Worship & Theology: How He Loves

Worship & Theology is a series of posts produced by the members of our worship team to explore the spiritual and biblical meaning found within some of the songs we sing.  Our hope is that these posts would increase our understanding of God and our love for Him, while adding depth to our time of worship together.  Enjoy.


Would you believe this song was the result of an angry conversation with God following the death of the author’s best friend in a car wreck?  At first, it seems like a surprising response.  But the song takes our cultural norms and perceptions about love – that it’s pretty, cute, easy, and clean – and tears them apart at the seams by showing how (not just how much) God loves us.

We tend to focus on the chorus of this song.  It feels good to sing that God loves us, but if we don’t see those words through the lens of each verse, we’re missing the theme.  The real message of the song is in the verses, where we find a celebration of the nature of God and the character of His love – the why and how of it.  The chorus is a summary, but there is so much meaning between the lines that we can miss if we don’t examine the word “love.”
 

Jealous God

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

In Exodus 20, God says to Moses “…for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”  This is part of the 2nd commandment, where God admonishes against idols. That’s similar to the 1st commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.”  Remember, the commandments aren’t a set of rules as much as they are an identity and purpose for the people of God.  See, He loves us.  He is even (righteously) jealous for us. He desires us.

I love the imagery of this song.  Think of the worst hurricane you’ve even heard of.  Now imagine it’s infinitely long and you were born somewhere in the middle of it.  No one knows exactly how long the wind’s been blowing, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.  If we truly felt the weight of God’s love for us, we couldn’t stand up under it.  No matter how we fight it, his love is relentless – we bend and fold under it until it consumes us.  Hallelujah.

And then we see God’s glory and all of our afflictions are overwhelmingly covered, eclipsed, by it through God’s goodness and grace.  Afflictions could mean sins, relationship problems, diseases, or identity issues.  What are your afflictions?  God is more that sufficient to cover them.
 

How does God love us?

Oh, how He loves us so
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us so.
 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us. - 1 John 4:16-19 (NIV)

 
His love is reliable and unfailing.  He loves us in the way we need to be loved – enough to save us, so we can rely on that love, because we can’t be saved any other way.  He loves us completely (perfectly), in a way to draw us in through our submission, not to intimidate us into trying to earn salvation (see Ephesians 2:8-9).  He loved us first, and continues to love us even when we don’t love Him.  Even when we turn our backs, He will always love us first.

The words to the chorus are a good reminder of God’s love for us, but let’s look to the next verse to further discover His character.

Why?

We are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean we’re all sinking
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way…

 

But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.  He found him in the desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept his as the apple of his eye. - Deuteronomy 32:9-10 (ESV)


We are God’s portion, set aside because he has claimed us as His own.  He chose us first, and it is because we are chosen that we can be reconciled to Him.  We’re drawn by his grace and love.  He is our prize.  In verse 10 above (and in verses 11-14 of the same passage), the Lord guided, fed, and cared for his people in the desert.  He is what we strive for.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, Paul wrote about athletes running a race.  Paul wrote, “They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”  Jesus is our risen-from-the-dead, imperishable, eternal prize.  Paul also wrote in Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Jesus attained it for us, because we couldn’t.
 

More Imagery

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people. - Titus 2:11

We’re sinking in the ocean of God’s grace.  First, as we learn His heart, we are continually flooded by his unending grace.  Second, we need His grace more every day.  Since He desires us, He gives us the grace we need to be with Him forever.  The image of sinking alludes to the real “how” of the love we’ve been talking about.  Sinking means we’re getting soaked from head to toe. 

Then there’s the “sloppy wet kiss.”   Does that seem uncomfortable, or even gross, to sing?  Good, that means you’re beginning to understand.  It’s sloppy and wet because it’s not clean or glamorous.  It has to be a kiss because of the intimacy of it.  I think of Judas, betraying Jesus by brushing his lips against the cheek of his master.  But Jesus, sloppy and wet, endured the dirty cross so He could spend eternity with lost, gross, sin-soaked people who have nothing but filthy rags to offer Him.  And we often hoard even those rags from Him.

In spite of us, He loves us.

You might be thinking David Crowder’s version of the song says “unforeseen kiss.”  You’re right.  Crowder is right too.  Unforeseen means not anticipated or predicted.  This song was written after a very angry time in the writer’s life.  It was unforeseen that even during that anger and sin, God was there, loving, and that God would remind the writer who He is and who we are in Him – gently, like a kiss.

And the love story of God’s pursuit of us is wonderful.  Our only natural reaction is for our hearts to turn violently inside our chests, an outpouring of deepest joy from the core.  And when we get His love for us, it consumes us.  There’s no time or need to dwell on our past sins or shortcomings because God’s love and grace cover all of time.

The prodigal son was dirty, smelly, and covered in filth.  But when he was a long way off, his father ran to him, probably sweating along the way – adding even so to the mess of the ensuing embrace.

In light of this new perspective on love:

He loves us!
Oh, how He loves us!
Oh, how He loves us!
Oh, how He loves!


David Henderson lives in Dallas with his wife Victoria, who likes to bake pies to the glory of God.  David has played in various worship bands since middle school and took his skills to Penn State where he played drums for their prestigious band and helped lead worship with the Navigators, a national college ministry.  You can reach him at david.a.hend@gmail.com.

