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Posts Tagged ‘idolatry’

A group of Christian music ministers in south-eastern Luzon, Philippines have formed a group to test choruses currently used in worship services. Much of these songs are contemporary, comprising of few short verses that are repeated a couple of times or as much as the song leader would like to repeat them for reasons that only them would know. These choruses are a far cry from the hymns of centuries gone by. Some would argue that we need to be contemporary; if style is the issue, then I for one would also push for updated arrangements but I guess what they mean by contemporary go beyond arrangement – it is the ‘reconstruction’ of theme and words within the song.

One of these choruses that they have been critiquing based on the original composition, arrangement and artist is entitled ‘How He Love Us’ (John Mark McMillan). It appears that this song has become popular that it was also recorded by two other artists/groups (Kim Walker and David Crowder Band). Hereunder, in order to conserve space, I have appended only the first stanza and chorus (to view the whole song, click on the link at the bottom of this post):

HOW HE LOVE US
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
Chorus:
He loves us
Whoa, How He loves us
Whoa, How He loves us
Whoa, How He loves
Yeah He loves us
Whoa, How He loves us
Whoa, How He loves us
 Whoa, How He loves us

Their bone of contention is the word ‘jealous’ and how it ties in with the song, whether the opening line ‘He is jealous for me’ is biblical or not. I do not know how their forum on this was resolved, but let our electronic fingers do the walking on the pages of the Scripture. Using a search engine on the ESV, the words ‘jealous’ and ‘jealousy’ produced dozens and dozens of verses from the entire Old and New Testaments. Since the first line of the song is relational I narrowed it down and I considered how these two words are used in terms of the relationship between God and His people. These resulted to 28 verses (Exodus 20:5, 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24, 5:9, 6:15, 29:20, 32:16, 21; Joshua 24:19; 1 Kings 14:22; Psalm 78:58, 79:5; Ezekiel 5:13, 8:3, 8:5, 16:42, 23:25, 36:5-6, 38:19, 39:25; Nahum 1:2; Zephaniah 1:18, 3:8; Zechariah 1:14, 8:2; 1 Corinthians 10:22; James 4:5. May I note here that Deuteronomy 4:24 (For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God) is inferred in Hebrews 12:28 (our God is a consuming fire).

Each time, it is used to explain God’s anger upon His people’s idolatry or His warning against idolatry to which God says that He is a jealous God. Indeed I must admit that it infers His love for His people, however, in these verses the object is not about His love but about His glory for which He would not share to anyone – not any idol or gods of any sort. His glory is foremost hence His warnings. The first time God says He is jealous is in the Decalogue which is tied to His wrath upon idolatry and upon His people if they fall into it:

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me – Exodus 20:5

The Decalogue (Ten Commandments) begin with “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:2-3). In fact every command that followed is predicated on this first command. That means any infraction on any of the commands is ultimately the breaking of this first one. Dr. Albert Mohler, in his series of sermons on the Decalogue, mentions this truth (you can visit his site and go to his sermon page).

By the time we read the 34th chapter of Exodus, not only is He a jealous God but reveals that His name is ‘Jealous’ and is again tied with His warning against worshipping other gods:

(for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God) – Exodus 34:14

Going through the 28 verses listed above, one can see clearly how it is God’s intention to declare His glory every time the verse is used and as a warning to His people about idolatry. But I also mentioned that His love for His people can be inferred. God’s jealousy is also to be understood as for our benefit. In Ezekiel 39:25, the Lord promised to restore Jacob (Israel) from her 70-year exile in Babylon and as you will notice that His restoration is primarily for the glory of His name, the consequence of which is a blessing for His people who has previously rebelled against Him through their idolatries and breaking of commandments.

“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy Name” – Ezekiel 39:25

Although there is much to write about this matter, let us go back to the issue at hand. Is the first verse of the song biblical? So it seems. But just looking at the first stanza (and the whole song as well – see link below), there is nothing in its theme that reflects the way God used the word jealous in connection to Himself and His people. A theme of God’s glory, warnings of idolatry and its curses, as well as the benefits of being faithful to the one true God who graciously saved us and is jealous for His people must permeate the song. If I would change the lyrics of, for example, the chorus, it might read something like this:

The Lord is our jealous God, worthy of glory
There is none beside Him, His Name is Jealous
Let His people seek no other, for there is none like Him
Through His Son He has saved us, and called us for His own
By His Spirit preserved us – the people He formed for His glory
The Lord God is our portion, now and forevermore!

– then it would perhaps be a more appropriate congregational song, don’t you think so?

Critiquing the first line in relation to the whole song has revealed a serious problem when placed face-to-face with the Scriptures, let alone the entire song. So, if I were to give an unsolicited advise to that group, file that song under “Hazardous to Spiritual Health” category. The song is, at best, reductionistic and romanticism, and worst, idolatrous because the focus of the song shifts from God to self. For seeker-sensitive groups this song is a sure favorite, but for Gospel-centric groups, this song would not even make it through the front gates of the church.

Paul’s admonition is recalled here: “but test everything, hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

 

HOW HE LOVE US by John Mark McMillan
http://www.sweetslyrics.com/526318.John%20Mark%20Mcmillan%20-%20How%20He%20Loves%20.html

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Let’s take a moment to read Matthew 4:1-11 and within the narrative the phrase “it is written” was mentioned three times by the Lord and once by the tempter. And each time it was used by the Lord, it was to refer to the primacy of God’s Word for the following:

  • relying solely on God – it is written, “man does not live alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”  (verse 4, in rebuke to the tempter’s enticement to doubt the goodness of God in life’s every situation);
  • refuting even the gravest error – it is written, “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (verse 7, in response to satan’s blatantly erroneous use of God’s Word);
  • repudiating every idolatry – it is written, “you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve” (verse 10, in response to serpent’s blasphemous desire from the very beginning to usurp God’s rightful place in exchange for every form of idolatry),

Even the very order of how these truths are laid out is necessary: reliance on God alone and as soon as man abandons that position, his next moral degradation will be exchanging the truth for a lie and eventually into idolatry which is essentially anything that replaces the sole rulership of God upon our lives. As D. A. Carson would say, “idolatry is essentially the de-godding of God”. You see, this is the same order the apostle Paul presented regarding fallen man’s steep descent in depravity in Romans 1:19-23.

The written Word that God gave us – both Old and New Testaments, all 66 books – is the display of God’s immense grace that we may know the truth that is centered upon His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is to no surprise then that the three verses that Jesus quoted from the Old Testament were all fulfilled perfectly in Him right then and there. To know the Scripture is to know Him.

So the next time we quote or use Scriptures, let us be reverently careful for even God has placed his Name and His Word above all things (Psalm 138:2).

I bow down towards Your holy temple and give thanks to Your Name for Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your Name and Your word.

The careful student of the Word handles truth well (2 Timothy 2:15).

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

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