The Psalms: What We Want vs. What God Wants

From GetReligion, What messages do the Psalms contain about faith that are missing in this praise-song age?

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It’s hard to read the Psalms without encountering one of the 65 references to the Hebrew word “mishpat,” which is usually translated as “judgments” or “justice.”

The term appears 23 times in Psalm 119, in passages worshipers have sung for centuries, such as: “I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments. I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly!”

But when Old Testament scholar Michael J. Rhodes dug into the Top 25 worship songs listed by Christian Copyright Licensing International, he found symbolic trends in the lyrics. For starters, “justice” was mentioned one time, in one song.

“The poor are completely absent in the top 25. By contrast, the Psalter uses varied language to describe the poor on nearly every page,” he wrote, in a Twitter thread. “The widow, refugee, oppressed are completely absent from the top 25. …

“Whereas ‘enemies’ are the third most common character in the Psalms, they rarely show up in the Top 25. When they do, they appear to be enemies only in a spiritual sense. Maybe most devastatingly … not a SINGLE question is ever posed to God. The Top 25 never ask God anything. Prick the Psalter and it bleeds the cries of the oppressed pleading with God to act.”

That’s a long way from a Vespers Psalm promising:The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. … Praise the Lord.”

When these issues surface in social media they often veer into debates about politics and social justice, noted Craig Greenfield, author of “Urban Halo” and “Subversive Jesus.” A former dot-com entrepreneur, he leads the global youth ministry “Alongsiders International,” based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The question, he said, is why so many worship songs focus on personal experience and feelings – alone. This has been true with new hymns for several generations.

“We, in the West, tend to be very individualistic. … The whole approach to worship music uses a Jesus-is-my-boyfriend metaphor,” said Greenfield, reached by telephone.

“That may work for people in the United States and, as the United States goes, so goes most of the West. … But God’s heart for the poor is at the center of the Gospel. There’s no way to miss that in the Psalms and the Gospels.”

Observations by Rhodes about blind spots in worship-music products offered by major publishing companies are crucial, added Greenfield. Thus, it would help if more songwriters and church leaders embraced a global approach to their work. In an online essay entitled, “Worship music is broken. Here’s what we can do about it,” he urged:

* A stronger emphasis on corporate worship. “Worship can be a beautiful intimate moment of love between you and God. … But that’s not ALL it should be,” he said. After “trying to worship awkwardly on Zoom” during the coronavirus pandemic, “we all know that there is something powerful that happens when … we sing, ‘We worship You,’ instead of ‘I worship You.’ “

* Embracing “worship as lament,” as well as celebration. Church needs to be more than “a place we go to get our regular fix, our weekly high (which has to get more and more intense in order to give the same satisfaction). … That’s not a healthy or balanced way to live our lives with God. God calls us to mourn with those who mourn – and sometimes WE are those who mourn. Sometimes the world is all messed up.” There are times to celebrate, he added, but “going to a party, when your best friend just died of cancer, just feels awful.”

* Focus on participation, more than professional-level performance. “We serve a God who was deeply encouraged by the pathetic offering of an impoverished old widow,” noted Greenfield. “We serve a God who loved the broken prayer of an outcast more than the confident eloquence of a pharisee.” In other words, “God doesn’t care if our songs are off-key. … Our drive for excellence can end up excluding those who God calls us to make central.”

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So, modern Western Christians deeply dislike singing about

  • justice
  • the poor
  • asking God to do or say anything

Also, “The question, he said, is why so many worship songs focus on personal experience and feelings – alone. This has been true with new hymns for several generations.”

In contrast, Christians really, really like to sing about how they feel. Deep in their hearts.

Why? A Preamble

Quoting from an earlier post, Covenant Renewal: A Puritan Tragedy, a Modern Rebirth

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And the critical moment?

The history of the secularization of the American republic is the history of a process of substitution: personal experience in place of judicial confession as the basis of church membership. It began in Puritan New England, probably by 1636, when the churches began requiring candidates for membership to relate the experience of their salvation. Without this confirming experience, the candidate’s request was denied.

Critical Mass, Part XVIII: Why Revivalism Leads to Humanism
Gary North

Not the Objective Law of God, but the Subjective Feelings of a Man, determines reality.

It was not Atheists who made the switch, but Pious Religious Professionals.

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I should note that the Professions were not tossed out on their ear by the congregation, but were instead well-rewarded for their treason against God.

And so God rewards us for our treason, by leaving us in chains under the endless contempt of our Betters.

One good thing though: since we are at the root of the sin, we can pull out the root, and so cut the chains. To do this requires the power of the Holy Spirit: but if we ask God, and obey His word, the Spirit of God will come and set us free.

But we need to repent first.

Why? Humanism and It’s Two Faces

The first face of baptized humanism is obvious: Our Feelings determines reality, not God’s Law.

Western Christians have never repented of this obscenity. So, the obscenity grows and grows, from

  • “we are saved if we feel like it” to
  • “we are good if we feel like it” to
  • “we are married if we feel like it” to
  • “we are anything we say we are, just because we feel like it.”

