As we’ve looked at Hebrews this term, we’ve been encouraged to “draw near to God” through Jesus our great high priest lots of times. Last Sunday, Tim Dennis encouraged us with the truth that Jesus’ sacrifice is enough to bring us to God AND to clean our consciences.
And so this Sunday we’re learning a new song. It’s some great old words by Charles Wesley put to an upbeat new tune by Indelible Grace. Speaking to ourselves (“my soul”) and reminding us to leave the guilt behind and enjoy what Christ has done; confidently approaching the God who has forgiven us.
Have a read through of the words below first… then scroll down to listen to the song.
Arise, my soul, arise, shake off your guilty fears;
the bleeding sacrifice, on my behalf appears.
Before the throne my Surety stands,
before the throne my Surety stands.
My name is written on his hands.
Arise (arise), arise (arise). Arise, arise, my soul, arise. Arise (arise), arise (arise). Arise, arise, my soul, arise. Shake off your guilty fears and rise.
He ever lives above for me, to intercede;
his all-redeeming love, his precious blood, to plead.
His blood atoned for every race,
his blood atoned for every race,
and sprinkles now the throne of grace.
Five bleeding wounds he bears; received on Calvary.
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry.
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“don’t let that ransomed sinner die!”
My God is reconciled; his pardoning voice I hear.
He owns me for his child; I can no longer fear.
With confidence I now draw nigh,
with confidence I now draw nigh,
and “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.
We regularly sing new songs at Emmanuel. And sometimes those new songs are old songs.
Ever since Jesus burst out of the tomb, Christians have been singing hymns and songs. Even before that, we had the Psalms. There are centuries and centuries of great songs to sing. (Which is good news since we’ll be singing a lot in the new creation…)
The words of old hymns are often so rich. With vivid poetry we’re given deep cries of love, trust and prayer to offer up to God. Sometimes the words sound funny. Sometimes they need updating. Sometimes they need a new tune. But revisiting them with a bit of creativity brings real rewards.
This week we sang the classic hymn Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing for the first time at Emmanuel. It’s one I remember growing up and yet the words only really struck me a few years ago. They acknowledge how we can’t praise God as we should. We need Him to change us and help us. We’re so prone to drift off and do our own thing (see Sunday’s sermon here) and we need Him to tie us to Him so we stay close.
In the second verse, there’s that strange line about an “Ebenezer”. But we’re not in a Dickens novel, so what does it mean? In 1 Samuel 7, Israel finally defeated the Philistines in the very place that they’d lost to them 20 years earlier. To mark the moment when God did this for them, Samuel set up a big stone called an Ebenezer (which means ‘stone of help’) and said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.” So when we’re singing about raising an Ebenezer ourselves, it’s encouraging us to draw a line in the sand and say, “God has brought me this far and I trust Him to stay with me and keep helping me.” When you understand that, suddenly it turns quite a random lyric into a powerful call to remember God’s faithfulness.
That’s what the old songs do so well; call us to think deeply about what God has done and respond in a heartfelt way.
Here’s a great version of the hymn by the band Page CXVI. I thoroughly recommend this band to you. Their versions of classic and rare hymns are beautiful. Have a listen and read the words below. We’ve added an extra verse (which I made by mashing together bits from other forgotten verses from the hymn!). It rounds off the hymn’s theme of singing by reminding us that we’re waiting until we’re with God and finally we get to praise Him like we should. Take a listen…
Come, thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace. Streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer. Here by thy great help I’ve come, and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God. He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.
How His kindness yet pursues me, mortal tongue can never tell. Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me, I cannot proclaim it well. O that day when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face; when I’m clothed in blood-washed linen how I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace!
It’s Abraham’s dedication on Sunday so I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be a godly dad to him. The Psalms say that one generation will commend God’s works to another. It’s a vital role that we tell the next generation all about Jesus and all He’s done for us. That’s why we have kid’s work at Emmanuel.
But since we have Psalms that sing about passing on the gospel to the next generation, how come there aren’t many songs about it? This week I keep finding myself turning back to this fantastic song called ‘Oh! Great Is Our God!’ by The Sing Team, one of the great worship bands from Mars Hill Church, Seattle. There’s only one line in there about that subject but I love how it just flows naturally out of a desire to praise God with everything we’ve got.
If His goodness is beyond our understanding, if an orchestra would not be over the top to praise Him, if we can’t help but praise Him, then of course we’ll tell our children!!
I love the sound this band make – stripped back to clapping, a guitar and harmonies with a tiny bit of drums and tinkly piano. And the simplicity and everyday-ness of the words only makes it better. I hope it gets stuck in your head too. Here are the lyrics:
Oh! Great is our God! So we should worship greatly!
No song is too loud! No orchestra too stately
To hail the majesty of our King
So lift your voices loud as we sing
Oh! Great is our God! So let our songs be endless!!
So awesome His ways, how could we comprehend them?
So we will make it known to our kids
And we will sing about the gracious gifts you give
We will sing your praise and pour forth your fame. We will bless your name. Let every one give thanks, because our God is great!
Oh! Great is our God! And we cannot contain it!
We sing from our souls, affected by His greatness.
His mercy covers all that Heʼs made
Showing His glory and His grace.
Click here to download the MP3 for free and here for the chord sheets.