Songs from I Kings: God’s Grace is Sufficient

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

I Kings 18 recounts the story of one of the most epic showdowns in all of Scripture. Elijah challenged King Ahab for abandoning the God of his fathers, and arranged a showdown. He would go up against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah. Verses 21-24 describe the challenge:

And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.

Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.”

So all the people answered and said, “It is well spoken.”

Nothing happened to the false prophets’ bull. Elijah then had his bull, on the altar, doused with twelve buckets of water. He called on God, and fire from Heaven fell to consume the burnt sacrifice; it also consumed the wood, the stones, the dust, and the water that was in a trench around the altar.

The children of Israel fell on their faces, calling out, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”

Greater Vision’s song “God’s Grace is Sufficient” recounts that story. Here’s a video of them singing it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXqOmk8dfGE

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Songs from II Samuel: Feasting At The Table of the King

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

The history books in the Old Testament are anything but dry and boring. Read them; time and again, you’ll find stories with rich parallels to New Testament themes.

II Samuel 9 is exactly such a story. After King Saul died, David ascended to the throne in his place. Now there was a practice in ancient Middle Eastern cultures that we sometimes still see today: When a king ascended to a throne, it was customary for him to kill all his enemies, especially any who might have designs on the throne. This often included any surviving male family members of the preceding king.

Yet when King David took the throne, he asked if Saul had any surviving family members, “that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake” (II Samuel 9:1, KJV). He had been close friends with Jonathan. He learned that Jonathan had a surviving son, Mephibosheth, who had been dropped as a baby and was crippled, lame in both feet. Mephibosheth was living in the land of “Lodebar,” which, translated, literally means “the land of nothing.”

So David took someone who would have been a natural enemy who, in the mind of the culture, deserved to be killed. Instead of killing him, though, he granted mercy, and invited him to spend the rest of his days eating at David’s own table.

God is holy. Inherent to the nature of holiness is to hate that which is unholy, sin. So while we were sinners, we were God’s enemies, as Romans 5:8-10 says: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

While we were God’s enemies, living meaningless lives—in the “land of nothing”—He showed mercy to us. Not only did He grant us salvation and permit us to live, but He also brought us to feast at His table—both the Lord’s Supper here on this earth, and the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Here is songwriter Ricky Atkinson singing a song (also recorded by the Kingdom Heirs) that recounts this story:

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Songs from I Samuel: Hannah Prayed

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

I Samuel starts with the story of how the prophet Samuel was born. His mother was barren. One year, she prayed that if God granted her a son, she would dedicate him to His service. God answered this prayer, and her son Samuel would go on to lead the nation. Jeff & Sheri Easter’s song “Hannah Prayed” tells this story:

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Songs from Joshua: Monuments

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

The story of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land spans from Exodus to the early chapters of Joshua. In Joshua 3, they finally arrive. As they reach the banks of the river Jordan, God instructs Moses:

This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan (Joshua 3:7b-8, KJV).

Joshua, in turn, instructs the people:

Come hither, and hear the words of the Lord your God. And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap (Joshua 3:9b-13).

That is exactly what happened. As verse 17 states: “And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.”

Chapter 4 discuses God’s instructions to Joshua to have the children of Israel construct a memorial commemorating this miracle. The classic Wilburns / Legacy Five song “Monuments” recounts this story:

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Songs From Ruth: He Redeemed Me

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

Squire Parsons’ 1983 album He Redeemed Me begins with a title cut retelling the story of Ruth:

VERSE 1
I was gleaning in the field, a stranger in the land
Knowing that the handfuls came from my Kinsman’s hands
Then one day I heard a voice calling to me
From the curse that had me bound, He has set me free

CHORUS
He redeemed me, He redeemed me
Oh, He claimed me as one of His own
And I found favor in the eyes of my Savior
And now to Him I belong

Given how powerful the parallel is to our own redemption, there aren’t as many Southern Gospel songs about the Kinsman-Redeemer we see in Ruth as one might thing. But, to nobody’s surprise, one of the best comes from one of the genre’s master songwriters.

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Songs From Judges: Broken Things

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

Judges 7 tells the story of how God took a fearful judge, Gideon, and led him to take on the entire Midianite army with three hundred men. God explained: “The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (Judges 7:2, KJV).

God did not have these three hundred equip themselves with the latest in military technology. Instead, each man was to take a trumpet in his right hand and an empty pitcher in their left hand. There would be a lamp within each pitcher; the pitcher would hide its light.

These three hundred men came up to the Midianite camp, sounded their trumpets, broke their pictures so the lamps would shine, and shouted, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”

Then, as verse 21 relates, the Midianite “host ran, and cried, and fled.”

The McKameys’ song “Broken Things,” released on their 1989 Sing Praises project, retells the story:

When Gideon’s army went into the camp
On God’s appointed day
God used the broken pitchers there
To scare the enemy away

Then the chorus applies the lesson:

Broken things, broken things
God has a purpose for broken things
Broken things, broken things
God uses broken things

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Songs From Deuteronomy: Set Me On The Rock, Joshua

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

Moses spent forty years of his life leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. But because he disobeyed God by striking a rock when God said to speak to it, God did not permit him to enter the Promised Land. But right before Moses died, God let him look into the Promised Land. This George Younce song tells the rest of the story:

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Songs From Numbers: High and Lifted Up

Books-songs

Each week, we go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

Numbers 21 tells the story of how the Israelites rebelled against Moses and against God, asking: “Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread” (Numbers 21:5, KJV).

God replied by sending fiery serpents among the people; many of the Israelites died from bites from these snakes. This brought the Israelites to repentance; they confessed their sin, and asked Moses to pray that God would take the serpents away from them.

God told Moses: “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live” (verse 8, KJV). Moses did.

Dianne Wilkinson used this passage as a starting point for one of the all-time greatest Cathedrals anthems, “High and Lifted Up”:

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Songs From Leviticus: One Holy Lamb

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

Leviticus 16 tells the story of the Day of Atonement. Many Southern Gospel songs have told the story of the lamb and its parallels to the Lamb of God, but perhaps none better than Poet Voices’ “One Holy Lamb”:

VERSE 1
Atonement day, a shepherd cries;
Another spotless lamb must die.
Oh, how could just one sacrifice,
Our God, Jehovah, satisfy?

CHORUS
One Holy Lamb washed my sin away;
One sacrifice paid a price I could not pay;
One Holy Lamb, one great I AM, one seed of Abraham,
One Holy Lamb washed my sin away!

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Songs from Exodus: In The Basket

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

Exodus 1 recounts how Pharaoh tried to wipe out the Israelites by killing all their male children. Exodus 2 is the story of how God spared Moses’ life by inspiring his parents to hide him in the bulrushes, and by leading Pharaoh’s daughter to find him and take pity on him. Poet Voices reflects on this in their song, “In The Basket.”

A little baby placed in a basket
Was put in a river to save his soul
A Hebrew son; his name was Moses
He was found by the house of Pharaoh

(Chorus)
They didn’t know what they had in the basket
Didn’t know what he’d become
Didn’t know, from the cradle to the casket
He would be the chosen one

Verse two pivots to a powerful pro-life message:

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