Do lyrics to songs matter?

PART 1

I have been surprised on more than one occasion to hear my fellow brothers in Messiah say that:

 “They don’t”

 If you have been following this blog for any time, you know that I am prone to challenge

 “rationalizations” (attempts to make the unreasonable sound reasonable)

 and on more than one occasion.  I don’t do this to be mean or to be superior, I do it because it has been my experience that when a person rationalizes, it is usually in contradistinction to God’s word.

So, back to our question and title of this post:

 “Do lyrics to songs matter?”

 I could ask this question a different way that will save us  a lot of unnecessary explanations:

 “Do words matter?”

 More succinctly, do the words we say and how we say them about our Creator matter?  Let’s see what the text says:

Galatians 1:6-9 (CJB)

6 I am astounded that you are so quick to remove yourselves from me,

the one who called you by the Messiah’s grace,

and turn to some other supposedly “Good News,”

7 which is not good news at all!

What is really happening is that certain people

are pestering you

and trying to pervert the genuine Good News of the Messiah.

8 But even if we—

or, for that matter,

an angel from heaven!—

were to announce to you some so-called “Good News”

contrary to the Good News we did announce to you,

let him be under a curse forever!

9 We said it before, and I say it again:

if anyone announces “Good News” contrary to what you received,

let him be under a curse forever!

Words DO seem to matter.  It seems to be a big deal here, right?  “Under a curse forever” seems like a really BIG DEAL!  How about the following command and warning:

2 Timothy 2:15-18 (CJB)

15 Do all you can to present yourself to God

as someone worthy of his approval,

as a worker with no need to be ashamed,

because he deals straightforwardly with the Word of the Truth.

16 But keep away from godless babbling,

for those who engage in it will only become more ungodly,

17 and their teaching will eat away at people like gangrene.

Hymenaeus and Philetus are among these; 18 they have missed the mark,

as far as the truth is concerned,

by saying that our resurrection has already taken place;

and they are overturning some people’s faith.

I know, I know – What has this got to do with lyrics of a song, right?  Trust me, we are going to get to that!  If you notice in verse 18, it says “missed the mark.”  This is another way of saying “sinned.” 

 To sin is to miss the mark – to miss the target.

 Not only did they miss the mark, they did the following:

  •  become more ungodly
  • their teaching will eat away at people like gangrene
  • they are overturning some people’s faith

Again, it would seem to be a VERY BIG DEAL, right?  It is because words are powerful.  Language creates realities.  Spoken words create realities.  So that we don’t get confused, a reality is NOT necessarily the same as a truth or the truth.  Would it help if I said that written or spoken words create perceptions?  I don’t want to get off on too much of a tangent here so lets get back to what this has to do with lyrics to songs – and why.

As I was searching for a church home some time back, I attended a service where they played a Taylor Swift song during worship.  They had the lyrics up and people were raising their hands in worship. The name of the song was “Change.”  In the lyrics to the song it says:

Because these things will change, can you feel it now?

These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down

It’s a revolution, the time will come for us to finally win

We’ll sing hallelujah!

We’ll sing hallelujah! Oh

We will sing “hallelujah” – (which means “praise God” in Hebrew).

I met with the pastor of the church by inviting him to lunch to discuss it and a few other things as well.  After a couple of cancellations, he showed up with his young daughter.   I asked him during this lunch if he thought we would worship our Lord with secular songs like the Taylor Swift song and others in Heaven.  He replied:

 “Would it surprise you if we did?

 My answer was an emphatic “YES!”  I then turned to my real reason for meeting him (yes, there was a bigger problem in the service than Taylor Swift).  During their “Waffle House Jesus” video segment, they used AC/DC’s song Back in Black as the intro/background for the music of the video.  I asked the pastor if he was aware of what the song was about – what its “lyrics” said.  He said:

 “I am aware of the lyrics and what they are about.  I have no problem with it.”

