Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Reflection : Hymn Should Not Be Put Aside

Reflection : Hymns Should Not be Put Aside

Today, many great old hymns are put aside in many churches in favour of modern worship songs. Behind every hymn has its value and theology. Hymns have instructed, comforted and enriched many saints. In the hour of crisis, missionary Elizabeth Elliot testified that it was a hymn, How Firm A Foundation, that got her through the night. Not only do hymns provide comfort, but they also communicate God's message to His people. "Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel ." (Deut. 31:19) And the hymn was recorded in Deuteronomy chapter 32.

The singing of hymns has a long history. When Israel experienced freedom from slavery in Egypt, and a great victory, they burst into singing after they crossed the Red Sea on dry land while their enemies were drowned. Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this hymn of praise to the Lord, and spoke, saying: "I will sing to the Lord for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my God, and l will praise Him; My father's God, and I will exalt Him...." (Exodus 15:1-18)

Historically God's people are always a singing people. The chosen people could sing about their redemption from the Egyptian slavery. The Church of our Lord Jesus Christ could sing great hymns of our Saviour who redeemed them from the bondage of sin. That is why you find singing in the church. When we sing hymns we affirm our joy and express our love for God who so loved us and saved us. The hymns not only enable us to express our adoration and devotion to Christ, our Saviour and Lord, but also enable us to see a logical progression in our Christian life, from the first verse to the last.

Hymns should always constitute a crucial part of worship, but not by any means the whole. Hymn singing should always be part of the worship to teach, to comfort and to enrich Christian lives. When non-Christian comes into the church worship, they should be stirred and moved by the joyful sound of music played and sung by such joyful people of God.

Unlike hymns, modern worship songs tend to swing to entertainment value, and they cause the singers to be more self-focused than Christ-focused. I have a CD compiled by Planet Shakers. There was lots of singing and clapping but little of reading the Bible, prayer and preaching. I am not saying that modern songs shouldn't be sing. There are a lot of good modern songs. However under such circumstances where these modern songs cause people to remain so shallow in their faith, and are not rooted in the Word of God.

Elizabeth Elliot made this observation and said, "So many of today's worship; songs are all about us: 'We do this, we do that, we worship You...'without presenting the depth and richness of who God is, proclaiming His greatness and His might." Dr. Graeme Goldsworthy also reiterated the same truth, 'All the evangelical cliches about the supreme authority of the Bible count for nothing if our services have become entertainment, if the great doctrinal hymns have been replaced by subjective ditties sung over and and over again to some impossible jerking melodies with no recognizable metre.". These contemporary choruses are impressionistic rather than contentfull. People don't go away having increased their knowledge of God and having experienced His wonderful grace. There are some exceptions, but on the whole that is true.

The next time you sing a hymn, consider the words, the metres, the rhymes, and see if you can identify the Scripture verses in the stanzas, the logical progression, the teaching and above all the inspiration of the hymns.

In the second stanza of the hymn, How Firm A Foundation, Elizabeth pointed out that Isaiah 43:2 was incorporated into the hymn that comforted her when she was waiting with her little daughter, Valerie, for the news at whether her missionary husband, Jim Elliot, was dead or alive. The value of hymns is that they will get you through the night.

So, sing hymns often. Only God's word can bring that comfort for He said to her, "When you pass through the waters, l will be with you: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk `through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you."


How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say that to you He hath said –
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee - O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee stand,
Upheld by my gracious, omnipotent hand.

"When thru the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

"When thru fiery trials thy path shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee - I only design
Thy dross to consume and they gold to refine.

"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, tho all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never - no, never - no, never forsake


Anonymous said...

Eh, apakah maksud "metre"?

The Hedonese said...

If you are interested, two books seem to make some helpful, constructive contribution to the 'worship war' ... John Frame's book on "The Regulative principle" or something like that... and Marva Dawn's Reaching Out without Dumbing Down". Bridge building stuffs... Btw 'satu meter = 100 sentimeter' lar