Have you ever sung a song that expressed fear in the presence of the Almighty? Or one that was written from the perspective of the cherubim or of the four living creatures around the throne (Rev. 4)? Songs about events in Jesus’ life would seem to provide wonderful springboards to worship and praise. We have a few that appeal to the record of His calming the storm on Galilee and beseeching Him to calm our internal storms today, but it would be nice to have a song about power in even the hem of His garment, or about His indignation at the treatment of God’s temple, or about the healing of blind people (what a lyrical possibility that brings … spiritual sight as well as physical sight!), or about the beatitudes. We could go on. . . .
And go on we will! Outside of the worship and praise (here I refer to lyrical content, not to any modern genre) that arena . . . I have heard a song or two that are centered on the banquet or feast that He has invited us all to, but what about a song of solidarity, of togetherness as believers? I suppose there are enough songs of gathering and departing, but then again, maybe those areas are precisely where we need some renewal. Maybe you would try your hand at writing a song that acknowledges the stresses of getting kids ready for “church,” piling in the car, driving through traffic lights, and then entering the glow of the assembly of Christians? The underlying impetus behind the “Songs of Ascent” in the Psalms may be more applicable in our day than we think.
I have a sense that very few of our songs really deal—at least in any thorough manner—with sin and how we deal with it in life. (My perception of this scarcity might indicate only my personal disinclination to delve into self-examination when in a large group.) There are phrases here and there in our repertoire that throw a bone at the notion of sin-confession and weakness—”purer in heart help me to be,” “my spirit is hungry, but my flesh is so weak,” “change my heart, O God,” and “forgive our foolish ways”—but nothing comes to mind that really probes the darkness and pervasiveness and significance of sin.
Songs to the Holy Spirit are found in small number, and with good reason: there is really no New Covenant precedent for addressing anything to the Holy Spirit. Personally, I am often bored by those three-stanza songs that seem to have three stanzas only because one is addressed to the Father, one to Jesus, and, oh, yeah, we need one to the Holy Spirit, too. But on the other hand, we could use more songs about the Spirit’s work in the lives and hearts of those who are in Christ.
Speaking of last stanzas, there are lots of older songs that fall into a pattern of a requisite last stanza that deals with heaven and/or the second coming. This is not always a bad thing to think and sing about, mind you, but it can be monotonous if you have two or three of those songs in a sequence, and they all follow the same pattern.
“Heaven songs” is a category that needs more depth; in the contemporary-style vein, it probably just needs more songs, period. I wonder if today’s evangelical songwriters are a bit too caught up in the political and material struggles of this world to think about our true, ultimate home. And why don’t we sing more of our security and comfort in God (like “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” and “Blessed Assurance”)?
There may be enough songs about grace and mercy; on the other hand, a lot of the modern expressions are cliché, and those topics are theologically fundamental, so let’s stimulate the writing of more! It will not be “vain repetition,” and we can not exhaust the grace of the Lord lyrically.
There are comparatively few songs being written about communion today, it seems. The ones we have are, by and large, very good in terms of lyrical content, but we could use more. Songs about mission and ministry seem to be confined to a century or so of authorship (from the middle 1800s to the middle 1900s). Songs of meditation and introspection aren’t always that popular, but maybe they should be. And how about a really good, new song on obedience to God?
Songs of spiritual battle. Hmmm. “Encamped Along the Hills of Light” and “The Battle Belongs to the Lord” come to mind. Maybe more is needed there. And as I survey a couple of topical indices, I note that most of the songs on Christian living, in general, were written 50, 100, or more years ago. That obsolescence is even more marked in the category of “invitation” or “altar call” songs. In my teen years, I developed a strong aversion to invitation songs (and to the whole practice of the post-sermon invitation, actually . . . I’ll write a little more on that later). But as I mature, I think we probably need more of those—as long as we use them well. Perhaps it is this category more than others that deserves more contemporary lyrics. When we are attempting to reach hearts by calling them to greater heights in discipleship, we can’t expect much effect if a past generation’s heart language is being used.
Have you ever sung a song taken directly from Old Testament prophecy? One that credits God’s work in history, such as at the Red Sea, in Eden, at Mount Carmel, at Jericho, etc.? I get excited thinking about the possibilities and wish I had enough time and skill to write all these songs.
This particular installment has probably served more to inspire me than to reflect for the benefit of others. I do hope, though, that readers will be encouraged to consider, more frequently and deeply, the lyrical content of songs.
 In one way of thinking, the Spirit may be described as the Essence of God. The scriptures, as far as I can discern, do not present a precisely trinitarian view of Deity so much as a multifaceted one in which God seeks relationship with His creation and takes on different “faces,” different roles in order to communicate with humankind.