DiM | “He Shall Reign Forevermore” by Chris Tomlin

Presentation1Evangelical Worship Edition

January 11, 2016. In this edition we are going to be taking a look at the next song on the top new song list for 2015 found at Worship Together. Today’s song is “He Shall Reign Forevermore” by Chris Tomlin.

Chris Tomlin VEVO Lyric Video

 

Lyrics (via Worship Together)

Verse 1
In the bleak midwinter
All creation groans
And for a world in darkness
Frozen like a stone
Light is breaking
In a stable for a throne
Chorus
And He shall reign
Forevermore, forevermore
And He shall reign
Forevermore, forevermore
Unto us a child is born
The King of kings and Lord of lords
And He shall reign
Forevermore, forevermore
Verse 2
If I were a wise man
I would travel far
And if I were a shepherd
I would do my part
But, poor as I am
I will give to Him my heart 

Chorus

Bridge
Here within a manger lies
The One who made the starry skies
This baby born for sacrifice
Christ the Messiah

Into our hopes, into our fears
The Savior of the world appears
The promise of eternal years
Christ the Messiah

Chorus
And He shall reign
Forevermore, forevermore
And He shall reign
Forevermore, forevermore

He shall reign
Forevermore, forevermore
And He shall reign
Forevermore, forevermore
Unto us a child is born
The King of kings and Lord of lords
And He shall reign
Forevermore, forevermore

Writer(s): Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin
Theme(s): Adoration & Praise , Call to Worship , God’s Attributes , Christmas
CCLI #: 7050416
Scripture Reference(s): Exodus 15:18, Psalm 146:10

Discussion

Again with the single-verse Scripture Reference(s). Well, let’s look at them before we start discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the song for individual and corporate worship.

Exodus 15:18 (ESV) The Lord will reign forever and ever.

Psalm 146:10 (ESV) The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!

Well, at least they are complete sentences. Is this truly a reference for the song? Or is it merely a justification for the hook of the song? Does this reference to scripture for the hook of the song set your heart and mind at ease that the verses of the song fall in line with this reference? The song teaches or at least enforces something about God… is that lesson referenced by these lines? Why am I so concerned about this scripture reference, bit?

In most contemporary evangelical worship services, there are no bound hymnals in the auditorium. No way to flip through the songs sung by that church to dig into the scriptural references they teach or doctrines they reinforce. Instead, they use projectors and big screens to display the lyrics with some aesthetically pleasing background animation that either serves as or complements the “light show”. Yeah. Anyway, since modern-day evangelicalism has embraced the corporate business model of “doing church”, there are copyright laws in place to protect the corporation’s intellectual property… you’ll often see song credits at the bottom of the screen for the song title, artist, CCLI# and sometimes a quick scripture reference. You’ll see scripture references in Hymnals, too… and sometimes I think they are also too narrowly referenced, so this isn’t a blind “modernization is of the devil” complaint. In the case of this song, I find it hard to believe that the whole song was written to convey these references; rather, I feels like it was the result of a quick word-search to at least cover the title/refrain/hook of the song.

From a Christian perspective, within the context of corporate worship, did we really need a proof-text of the eternal reign of God? Let’s look at the context of these passages and then see if they are indeed what the song conveys.

Exodus 15

We find the children of Israel on the opposite shore of the Red Sea, having been brought out of the slavery in Egypt by God’s Mighty Hand, led through the Red Sea on dry ground while being chased by the Pharaoh’s chariots, and God destroyed Pharaoh’s armies using the Red Sea. And these were delivered through the Red Sea (which points to Baptism) now sing the Song of Moses:

Exodus 15:1-18 (ESV) | The Song of Moses

15 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a man of war;
    the Lord is his name.

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
    and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
    they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,
    your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
    you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
    the floods stood up in a heap;
    the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
10 You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
    they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand;
    the earth swallowed them.

13 “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
    you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
14 The peoples have heard; they tremble;
    pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
    trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
    all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
16 Terror and dread fall upon them;
    because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O Lord, pass by,
    till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
    the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
18 The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

So, the website has listed the last line of the Song of Moses as a reference for Chris Tomlin’s song. Tomlin’s song doesn’t really capture the themes of this passage. The Song of Moses is a powerful song of praise to the LORD for His Salvation, not in some general sense, but in a very real and tangle sense… these people had just witnessed with their eyes the Strong Hand of the LORD in their deliverance out of Egypt and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army. We see this song referenced in Revelation 15, and it is followed there by the Song of the Lamb:

Revelation 15:1-4 (ESV) | The Seven Angels with Seven Plagues

15 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
    O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
    O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
    and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
    All nations will come
    and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Amen. In all of this, however, we aren’t seeing a strong connection to the lyric of Chris Tomlin’s song. Tomlin’s song focuses on the incarnation of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God… on His birth. The song stays planted in the child in the manger, and then skips to His everlasting reign. Notice in Revelation, the Song of the Lamb begins with His great and amazing deeds. God SAVED us through His Son Jesus… not merely by His birth in a manger, but by His Life, Death, and Resurrection. And His reign didn’t start in the manger, either… for He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. The Gospel isn’t limited to Who Jesus is, it is Who He Is AND What He Did For us, on our behalf, in our place, while we were still His enemies in sin. He shall reign forevermore, and by His Grace we will be with Him in the Resurrection. As far as referencing the Song of Moses goes, rather than have 2 verses and a bridge focused on the child in the manger, I would much rather have a verse on the virgin birth, one of Christ’s finished work on the cross, and a bridge of His ascension to the right Hand of the Father, and a final verse/outro of His Return… and then I’d reference the Exodus 15:1-18; Revelation 15:1-4.

Psalm 146

Again what we will see here is the pulling of the closing line of a song of salvation that covers a lot more territory than Tomlin’s song.

Psalm 146 (ESV) | Put Not Your Trust in Princes

146 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry.

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.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

So we have a song by Chris Tomlin that references the final lines of two songs in the Bible yet manages to cover a lot less ground than either one. As with the Song of Moses, I think this Psalm could have been completely connected with the Birth, Life, Work, and Return of Jesus Christ in a powerful way. I mean this Psalm is so wonderful and points forward to Jesus. I mean, this Psalm is one of the testimonies of Jesus as LORD when He performs the miracles of literally granting eyesight to the blind and feeding the multitudes.

Conclusion

Concerns: As the song stands on its own, the Scripture references presented are misleading. While they meet the low standard of proof-texting, in that a word-search will yield results, the reference text of this song is closer to Matthew 2:1-12, though that wouldn’t cover the refrain or the title of the song. As we saw in the last Hillsong Worship song we covered, we still have void of the present. The song looks to the historical moment of Christ lying in a manger, imagines what the singer would have done if he were there, and then springs into eternity for Christ’s reign. Theologically, there is too much room for error of interpretation when the song fixates on “Baby Jesus” without declaring the works of full-grown Jesus. Too much room to inject bad theology, even aberrant christology as we see happen in Bill Johnson’s (Bethel Redding) teaching. As a corporate worship song, I find it lacking in doctrine and overly reliant on emotional imagery.

Strengths: What is directly being praised concerning the reign of Christ is good. He has reigned, and He shall reign forevermore. I think this is a good song to work into Advent/Christmas worship services where the Service itself can complete the theological picture. The Chorus has a jingle-quality to it that allows one to sing just that part while going about the day.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) | Doxology

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 Jesus,
Jorge

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