 Without missing a beat, I asked if we could discuss the lyrics in front of his 4 year old daughter then.  He informed me that it would not be appropriate to discuss the lyrics of that song in front of his child. I know I set him up, but it had to be done so that he could see the error.  I immediately followed up with a question that ended our lunch:

 “Then what makes it okay to play in front of the children of God in the service?”

 I realize you may be saying, “I don’t get it – what’s the big deal?”  The lyrics to AC/DC’s song Back in Black are about gang rape  is the big deal . . . notice the following:

Back in the back

Of a Cadillac

Number one with a bullet,

I’m a power pack

Yes, I’m in a bang

With a gang

They’ve got to catch me if they want me to hang

Cause I’m back on the track

And I’m leadin’ the pack

Nobody’s gonna get me on another rap

So look at me now

I’m just makin’ my play

Don’t try to push your luck, just get out of my way

‘Cause I’m back

Yes, I’m back

 bck in black

Needless to say, I never attended the church again.  Some close friends of mine had made it their home church.  To be fair, they said after my meeting with the pastor that he never played secular music during worship again.  That is a victory in and of itself!

The text tells us why there is no place for this – no place for lyrics or songs like this in a believers life:

 Ephesians 5:1-7 (CJB)

1 So imitate God, as his dear children;

2 and live a life of love,

just as also the Messiah loved us,

indeed, on our behalf gave himself up as an offering,

as a slaughtered sacrifice to God with a pleasing fragrance.

3 Among you there should not even be mentioned

  • sexual immorality,

  • or any kind of impurity,

  • or greed;

these are utterly inappropriate for God’s holy people.

4 Also out of place are

  • obscenity

  • and stupid talk

  • or coarse language;

instead, you should be giving thanks.

5 For of this you can be sure: every

  • sexually immoral,

  • impure

  • or greedy person —

  • that is, every idol-worshipper —

has no share in the Kingdom of the Messiah and of God.

6 Let no one deceive you with empty talk;

for it is because of these things

that God’s judgment is coming on those who disobey him.

7 So don’t become partners with them!

I didn’t write this.  This is the word of God.  You can casually discard it.  You can ignore it.  You can rationalize it.  However, the warning “ no share in the Kingdom of the Messiah and of God” should cause you to ponder the ramifications of this  – “ God’s judgment is coming on those who disobey him” should cause you to at least pause and consider the command don’t become partners with them!” before you carelessly discard or ignore it.  It should cause you to wonder what the ramifications are if you DO become partners with them . . . in case you missed it above, the text is very clear on what those ramifications are.

PART 2

The above was necessary to lay the foundation for part 2.  I was thinking about a song by Hillsong United yesterday and posted a short status on it on Facebook:

A reason why we need to understand the Jewish roots of the faith . . .

Take these lyrics by Hillsong United:

 I see the King of glory

Coming down the clouds with fire

The whole earth shakes, the whole earth shakes

I see His love and mercy

Washing over all our sin

The people sing, the people sing

Hosanna, hosanna

Hosanna in the highest

Hosanna, hosanna

Hosanna in the highest

A loose translation of the chorus would be:

“Please! Save [us], Please! Save [us]

Please! Save [us] in the highest

Please! Save [us], Please! Save [us]

Please! Save [us] in the highest.

Notice the verse:

 Psalm 118:25 (CJB)

25 Please, Adonai! Save us! Please, Adonai! Rescue us!

Notice what Adam Clarke writes:

 Save now, I beseech thee—These words were sung by the Jews on the feast of tabernacles, when carrying green branches in their hands; and from the הושיעה נא‎ hoshiah nna, we have the word hosanna. This was sung by the Jewish children when Christ made his public entry into Jerusalem. See Matthew 21:9 (note), and see the note there, in which the word and the circumstance are both explained.

Adam Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Psalm 118”.

