoices in God’s holy law (vs. 3). When God’s ordinances help him he praises the Lord (vs. 4). There is no more striking aspect of Psalm 119 than the delight David has in God’s Word. We might study God’s Word, talk about God’s Word, debate about God’s Word, but I think most of would be embarrassed by David’s kid like joy in God’s Word, including the Old Testament law.

Finally, the last two lines remind us that God’s Word brings us back when we have strayed. I had a friend once who was having doubts about the Christian faith. He was reading philosophers, theologians, blogs, magazines, and sermons all trying to get a grasp on what was true. I told him, why not read the Bible.  A man who refuses to search the Scriptures to see his own sins is a man who is not truly interested in returning to God. Psalm 119 is personal. The personal pronoun “I” is used over 100 times in the Psalm. For David the Scriptures are for him. They encourage him, teach him, draw him to God, and rebuke him. Do you read for you? Or do you read for others?

Bonus Song: Psalm 98 (O Sing a New Song to the Lord). We are not singing this, but it is still wonderful to listen to.