Evangelical Worship Edition
January 21, 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 “It Is Well With My Soul” by Matt Redman.
So, when you read that title, you may have thought (as I did), “cool, Matt Redman redid the beloved Hymn by Horatio Spafford. Well, no, Matt didn’t. He just used the refrain from the song.
MattRedman VEVO Live/Lyric Video
Lyrics (via Worship Together)
Our scars are a sign of grace in our lives,
And Father how you brought us through
When deep were the wounds and dark was the night
The promise of Your love You proved.
Now every battle still to come
Let this be our songChorus:
It is well, it is well
With my soul, with my soul
It is well, it is well
with my soulVerse 2:Weeping may come, remain for a night
But joy will paint the morning sky
You’re there in the fast, You’re there in the feast
Your faithfulness will always shine
Now every blessing* still to come
Let this be our songChorusBridge:
You lead us through battles, (You lead us through battles)
You lead us to blessing, (You lead us to blessing)
And You make us fruitful, (And You make us fruitful)
In the land of our suffering GodIt is well, it is well
with my soul!Chorus
Writer(s): Matt Redman, Beth Redman
Theme(s): Commitment & Dedication , Faith & Trust , Peace & Hope
Ministry(s): ThankYou Music
CCLI #: 7000696
Scripture Reference(s): Psalm 62:5
*I changed “battle” to “blessing” here to match the VEVO Live audio in the clip above.
The best thing this song has going for it is that it causes those who know the hymn to think on it rather than these 2 verses. However, if you are unfamiliar with that great hymn… this song doesn’t do much to back-fill the theology. Before we get into that, let’s look at the single-verse proof text cited for this song.
Psalm 62:5 (ESV) For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.
Verse 1. Our scars are a sign of grace in our lives. Perhaps in the most general sense of “you lived through it”, this stands as a valid statement. That you are still breathing is a sign of God’s Grace to you, yes. For believers, it means that God has not yet decided to call you home, so you’ll be relying on His Grace to hold you steadfast a while longer. But our scars also are a sign of sin. A very real and present sign of the sin, death, and the curse. So our scars, on their own, don’t point us to Christ and the Grace of God. The next three lines allude to the cross, but don’t clearly point to it. So we have a verse that mixes two metaphors poorly, one of our scars and another of Christ’s deep wounds and a promise of God’s love. Christ didn’t give His life on the cross for your circumstances, your trials, or your hard times. He gave His life on the cross for your Forgiveness and Reconciliation to God the Father. The original hymn took 2 verses to get to the Gospel of the cross. Our modern-day approach to worship songs tries to condense everything into quaint, simple songs of 2 verses, a chorus, and a bridge/outro that can be repeated ad nauseam. Matt’s song makes an attempt at reflecting upon our own scars, then remembering the cross as God’s grace bringing us through the darkest night in the history of mankind as encouragement that He’ll bring us through all the battles to come… and we’ll do so by singing the refrain, “it is well with my soul”. As a story arc, I’m okay with that to a degree, but it’s not stated plainly enough. There are lots of other ways to interpret the artistically vague lines in the verse. It starts by looking at our own scars, poetically alludes to the cross, then launches into the refrain, as if the point is to get the listener to “align their faith with God’s promises for their lives” or “accept that God is in control”. These are law-heavy themes prevalent in Word of Faith (WoF) and Prosperity teaching where the promises of God have to be proclaimed, declared, and decreed with as much faith as you can muster, otherwise they might be blocked by your own unbelief, negative self-talk, complaining, or law-breaking (not tithing, unrepentant sin, etc). I say all of this to point out that whenever the lyric is vague, the doctrine/theology of the venue determines the meaning of the song.
Chorus. The chorus is the refrain from the old hymn. In the original hymn, it takes 6 verses to lay out the theology that enables the singer/hearer to confess trusting in the LORD despite his circumstances. In spite of trials and struggles, the author is proclaiming the Gospel and confessing that by faith, it is well with his soul. Matt Redman hasn’t built up to that just yet, and with only one more verse and a bridge to go, it’s not looking great. Again, those of us familiar with the hymn are ahead of the curve for rightly understanding what is behind the refrain. The refrain is both a confession and a watermark or goal much like “be anxious for nothing…” (Phil 4:6). It’s not a law to be kept, for it’s not something you can do to keep it… it is Gospel, good news, something that is only made available to you by faith in Christ Jesus. When our eyes turn to our circumstances or to our own strength, we fail… we become anxious… we become troubled… we sin in looking away from our Savior. Repentance is available for that, and His Grace will carry us through and restore us every time we cry out to Him. Don’t let this refrain become a burden or a rebuke for feeling sorrow. Don’t let become an empty statement, either. Let it be a prayer and a confession of faith in Christ Jesus.
Verse 2. I don’t like the first two lines as presented in this song. They do come from Psalm 30, but the lines fit a more metaphorical sense… as in seasons rather than literal night and day reversals of circumstances. That is the sort of thing that can happen when you only grab the second half of the verse.
Psalm 30:5 (ESV)
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
You see, the Psalmist sets up the idea by contrasting the momentary Anger of the LORD against His Favor for a lifetime. When we endure punishment for our wrong doing, we who are of Faith repent and are forgiven by His Grace to spend an eternity with Him. So the night/morning is much bigger than getting over “having a bad day”. The song doesn’t do a good job of setting that in motion here. I suppose if the hearer were familiar with Psalm 30, then perhaps there’s no harm done. But having grown up in WoF churches… this passage is used to bolster many a “decree / declare” victory speech. The rest of the verse isn’t bad, I don’t feel like picking it apart. But we’ve finished the second verse without a clear Gospel. We have an empty promise setup by the Ps 30:5b being presented as a Promise from God that “things will be better in the morning”. They might not… not temporally, anyway… and that might be all in God’s Will… for His Glory and your benefit, even if you can’t see it. The cancer may kill, the surgery might fail, the ship may sink (as it did in 1873). The Gospel is our hope, and it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which grants us the faith needed to confess, It is well with my soul.
Bridge. Typical of Redman, Passion, Hillsong, … we get a victorious overcomer pep-rally cheer in the bridge. This is the part you repeat… and repeat… throw in a chorus… then repeat…. because this is the Positive Atmosphere or purpose-driven dream destiny thingy.
Let’s take a better look at Psalm 62.
Psalm 62 (ESV) | My Soul Waits for God Alone
To the choirmaster: according to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David.
62 For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
3 How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse. Selah
5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah
9 Those of low estate are but a breath;
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
10 Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.
11 Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work.
Did Matt Redman capture the theology of the Psalm in this song? I don’t think so. I wish he had, though… it’s a wonderful Psalm.
The music portion of song is fine… upbeat tempo, modern instrumentation, easily sung by a group of people. But lyrically, its a bit of a flop. I don’t know why we’ve abandoned writing 4-6 verses to a song to fully express theology. It’s not for brevity’s sake since we’ve also included Intros, Instrumentals, and repeated Bridges. The original hymn needed 6 verses to explain the refrain. We need to get back to writing songs that clearly express doctrine/theology rather than the current model of “artistically vague” just to broaden the marketing pool for increased revenue. Theologically rich worship songs aren’t going to be bought up by those who no longer endure sound doctrine, and we need to be okay with that.
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,