Have you ever been listening to a song that you’ve heard before, but then something clicks for the first time? Or maybe the radio starts playing a song that you’ve known all of your life, but because of a recent life experience, the lyrics have a fuller meaning now than before? It’s not any different when it comes to psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. In fact, there are thousands of lyrics in our hymnals that are under-appreciated and overlooked. Most often, they are the…
Lyrics in the middle. The song leader that leads all four verses often gets a bad rap. But have you ever considered how many wonderful statements of truth and teaching are missed out on when verse 3 is skipped? For example, I’ve sung “We’re Marching to Zion” more than a couple hundred times in my life, but until recently I’d never noticed this beautiful sentiment in the third verse: “The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets, before we reach the heavenly fields…or walk the golden streets.” Wow! What a poetic thought and beautiful reminder of the fact that while though Heaven is our ultimate destination, even now as Christians we enjoy in so many sacred blessings…even before we get there!
Not only do we miss out on those wonderful reminders, but we also miss out on convicting, heart-punching kind of lyrics when we skip middle verses. From “Jesus is All the World to Me,” the lyrics of the third verse that steps on my toes are these: “…and true to Him I’ll be; O how could I this friend deny, when He’s so true to me?” Song leaders shouldn’t just pick their favorite songs, but instead should also select verses that teach and convict. Beyond the praise to God, that’s the reason we’re singing anyway (Eph. 5:19)!
Lyrics that aren’t mine. Song leaders aren’t the only one to blame when it comes to under-appreciated and overlooked lyrics – each and every singer that fails to listen to what others are singing is to blame as well. This is particularly true of songs when males and females (or the four parts of harmony) split off into different parts. The phrase “let the world know where you belong,” from “Sing and Be Happy” is a powerful phrase that, until recently, I had failed to appreciate (it is sung by altos and I sing bass). Another absolutely beautiful set of lyrics that I’ve failed to appreciate are the female lyrics of “Prince of Peace.” While the men sing different words, the women beautifully extol our Lord with: “You are Lord of Lords, you are King of Kings, you are mighty God, Lord of everything…You’re Emmanuel, you’re the Great ‘I AM,’ You’re the Prince of Peace, who is the Lamb…You’re my living God, you’re my saving grace, you will reign forever, you are Ancient of Days…You’re the Alpha, Omega, Beginning and End…You’re my Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, and Friend.”
If you skipped over or skimmed through those lyrics, please go back and read them again.
Lyrics that are misunderstood. You know the ones: “Here I raise my Ebenezer…;” “…the panoply of God…” When we fail to take the time to understand or investigate the meaning of certain lyrics, we miss out on so many encouraging lessons. When we ignorantly sing “Ebenezer,” we miss out on a beautiful reference to 1 Samuel 7 and the protection that God provides the Israelites against the Philistines. Additionally, when we sing “Soldiers of Christ, Arise” without understanding what the “panoply of God” is, we miss out on an opportunity to be reminded of the full armor of God in Ephesians 6. Take the time to learn, and you’ll be blessed!
Lyrics of disliked melodies. Sure, we all have our favorites…but there are also songs that we really don’t prefer because of how they sound. Understandable. But humility dictates that I should swallow my pride and even appreciate the lyrics of those songs. If I really listen, even they can teach and admonish me, too.
Next week, we’ll consider under-appreciated hymn lyrics that come straight from Scripture…