We have been playing a lot of worship music in our house lately. We do normally I suppose, but now that we are all home most of the time, it feels like it is more than usual.
One song in particular has caught my attention, and it is “The Blessing (Live)” and is sung by Elevation Worship, Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes. If you are not familiar with it, I’m sure you can find it on YouTube or your music streaming service of choice! It is essentially a sung version of the “Aaronic Blessing” or “Priestly Blessing” from the Bible.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26 (ESV)
This is a beautiful blessing, and so the words also make a beautiful song. I do love worship music which uses the words of the Bible. I really believe that songs have a theology, and where we sing them over and over, it’s important they are biblical words which build us up.
So a worship song which quotes directly from the Bible should be fine, right? Well…
For starters, this is a sung blessing and so the words are sung by the congregation to the congregation. That is fine, and a valid expression of our faith. Worship is of course singing to God, but singing about God to other people is worship in another sense.
While this particular song doesn’t sing words of praise to God directly, worship is implied in the fact that His blessing is so richly sought by His people. If God was not God, then His blessing would not be so valuable.
In a previous post I wrote, called “Christ is… Enough?” I discussed worship songs at some length. I won’t cover that same ground again here, but do feel free to go back and read that one.
One concern I do have about “The Blessing” as a worship song is its construction. It was recorded in a mega-church setting, with many people gathered (not that this is a bad thing). It starts softly, and slowly rises to a huge crescendo at the end. The music, the lights, the smoke etc. all combine to take you on an emotional journey. It’s wonderful on one hand, but is it God?
My worry is this: are we mistaking the presence and power of God for a manufactured experience of worship? What I mean is, is the height of that emotional journey really God’s anointing, or is it just the environment and music which has led us there?
I’ve experienced settings like this in the past, and it is easy to get swept along by the atmosphere and the highly polished presentation. We should always give God our best of course, but participating in worship is not the same as being entertained at a concert.
Imagine that exhilarating feeling of being present at one of these events. Thousands of voices singing, melodic music, hands raised in celebration. Then, you return to your “normal” church setting, and there’s one individual with a piano and no lights, sounds or smoke. It is all too easy to think, “God is not in this church…” And you would be wrong.
Enjoy beautiful music by all means. Don’t however mistake it for the presence of God. These hilltop experiences can lead us to forget that God is with us in the everyday. He is present when we sing in the shower, or hum a tune while washing the dishes. Those who chase emotional mountain-tops will struggle to enjoy God in their ordinary everyday lives. I don’t want that for you.
God will never leave you nor forsake you. Jesus has promised to be with you until the very end of the age.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV, emphasis added)
You will find Him not in the neon lights, but in the still small voice.
Let me leave you with this prayer from the Priestly Blessing.
I ask you to bless every reader, to keep them, and to turn Your face toward them. May You be gracious unto them in their everyday lives, and give them peace.
In Jesus’ Name,