All about the will of Men — especially Powerful Men.

And not the law of God.

Not objective reality. Subjective feelings – that’s what really matters.

The second face of baptized humanism is not so obvious, but very real: Caesar has no real problem with passive spiritualized Roman mystery cults.

“Sing your praises as much as you want. Just don’t talk about justice, or the poor, or exactly who the enemies of God are. And certainly don’t waste time about the Law of God!”

Caesar isn’t the only one who detests talk about justice, the poor, the oppressor, and the Law of God. Lots and lots of Wealthy Western Christians heartily agree with Caesar – not at the point of a sword, but willingly and wholeheartedly.

“We have no king but Caesar” roared the masses at Jerusalem.

And God had that treasonous and adulterous wife, the Whore of Babylon, stoned to death by the Romans four decades later.

Why? Not Fear of Man. Hatred of God.

I wish that it was just a matter of fear-based worship of Man. If that was the case, it would be a rather simple matter for God to cut Caesar down to size.

But it isn’t that simple. That isn’t the core of the issue.

There is almost no secularist or humanist or even liberal Christian monitoring the songs believers choose to sing. No Western Christian is afraid that if the sing about justice or the poor or oppression or even the Law, they will lose their job or get a pile of hate-filled Twitter messages tomorrow.

The core of the issue is that Western Christians simply hate the Law of God. They just Do Not Care about the poor, or justice, or the cruelty of the oppressor. Their heart is not where God’s heart is.

They have no questions of God, as they expect nothing from God.

What we give to God is what is mirrored back to us.

If we expect nothing from God, God will expect nothing from us.

And of what value is a servant, from whom his Master expects nothing?

Is he not fit only to be fired?1 To be tossed into the flames?

From Matthew 7:21-23, ESV

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

The Western Christian Church is intensely lawless.

This must change, or we will be destroyed by the express will of God.

Already, we are past the state of tasteless salt: the congregations, willfully powerless, since we have cut ourselves from obedience to the Law, the source of our spiritual power. And without even honest repentance and the earnest attempt to obey God, the Holy Spirit leaves… and the spiritual ossification and death of the congregation becomes a sure thing.

Action: Repent

It’s not so much our evil that seals our doom: that’s only the initial push to eternal punishment, that’s just the spark that lights the flames of hell, and the Lake of Fire. It’s our refusal to repent, to detest our rot, our insistence that we are clean and righteous… that is what fastens the chains to the pit, and drags us down.

Proverbs 30:11-14, ESV

There are those who curse their fathers
and do not bless their mothers.
There are those who are clean in their own eyes
but are not washed of their filth.
There are those—how lofty are their eyes,
how high their eyelids lift!
There are those whose teeth are swords,
whose fangs are knives,
to devour the poor from off the earth,
the needy from among mankind.

We must see and acknowledge who we are, and repent, if we want to live.

John 9:39-41, ESV

Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

As both the Psalms and Proverbs remind us, we must also care for the poor, if we wish God to care for us.

(And when I say we, I mean WE.
Not that faked-up’d deity, the State.)

I suggest that the Western Protestant institutional church is largely — not completely, but largely — irredeemable. The rot is simply too deep, from the seminary to the pews.

Indeed, right to the hymnals.

On the solution, I’d point to:

All three are books written by Stephen C Perks.

But also worth considering is Rethinking Christian Community by Martin G. Selbrede.

As a certainty, we Western Christians must get off the road to hell.

We cannot stay as we are.


1 From Quora, Where does the expression “You’re fired” come from?

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Laurie King I’m an anime artist, and I write fantasy novels.Author has 60 answers and 34.8K answer views

Originally Answered: Why do we use the phrase “You’re fired”?

“Your fired” phrase came from working as a miner. If your were to be caught stealing something back then, they would burn all of your materials in a fire. Without any of your supplies, you would be unable to work. Therefore losing your job. That’s where the phrase “ your fired “ came about.

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The second witness:

The words “you’re fired” are often used to tell someone that they’ve lost their job; have been discharged. The similarity between “fired” and “discharged” may suggest a connection with firearms. I could find no real origin in any of my reference books, other than suggesting the analogy with firing a gun. However, one day, I was sent the following which appeared in the Clevedon, Somerset, Civic Society Newsletter for Summer 1996:

“We discovered recently that the word ‘fired’, meaning discharged from a job originated on Mendip. It comes from Item 6 of the Laws of Mendip Miners”.

(Incidentally, The Mendip Hills are about 50km south of Bristol, England. They are beautiful in summer, but can be a bit bleak in winter. In the past various types of mining took place there and the Law below, as judged by the language used, is several 100 years old. Apologies to the non native English speakers, but that’s the way it’s written).

“If any man… do pick or steale any lead or ore to the value of xiiid, the Lord or his Officer may arrest all his lead and Oare House or hearthes with his Grooves and Workes and keep them in forfeit… and shall take the person that hath soe affeended and bring him where his house or worke and all his tooles and instruments are… and put him into his house or worke and set fire in all together about him and banish him…”

“Fired”, from the Phase Finder

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