In addition to writing new songs this past month I have also revisited some older ones. I have to say, it’s amazing that I ever thought those recordings were worth putting up. For the meantime they’ll stay up there but I am looking forward to replacing them. One such song that I have revisited is “Delight In The Lord (Psalm 1)”. Psalm 1 is a short Psalm so at first I only included one verse in the song. However, after more study and mediation I have found that it needed another verse. In the original version of the song I focused on the blessedness of the righteous and only mentioned the condemnation of the wicked in the chorus. The thing is, the contrast between the blessedness of the righteous and the condemnation of the wicked is a major part of Psalm 1. This observation is what led me to explore that contrast with a new verse.
Now the condemnation of the wicked is not a topic that sits comfortably with my evangelical upbringing. How could a loving God ask me to worship Him with words such as “The wicked will not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6). Doesn’t a loving God want everyone to come to Him? Why is the first worship song in His divinely ordained songbook so blunt about how the wicked will perish? What’s even worse, don’t we all have a bit of wickedness in us? How is this Psalm supposed to encourage us when both the Psalmist and Paul affirm that “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12, Psalm 14:1-3, Psalm 53:1-3).
There is only one answer and that is grace.
This is true for both the old and new testament saints. We read in Hebrews that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (Hebrews 10:4) yet the Israelites are commanded to sacrifice bulls and goats (Leviticus 4) when they sin. Why? Because it is an expression of faith in God’s promise. What is God’s promise? Well that goes all the way back to Genesis and is woven throughout the entirety of His word. In Genesis 3 God promised Eve a seed who would crush the head of the serpent. In Genesis 12 God promised Abram that he would be a great nation and all the peoples of the earth would be blessed through him. In 2nd Samuel 7 God promised King David that he would have a son on the throne forever.
When the Israelites shed the blood of bulls and goats for their sins they were not cleansing themselves by works but were expressing faith in the promise that somehow God would forgive them. That forgiveness that they were looking for finds its fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now the old testament saints only knew Christ through the veil of prophecy. To them, the gospel was wrapped in mystery. They didn’t even understand that God was bringing the gentiles into this story of redemption (even though He had told Abram that ALL peoples would be blessed). We Christians, who live on the other side of the cross, are blessed to see the love of God more clearly.
For this reason, when I write songs based on the Psalms, I don’t hold myself to verbatim transcription. Instead I meditate and reflect on them in light of the cross. Here in Psalm 1 I make that connection in verse 2 with the crucial word “unless”.
The wicked shall not last
When on that day of justice
Their chaff is blown away
By the wind
There before the LordDelight In The Lord – Dan Loch
Sinners cannot stand the Judgement
Unless they are covered
By the blood of the Lamb
The blood of bulls and goats may not be able to take away sin but the blood of Christ is all sufficient. There is no sin that is more powerful than Christ’s sacrifice and no hope greater than His resurrection. Therefore it is of the utmost importance that Christian worship points us back to the cross. Not every worship song will do this explicitly but they should, at the very least, be preparing our hearts to reflect on, celebrate, or glorify Christ.
There are two practical applications that I draw from this principle. First, when approaching old testament content, be prepared to pull back the veil of mystery and help your singers understand how this material points to Christ. Second, be intentional about naming Christ in your songs. Don’t settle for lyrics that could be applied to a significant other instead of Christ. If your song is going to lead people in worship make sure they are worshiping the God of the Bible and not an idea of God, or love, or good feelings, or a fallen human. Our worship should be reserved for God alone and I pray that our songs never lead someone to worship something less than Him.
If you have the time, check out the new recording of “Delight In The Lord (Psalm 1)” and let me know what you think.