We can surmise the error Hillsong United made.  They don’t appear to understand the Hebrew word they are singing about and it would appear that they assumed that verse 26 was what hoshiah nna ( Hosanna) meant:

Psalm 118:26 (CJB)

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai.

We bless you from the house of Adonai.

The problem is, Hosanna does NOT mean blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai or in the highest or Praise God.  It means Please! Save [us].

A really good song by a very talented worship leader and song writer on what Hoshia na (Hosanna) means is the following by Joshua Aaron.

After I had posted this to Facebook, it reminded me of another song that had a similar problem by Jeremy Camp:

Another song that shows us why we need to understand the Hebrew roots of our faith – that doesn’t seem to understand its Hebrew roots would be the song “Jesus Saves” by Jeremy Camp. Jesus is from the Greek transliteration Iesous. Iesous is a transliteration of Yehoshuah (Joshua) or in Aramaic Yeshua.

 Interesting part is what Yehoshuah or Yeshua means: Adonai saves – it is a contraction of YHVH and yasha. We see in Matthew:

Matthew 1:21 (CJB)

21 She will give birth to a son,

and you are to name him Yeshua, [which means ‘Adonai saves,’]

because he will save his people from their sins.”

The chorus of the song states:

 We’ll sing it out to let all the world know

That Jesus saves

Raise a shout to let all the world know

That Jesus saves

A loose translation would be the following:

We’ll sing it out to let all the world know

That (Adonai saves) saves

 Raise a shout to let all the world know

That (Adonai saves) saves

 This post is not to be mean or derogatory in any way. It is simply to point out that many lyrics in songs would seem to show that the writer has a lack of understanding what they are writing.

I have played both of these songs in worship and on worship teams.  I have no problem playing them.  Unfortunately for me, I hear what they are really saying because I understand what the words mean that are that they are using.  Sometimes I chuckle – most times I sigh. People sing songs.  It is my experience most don’t care what the lyrics mean of if they even make sense as long as they like them.

A case in point is the following song by Michael Neale and Krissy Nordhoff.  The premise in this song is “The sound” of  His great name.  The Hebrew word for name is ‏שֵׁם‎ shfim.  Jewish people and Messianics will call our Creator HaShem (The Name) in order to not use his name lightly or in vain regarding the command given on Sinai:

Exodus 20:7 (CJB)

7 ג‎ 7 “You are not to use lightly the name of Adonai your God,

because Adonai will not leave unpunished

someone who uses his name lightly.

In the bible, God’s name is his reputation – his standing – his attributes – his character. 

Exodus 3:13-15 (CJB)

13 Moshe said to God,

Look, when I appear before the people of Isra’el and say to them,

The God of your ancestors has sent me to you’;

and they ask me,

What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” 14 God said to Moshe,

Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I am/will be what I am/will be],”

and added, “Here is what to say to the people of Isra’el: ‘

Ehyeh [I Am or I Will Be] has sent me to you.’” 15 God said further to Moshe,

Say this to the people of Isra’el:

Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [Adonai],

the God of your fathers,

the God of Avraham,

the God of Yitz’chak

and the God of Ya‘akov,

has sent me to you.’

This is my name forever;

this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation.

Now if the song is only trying to imply “At the mention of your reputation and character” that the condemned feel no shame, then great – no problem.

However, the verse that says:

At the sound of your great name hungry souls receive grace”

 What does this mean?  God’s grace is dependent on a sound?  Since part of the chorus is about Jesus, one has to ask how Noah found grace?  I’m not trying to nitpick here.  I am not trying to destroy.  In fact, the chorus is fairly good:

 Jesus, worthy is the Lamb

that was slain for us

Son of God and man

You are high and lifted up

And all the world will praise

Your great name

 Let’s contrast this with the following:

chrissy nordhoff your great name

Did you notice what it says?  “We wor-ship the name_ of Je, sus.”

