Last night I was subjected once again to the cruel and unusual punishment that is ‘America’s Got Talent’. What I’ve done to deserve this is beyond me, but I sit quitely and take my punishment (not really, I mock and sneer, and Lynn get’s annoyed). At the very end of the hour, as I was getting excited about the power that would soon be mine to surf the channels and find something worth my time, like baseball, David Hasselhoff said something very profound. Before you laugh, remember even jack-asses can speak truly and insightfully – just read Numbers 22.
So Hasselhoff, moved by a contestants performance of Garth Brooks’ ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ (who hasn’t been moved by that lovely song) said (my paraphrase), “if you’re going to sing, there’s no point in moving your lips unless you’re going to tell a song. That’s what he did, and you could tell it was from the heart.”
As he was saying that I was reading about worship in John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Christian Life, which I’ll likely post on later. I let me mind stray from Frame and considered Hasselhoff’s words. In a lot of ways, he’s right – though I don’t want to absolutize the truth of those words. In our expressions of worship, the best songs 1) come from the heart, and 2) tell a story – the story of God’s marvelous deeds. The first point we talk about often, the second gets missed. But look at a few verses:
Ps 105:1-6, “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!”
Ps 9:1-2, “To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David. I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”
When you look at the worship of Israel they were constantly recalling God’s redemptive activity, especially the exodus event (see Ex 15:1-18, Ps. 78) . Move to the New Testament and look at the first known hymn of the church, Philippians 2. It’s the same – a rehearsal of God’s salvific activity in Christ Jesus:
Php 2:5-11, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
I would argue that the best of our worship does the same thing. Take, for example, Amazing Grace. It recounts the story of a sinner lost and blind, redeemed and healed, then in glory. A Mighty Fortress tells the story of God’s protection and ultimate victory over the ancient foe. These songs, and many more, stir our hearts with the drama (“the drama is the doctrine” – thank you Dorthy Sayers). The best songs are not empty sentimentality, but rooted in God’s acts. Great thought Mr. Hasselhoff.
And now, for your listening pleasure: