Guest Post: Songwriting and Old Testament Illiteracy, Part 2
Please join me in welcoming frequent commenter David Mac for his first guest post!
In Song Writing and Old Testament Literacy, Daniel recently wrote:
One point worth noting, clearly evident from the citations and from similar but rare instances in Southern Gospel songwriting, is that most of the obscure references and allusions are to the Old Testament. Many New Testament allusions, no matter how obscure, are familiar to church audiences today, but Old Testament references can be another story.
On the blog and in email we debated the relative nature of “obscurity” and other commentors avowed that “Adam” and “Eden” were not numbered among the obscure! Personally I do feel however that in Sunday School, Youth Work, mainstream Church Service, and Gospel Outreach, we are;
- Preaching in a moral vacuum.
- Presuming biblical knowledge that is no longer the prerogative of the masses and,
- Underestimating the flood of evolutionary effluent which is drowning even an acceptance of literal biblical history among the rising generation.
Poisoning the water source is an old and vicious tactic of retreating armies in our part of the world. If the “water of the Word” is apparently poisoned at the creational source – where or why should man look for God in any other sphere of existence? With this as background I have, at Daniel’s suggestion, picked out ten scriptural analogies recently used here, in point of fact more than ten were used just within in the thread referred to, so the material is there for the choosing. It would be interesting then to gauge the level of awareness among readers of:
- The hymn from whence the couplet or verse comes.
- The location [book at least] from whence it is taken in scripture.
- The main character referred to in the scriptural context, and /or
- The literal place referred to in context.
- The generally accepted application / meaning of the analogy – to us today!
In the essay quoted, Bernard Manning also says of Charles Wesley, “His verses are a commentary on the passage as well as a restatement of it”, which chimes very nicely with further comment in the blog thread. So, here are five scriptural analogies by Wesley, and five by other song writers. Are we all in any way familiar with the Biblical background, or do we need a commentary to expound the hymnology?
Words by Charles Wesley:
None is like Jeshurun’s God
So great, so strong, so high,
Lo! He spreads his wings abroad,
He rides upon the sky!
My Zerubbabel is near,
I have not believed in vain;…
Christ the head, the corner-stone,
Shall be brought forth in me;
In soft Laodicean ease we sleep
Our useless lives away,
We live in pleasure and are dead
Less grievous will the judgment-day.
To Sodom and Gomorrah prove,
Than us, who cast our faith away,
And trample on thy richer love.
FATHER, into thy hands alone
I have my all restored;…
Take when thou wilt into thy hands,
And as thou wilt require;
Resume by the Chaldean bands,
Or the devouring fire.
Feasting on the Table of the King.
A poor and lonely man
dwelling in the distant land of Lodebar.
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.
We won’t bow to your idols,
the Hebrew children proclaimed.
And so the king commanded
they were thrown into the flame!
[This hymn is reputed to have beenwritten as a poem, and produced from the pocket of Ira Sankey, when Moody requested a new hymn – and the music composed as he played!]
There were ninety and nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold.
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s table land,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
The analogy in this tenth and last is not so specific, but may link us back to another recently discussed scriptural mountain vista!
So; Stating the obvious? Totally obscure? Or highlighting the need for re-education in biblical historical truth, today, through the power and influence of gospel music? You say…