DiM | “How Sweet the Sound” by Citizen Way

Presentation1Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship.

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Well, it looks like 20theCountdownMagazine is the most reliably updated music chart. Having said that, I didn’t go with the highest “yet to be reviewed” song for today, I went with the song I caught myself singing in the shower. That I found it sitting at the #10 spot means that I get to review a song that I liked and hoped was a solid song.

Music Video

Lyrics (via Soundlyrics.com)

Yea though I walk through the valley
I know that You are always right beside me
And I will fear no evil
You’re my rock and my strength
You comfort me

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
I hear You singing over me
I once was lost but now I’m found
And it’s beautiful
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
It covers every part of me
My soul is silent, I am found
And it’s a beautiful sound
It’s a beautiful, beautiful sound

Carry me through the waters
Where Your peace clears away all my sorrow
And nothing can separate us from Your love
Oh Your love it will always be

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
I hear You singing over me
I once was lost but now I’m found
And it’s beautiful
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
It covers every part of me
My soul is silent, I am found
And it’s a beautiful sound
It’s a beautiful, beautiful sound

You were healing in the pain
You were shelter in the storm
Hallelujah You restore my soul
[x2]

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
I hear You singing over me
I once was lost but now I’m found
Amazing grace how sweet the sound
It covers every part of me
My soul is silent, I am found
And it’s a beautiful sound
A beautiful, beautiful sound
A beautiful, beautiful sound
A beautiful, beautiful sound

The very first line draws in the Christian with an immediate reference to Psalm 23, King James Version style. But it doesn’t really track with the 23rd Psalm, it sort of skips through a portion of it. Is that a concern? It is for the listener who doesn’t actually know Psalm 23, and even more so for the one who won’t look it up. We’ll do just that later.

The chorus immediately jumps in with “Amazing grace how sweet the sound” and my mind goes right to the old hymn, “Amazing Grace”. Does this song line up with that great hymn? Sadly, no, it doesn’t. We’ll take a look at the lyrics to that hymn (particularly for those who only know/sing 2 verses) later, also. Suffice it to say for now that the “beautiful sound” in this song seems to point to something different from Amazing Grace.

Verse 2 starts with “carry me through the waters”… Noah’s ark? Baptism? Jesus rescuing Peter from drowning? Well, the next line mentions peace, so maybe the referent is Jesus calming the storm. Either way the next thought is more clearly a reference to the security of the Love of the Father. I think this is the strongest element of the song, these 2 lines.

The bridge has me looking at my screen like Nipper (dog used for RCA logo). I’m vexed by the past tense of healing and shelter. The song is set up as a contrast between what I was before Amazing Grace and what I am now, right? So why the “were” here? It’s not a lyrical necessity, because “are” is just as lyrically sound. I have no clue, but it doesn’t sit well with me. The last line (repeated) is a return to Psalm 23. Again, I’m confused with the shift in tense, but at least this is in better keeping with the tense of the rest of the song, you restore (active present) my soul.

Positive Elements

That this song reminds me of Psalm 23 and Amazing Grace is a positive thing. The Grace of God is that He sent His Only Son Jesus to atone for the sin of mankind is indeed a beautiful sound, and that He rose from the grave and sits at the right hand of the Father until the Great Day when He will return for His Bride is just excellent. Sadly, none of this is explicit in the song. There are other nuggets of truth that can be extracted and expanded upon in Scripture (and we will do so), but unless these verses are already known to the listener, it’s like being stranded on a desert island and hoping that the pilot or passenger of a commercial airliner noticed your “help” written in the sand… from 35,000 feet.

I hear You singing over me. This line reminds me of Zephaniah 3:17, often referenced to demonstrate that we serve a Living God who loves His children exuberantly, that He sings over us. The full chapter isn’t all sunshine and lollipops, though. You see, this is a prophecy regarding the sin of Judah and Jerusalem during the time of the Exile. God, in His grace and mercy, preserves a remnant of believers who do not practice injustice. The prophecy then turns to the salvation (Jesus Christ) of Jerusalem and the Nations and finally, comes the portion of rejoicing in the Salvation of the Lord.

