[notice]Hugh Wetmore is a songwriter and student of worship trends. He invites you to join the worship conversation by commenting on his monthly column.[/notice]
Moses – that courageous 80-year old prophet who zapped a million-plus slaves from under the nose of the mighty Pharaoh of Egypt, and led them for 40 years through hostile desert territory. God had given him a tough assignment: to organise these disparate 12 tribes into a cohesive nation. He received their national Constitution from God on the smoking mountain, and delivered it to those stubborn tribes who were celebrating his ‘disappearance’ with an idolatrous orgy. He often rebuked them for their disobedience. He had a hard time keeping the million-plus rebels in line. They wanted to return to Egypt. They didn’t like his leadership style. But God wouldn’t let him resign.
Shortly before he died aged 120 on the border of the Promised Land, Moses passionately preached the sermons that make up the Book of Deuteronomy. He reminded the people of God’s laws, and pleaded with them to loyally follow Yahweh. But as he preached, he knew they would continue to rebel, and serve foreign gods. They would forget his sermons. And God knew that too.
That’s why God told Moses to “write his sermons into a Song” (Deut 31:19). That Song of Moses is in chapter 32. We still sing from that Song today: “Ascribe greatness to our God, the Rock” (Deut 32:4 in Songs of Fellowship 26) and this Song of Moses is sung in heaven too ~ Revelation 15:3,4.
God knows that we forget most Sermons, but we do not forget most Songs! Music cuts grooves in our minds, and the lyrics stick in those grooves. I was called to the death-bed of an old lady who wanted me to “be her minister”, (= “conduct her funeral”). “What hymns shall we sing?” “I don’t know any hymns. I last went to church as a teenager.” I played a CD, and, yes, she mouthed the words of “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine”. Those words had stuck in the music-grooves of her mind, and the tune evoked them 50 years later. They helped her trust Jesus and experience her own “blessed assurance”.
The Message of Christ is evangelistic too. Don Burling sings in pubs and on street corners in London. He sings “Sermons in Song” (the title of his published compilation) because “singers are welcome in places where it would not be possible to preach”.
So let’s use God’s gift of Music not only in Vertical Praise and Worship, but also in Horizontal Messaging the Text of God’s Word. Choose Songs with a Message to “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16). Back up the Sermon with Song, as Moses did. Because that’s why he wrote that Song!