Is this on purpose or is it strictly ignorance?  We would have to ask the writers.  However, it might be difficult to get straight answers from anyone where criticism is sure to come and  record sales could possibly be affected. 

Just take the case of Phillips, Craig, and Dean and Modalism.  The Wikipedia article itself is misleading in the Theological Criticism paragraph at the end where Randy Phillips is quoted as saying “Triune in His manifestation.”   Manifestation is much different than “persons” and a core Oneness Pentecostal (Modalist) belief.  They could have easily said we are NOT Oneness Pentecostal.  I haven’t been able to find that article yet.

Rarely do people when confronted with something they have done wrong, repent.  I will give you the normal response:

Genesis 3:9-12 (CJB) 9 Adonai, God, called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I ordered you not to eat?” 12 The man replied,

 “The woman you gave to be with me —

she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”

Adam blames God and the woman!  Not his fault!  Compare this to the following:

2 Samuel 12:1-7 (CJB) 1 Adonai sent Natan to David. He came and said to him, “In a certain city there were two men, one rich, the other poor. 2 The rich man had vast flocks and herds; 3 but the poor man had nothing, except for one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and reared. It had grown up with him and his children; it ate from his plate, drank from his cup, lay on his chest — it was like a daughter to him. 4 One day a traveler visited the rich man, and instead of picking an animal from his own flock or herd to cook for his visitor, he took the poor man’s lamb and cooked it for the man who had come to him.” 5 David exploded with anger against the man and said to Natan, “As Adonai lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 For doing such a thing, he has to pay back four times the value of the lamb — and also because he had no pity.” 7 Natan said to David, “You are the man. “Here is what Adonai, the God of Isra’el says: ‘I anointed you king over Isra’el. I rescued you from the power of Sha’ul.  . . .

 2 Samuel 12:13 (CJB) 13 David said to Natan,

 “I have sinned against Adonai.”

 Natan said to David,

“Adonai also has taken away your sin. You will not die.

Do you see the difference?  I bring these up – not to overload you, but to give you some perspective.  Why do we need perspective?  The way that we approach God matters.  The way that Pastors exegete God’s word matters.  If a Pastor wrongly divides the word, we hold him accountable – but more so,  God holds him accountable.  Yeshua’s half brother Ya’akov (James) reminds us of a very sobering reality – a very sobering consequence:

James 3:1 (CJB)

1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers,

since you know that we will be judged more severely.

Songwriters are teachers too.  Songs proclaim the Gospel.  Songs create realities because words have realities.  When a songwriter proclaims a “different gospel,” they do damage.  Remember earlier when I reminded you of what Rabbi Sha’ul wrote the churches in the province of Galatia?

Galatians 1:9 (CJB)

9 We said it before, and I say it again:

if anyone announces “Good News” contrary to what you received,

let him be under a curse forever!

How about what Rabbi Sha’ul wrote to Timothy that I reminded you of earlier as well?

2 Timothy 2:15 (CJB)

15 Do all you can to present yourself to God

as someone worthy of his approval,

as a worker with no need to be ashamed,

because he deals straightforwardly

with the Word of the Truth.

Yes, this applies to songwriters!  Churches have “MUSIC MINITRIES,” musical artists have “MUSIC MINISTRIES.”  They proclaim the gospel.  Some do it well – some do not.  Some are ignorant of what they do – some are not.  These songwriters have theologies and theological suppositions that they put in their music – into the WORDS of their music.

I am not called or qualified to judge the intent behind the lyrics by Michael Neale and Krissy Nordhoff because Adonai alone judges the heart (intent):

 Proverbs 21:2 (CJB)

2 All a person’s ways are right in his own view, but Adonai weighs the heart.

I can tell you that we do NOT worship the NAME of Jesus as their lyrics state!!!  We may worship IN the name but we do not worship THE name!  Worshiping the name of Jesus or God is a heresy that started in 1907 called Imiaslavie (name-glorifying) – that the NAME of God is God himself – that the name of God is itself divine and to be worshiped as well.  This was not taught by Moshe.  This is not the Gospel.  It was not taught by Rabbi Sha’ul (Paul).