Zephaniah 3:14-20 (ESV) | Israel’s Joy and Restoration
14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. 16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. 17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. 18 I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. 19 Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20 At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,” says the Lord.

And nothing can separate us from Your love. Nothing can separate us from the Love of God through Jesus Christ our Savior. These two passages are very important for us to understand God’s Amazing Grace.

John 3:16-18 (ESV) | For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 10:22-30 (ESV) | I and the Father Are One
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Carry me through the waters. I indicated earlier that my mind jumps to Noah’s Ark being in God’s Hands as He carried it through the waters of destruction and judgement upon the face of the Earth, or Israel’s crossing the Red Sea, and how both tie directly to Baptism.

1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV) 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Concerns

The primary concern is, again, vagueness of the message. The listener who is spending time reading the scriptures will instinctively fill in the theological gaps of the song and find it encouraging. Unfortunately, so will the listener who has no scriptural knowledge, only that individual will fill in the gaps with whatever they like, think, or have heard.

Psalm 23. While the song’s title and first line of the chorus point to Amazing Grace, it spends most of its time paraphrasing Psalm 23. Let’s look at the Psalm, and I’ll highlight the snippets of from the song.

Psalm 23 (ESV) | The Lord Is My Shepherd
A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Okay, so calling it a paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm is a stretch. My primary concern here is that the song attempts to pluck out the “makes me feel good for free” bits for the song, while skipping over unpleasant notions of the rod of correction, paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake, the shadow of death, or even dining in the presence of our enemies. It focuses on the encouragement bits without addressing the focus on the Lord as the shepherd and we are the sheep. Notice the song says “You’re my rock, and my strength, You comfort me”. It skips over what the psalmist clearly point to for his comfort. The rod of correction and the staff of support. While we do find comfort in who God is, the psalmist is pointing out that we also find comfort in what He does, His correction and His provision.

Amazing Grace. This hymn is a beautifully written song with several verses that are rarely sung when this song is played.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;

’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

You see, as soon as the song clears the first line of Amazing Grace, it shifts away from the hymn and doesn’t look aback. The hymn makes clear that we were wretches, lost, and blind to the ways of God. By His Grace, we have been made to see, and we are now found. That the Grace of God has sustained us and will sustain us for the rest of our mortal life (filled with dangers, toils, and snares) and even into the next life will we continue to sing God’s praise for His Amazing Grace. That’s powerful and it is clear. In some ways I suppose the line “It covers every part of me” might be considered a reference to all of that… but that’s quite the shoe-horn in my view.

What sound is being described as sweet and beautiful? This is probably the biggest issue I have with this song, an issue I didn’t realize until I started looking at the lyrics. Is the artist describing the sound of the Gospel of Grace (which is what the song Amazing Grace is describing as the sweet sound)? Is it the sound of God singing over His people? Or is it the sound of a silent soul? Given the pace at which New Age Mysticism is invading the modern Church, I fear the answer is a combination of the last 2 with a mere nod to the first. There is a lot of contemplative prayer being taught (falsely) in youth conferences and in a broad spectrum of churches that employ 3rd century catholic mystic monastic practices supposedly designed to tune one’s spirit in to hear the voice of God the Holy Spirit speaking. I hope that is not what these guys are into, but their website was rather cumbersome to navigate and I gave up rather quickly.

Conclusion

This song suffers from the vagueness of presenting a lawless gospel. It has a Joel Osteen quality that seeks to encourage everyone with the hope of salvation by skipping over the need for salvation, or the need to confess and repent of our sins. The truth is that without the Law, without the conviction of sin, the significance, the beauty, and the wonder of the Gospel of Grace is diminished. In fact, it becomes a different gospel altogether. This is a song that disappointed me when I actually looked at the lyrics.  I’ll be honest, I really thought that I was singing a more modern take on Amazing Grace, but I wasn’t. Is it dangerous to me? Not really (especially not after having done this work). But this song is a concern for those who aren’t willing to search the scriptures or take these thoughts captive. I do think this is worse than the past few songs I’ve attempted to rescue by better defining (Biblically) the terms used in the song. Had they not invoked Psalm 23 (highlights only) or the first line in Amazing Grace, this song would be totally forgettable. At least, that’s my assessment.

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ,
Jorge

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