Why Hillsong-Like Songs Are More Biblical Than You Think

A few weeks back I “tweeted” this:

“[Some] people complain about charismatic churches singing repetitive choruses. Try telling that to the seraphim in Isaiah 6.”

I want to make a similar comment here, just in a more extended manner.

david_psalmwriter

I have heard many times over the years from people (inside and outside of charismatic churches) that we should sing less about what we do as Christians and more about what God has done and does and who he is.

For example, the classic Hillsong song “All Day” features these lines:

“I love you, I’ll follow you,

You are my, my life,

I will read my Bible and pray,

I will follow you all day.”

People object to lyrics like this because it is believed that they take the focus off God and who he is. We should not sing about us, they say, but about God.

Now, while I agree (and I don’t particularly like the lyrics of “All Day”), I don’t want to completely discount singing “about us”. Why you ask? For a similar reason as with the repetitive choruses – try telling that to the Psalmists!

When we read the Psalms, what do we see? I think we see the Psalmists acknowledging the works of God and who he is – how he saves them, loves them, loves his enemies, judges, gives mercy and grace – and not only that, but they also write of their personal response to God’s character and work.

For example, David in Psalm 51:1 and 2 writes the following:

“Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!” [1]

We see here that David is making a statement, a confession, about God. Then, in verses 13-15, he writes this:

“Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will return to you.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,

O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips,

and my mouth will declare your praise.” [2]

Do you see what happens here? David sings here of God, who he is and what he does, and also of our response to him. He makes a statement about God and also of his response to God.

He uses the word “then” in verse 13. What does “then” mean? It means that in response to God’s steadfast love and abundant mercy in verses 1 and 2 blotting out and washing him of his transgressions of lust, adultery and murder in the episode of 2 Samuel 11 and 12, “then [he] will teach transgressors [God’s] ways.” David says “Then” to show that he is responding to God’s character and his work.

Same thing happens in verse 14:

“Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,

O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.”

Here we see again a statement about God (“O God of my salvation”) and a statement of response (“and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness”).

The same thing happens in heaps of other Psalms too. Have a read of Psalm 3, 4, 9, 13, 17 – I could go on. The same thing happens. The Psalmists make statements about God and of our response to him.

Is it so wrong that our charismatic brothers and sisters follow the pattern of the Psalmists in their songs? Is it so wrong to sing this?

“All of my life I will stand on your love,”

or,

“All my hope is in you,

All my strength is in you;

With every breath my soul will rest in you,”

or,

“We look to Yahweh, Yahweh.”

Of course, let us heed the warning against singing about “ourselves”, our response to God, too much. We don’t want to be excessive about this. But let’s not abandon it completely in an irrational overreaction to everything charismatic (such over reaction is unadvised – you’d find yourself far away from biblical and apostolic evangelicalism quickly).

In summary, here is this entire post in “tweet” form:

“Some people complain about charismatic songs singing about ourselves. Try telling that to the Psalmists.”


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ps 51:1–2). Standard Bible Society: Wheaton

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Ps 51:13–15). Standard Bible Society: Wheaton

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One thought on “Why Hillsong-Like Songs Are More Biblical Than You Think

  1. Truth. On the other hand, not every psalm fits the context of corporate worship. There are things that one could say, focusing on introspection and self-reflection that are less appropriate for the public sphere, not because we should be secretive, but because they are personal. The ones I have a problem with are those that seem to make the gospel ultimately about us. I have no problem singing with reference to ourselves, as long as it is within the context of a true, Christocentric gospel. Some leave the true gospel in the shadows to focus on self.

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