Like I said, maybe it was a mistake done in ignorance.

I was on a worship team that was going to play the song.  I asked them to play something else.  It is not like there aren’t thousands of other worship songs to choose from.  The worship leader dug her heels in.  It had to be that song – that week.  As a result, I told her in good conscience that I could not play on worship team that week. We were supposed to be a worship “team” and we had been up to that point.  The pastor’s wife who was in charge of all media was angry with me for taking the stand and wrote me a snide letter which broke my heart.  The worship leader broke my heart as well.  We were no longer a team . . . long story short, I played with them for 2 years and that was the last time I played with them. 

I make no apologies for taking God’s word seriously.  I make no apologies for taking the stance that the gospel message is the gospel message whether a preacher preaches it or a musician preaches it. The word of God should be handled properly regardless of the format. We should be Bereans even when it comes to music lyrics:

Acts 17:10-12 (CJB)

10 But as soon as night fell,

the brothers sent Sha’ul and Sila off to Berea.

As soon as they arrived, they went to the synagogue.

11 Now the people here were of nobler character

than the ones in Thessalonica;

they eagerly welcomed the message,

checking the Tanakh every day to see if the things Sha’ul was saying were true.

12 Many of them came to trust,

as did a number of prominent Greek women and not a few Greek men.

Lyrics to songs matter.

They matter to me. 

They should matter to you.

They most definitely matter to God!

Shalom and be blessed!

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About Even If Ministries

Dani'el 3:17-18 (CJB) 17 Your majesty, if our God, whom we serve, is able to save us, he will save us from the blazing hot furnace and from your power. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will neither serve your gods nor worship the gold statue which you have set up.”
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5 Responses to Do lyrics to songs matter?

  1. Pingback: Do lyrics to songs matter? | evenifministries | Worship Leaders

  2. Great article! I enjoyed reading it. The secular influence in the church will unfortunately grow and the lukewarm church will continue to struggle in faith. But the true Church, the Body of Christ can discern this influence and use the opportunity to teach, rebuke, and build up!

    God bless you!

  3. Nef says:

    I would like to see you making the same type of questions but with music instead of lyrics. Does the Music matters? Does the song gets sanctified by the word? Does God like mixing sacred with secular? Is the music neutral? Could the music lead your thoughts and body to act differently from the intention of the word? These are some example questions that i would like to talk about.
    May God Bless You on finding the answers to all this.
    Nef

    • good question to consider Nef!

      The lesson taught in Romans 14 could be a good starting point in this discussion – (insert “music” for days):

      Romans 14:5-6 (CJB)
      One person considers some days more holy than others,
      while someone else regards them as being all alike.
      What is important is for each to be fully convinced in his own mind.

      He who observes a day as special does so to honor the Lord.
      Also he who eats anything, eats to honor the Lord, since he gives thanks to God;
      likewise the abstainer abstains to honor the Lord, and he too gives thanks to God.

      As someone in the process of recording an album, I am continually reminded of something a professor once told me in music:

      “music is organized sound, made by man, to evoke a feeling”

      I wrote a song called Judgement Day – “Every knee will bow, every tongue confess . . .” Rock seems to capture the finality of that day . . . a day when many will say Lord, Lord . . .

      When I wrote a song called Good News about Luke 2, rock was not even considered . . .
      You can hear it here:

      * Interesting historical point . . .
      the early church (ante-Nicene) would only let psalms be sung in worship . . .
      and a prayer had to be said between each one . . .
      Chris Tomlin would not have been accepted . . . or used

      at the end of the day, the romans litmus test is applicable in not only lyrics but in music too because it call comes back to this one central theme . . .

      done for the glory of God?

      Blessings!

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