From time to time we’ll be writing short articles to introduce a few of the new songs, explaining why and how they were written, and how they might best be used in congregational worship. This article introduces ‘How good it is to sing’ from the new album ‘Courage’.
I’m really excited about this new song! Co-written with Brenton Brown (‘Everlasting God’, ‘Humble King’) and Keith Getty (with whom I co-wrote ‘In Christ Alone’, ‘The Power of the Cross’, ‘Speak O Lord’ and many others), I find it a dynamic, fun song of praise that will work in a number of different contexts.
Keith, his wife Kristyn and I have been examining the hymnal of the Old Testament and how it can inform our approach to congregational worship today. We are encouraging people to use the Psalms in sung worship settings; many of these beautiful, provocative and all-encompassing passages were originally written to be sung! Something powerful happens when we gather together to sing, and the Psalms remind us that we can and should sing together about every aspect of life, not just the joyous and positive ones. Many of my recent co-writes have therefore been based on psalms, and ‘How good it is to sing’ is one of our latest efforts. It is my hope that we as the Church can expand our sung worship vocabulary by turning again and again to the depths of one of the Bible’s most diverse books.
‘How good it is to sing’, like the psalm, explores the dynamic image of God’s power and might expressed in the words of Scripture and creation, which is, incredibly, married to His care and concern for the weakest and the most vulnerable among us. To see His power expressed in the icy blast (Psalm 147 v17) and power of creation, and to recognise simultaneously that He cares for the orphan and the refugee (expressed as the ‘exiles’ in the psalm) is a profound and wonderful message for all of us, and encourages everyone to put their hope fully in God.
The weight of the psalm seems to come from the unity of God in both these images: it is not that He is powerful sometimes, and loving at other times; He is everything He is, at once and forever. His tender love is powerful, His mighty power is loving, and I think it is important that our worship not only celebrates and explores different aspects of His character, but simultaneously marvels at the wonder that these different ‘aspects’ we see in Him are actually different glimpses of that one, indivisible Divine Nature. This mystery underpins so much of our worship and theology, and is itself worthy of reflection and worship.
I think there’s also an interesting parallel between the exiles of the Old Testament and the way in which Scripture exhorts us all to see ourselves as exiles on earth, far from our true home with Christ. This biblical outlook on life magnifies the worldwide refugee situation we face today, and should only encourage us to show greater compassion for those who find themselves rejected, pushed out and far from home, and looking for a place to belong. For generations the exiles in the book of Exodus didn’t return and made their home in a foreign land, and we see that God loves to gather those people, the ones without family and without home. This is the story we find in Exodus, but we see it time and again throughout the Bible, and not least through Christ’s desire to build relationships with (and often His Church upon) those who are on the edges of society. The Church should have an open door to those who knock, in the way that God does.
We are all looking for a place to belong, for a place to call home, and this integral and universal desire is one which the Church can pursue together around the world in worship, fuelled by the power and love of Christ and the hope of heaven as our eternal home.
Click here to access the audio, lyrics, and sheet music for the song.