Worship & Theology: You Hold Me Now

Worship & Theology is a series of posts produced by the members of our worship team to explore the spiritual and biblical meaning found within some of the songs we sing.  Our hope is that these posts would increase our understanding of God and our love for Him, while adding depth to our time of worship together.  Enjoy.


VERSE 1:
On that day when I see
All that You have for me
When I see You face to face
There surrounded by Your grace
All my fears swept away
In the light of Your embrace
Where Your love is all I need
And forever I am free

PRE CHORUS 1:
Where the streets are made of gold
In Your presence healed and whole
Let the songs of heaven
Rise to You alone

CHORUS:
No weeping no hurt or pain
No suffering You hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness no sick or lame
No hiding You hold me now
You hold me now

VERSE 2:
In this life I will stand
Through my joy and my pain
Knowing theres a greater day
Theres a hope that never fails
Where Your Name is lifted high
And forever praises rise
For the glory of Your Name
Im believing for the day

PRE CHORUS 2:
Where the wars and violence cease
All creation lives in peace
Let the songs of heaven
Rise to You alone

BRIDGE:
For eternity
All my heart will give
All the glory to Your Name


My initial desire to dive deeper into this song was driven by two thoughts that I had previously never fully explored. The first was that there simply aren’t very many contemporary worship songs about Heaven. The “life to come” was a common topic of traditional hymns but for some reason today’s songwriters tend to shy away from it. Because this song is one of a select few, I wanted to further explore how it depicts Heaven and if it aligns with the truth of Scripture. My second curiosity was the subject direction of the lyrics. On initial inspection, it seems to be a song primarily focused on us – on the depravity of our human nature – not about God or His work in the world. After some study of the lyrics it has become clear that this song is a plea to our God. It expresses a deep longing for the coming of Christ, the restoration of the Earth, and reconciliation with our Father. 

Before I jump in, I want to lay out a few truths about Heaven that will serve as a basis for the discussion to come. First, Heaven is not a place in the sky, nor just a place to which we will go. The Bible states that God is currently doing and will continue to do a restoring work in the world. He will establish the New Jerusalem on Earth and reconcile his people back to Him upon His return. 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God…’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ – Revelation 21:1-3, 5 

We must always bear in mind that God intends to restore His people and His creation. This is a process of which all believers are called to be a part. (For more about the restoration of the world, I suggest N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope.) 

The Song

The structure of the song is reasonably straight forward but an explanation helps illuminate the intention. The first verse, pre-chorus, and chorus are written about the future. The second verse reverts to the present to reflect on the writer’s current condition, and then transitions back to the future for the second pre-chorus through the end of the song. After reflecting on the lyrics and the nature of this present/future flipping, the text no longer strikes me as humanity focused. This is a song of longing for the restoration of the Earth and reconciliation with our Father. As such, when we sing these words, it should not be a celebration of how great we will have it when we get to heaven but rather an expression of our soul’s desire to be reunited with God. 

The majority of the song comes directly from Revelation 21 where the author, John, is describing his vision about the New Heaven, New Earth, and New Jerusalem. These verses describe the fulfillment of prophecies from Isaiah which promise, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” (25:8) “The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (35:10) 

In general, the verses are poetic interpretations of the fulfillment of God’s promises. The pre-choruses and choruses come directly from Scripture. Instead of going line-by-line, here are a few notable things: 

1. The reference to seeing God “face to face” in the first verse brings to mind the Old Testament teaching that no one can look at the face of God and live. (Exodus 33:20) Once we are reconciled to Him in the New Jerusalem, we will be able to see the face of our God as he welcomes us home. 

2. Most of us are familiar with images of golden streets (Rev. 21:21) and the absence of weeping, death, and pain (Rev. 21:4), but the notion of “no darkness” was new to me. Here the glory of God and Christ are illustrated as the only light source present in the New Jerusalem, sufficient for banishing all darkness: 

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk… – Revelation 21:23-24a 

3. There is no mention of “no hiding” in Revelation, but perhaps this is a reference to Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve, because of their shame, hid from the presence of God. How often do we, like Adam and Eve, foolishly attempt to hide from a loving, omniscient God? When we are fully reconciled to Him, there will be no need or desire to hide from our Father’s presence. 

4. Finally, the bridge is where the song culminates in a great proclamation of what it will be like when the longing of our hearts is fulfilled and we are reconciled to Him. “For eternity; All my heart will give; All the glory to Your name.” 

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’ – Revelation 7:9-12 

The Response 

Although I am now more comfortable with the content of this song and truly believe that it is genuinely God-focused, I must examine myself in light of my new understanding of the lyrics’ intentions. If this is truly a song of longing for reconciliation with God, am I always in a place to sing it with integrity? Is the true desire of my heart for Heaven to come to Earth at any moment? If I’m being honest, how often do I want Heaven to come next week once I’ve finished that book, or next month after I’ve come back from that vacation I’ve been planning for the last six months? 

I need to spend time examining my priorities to be sure they align with my Heavenly Father’s. If I’m constantly longing for reconciliation to Him, I must also constantly insist on being a part of the restoring work He is doing in the world and constantly prepared for the coming of the New Jerusalem. 


Geoff Kornegay lives in east Dallas with his wife Katy. When Geoff is not playing a variety of stringed instruments, he is working as an intern architect at HKS Inc. in their sports division. You can reach him at gakornegay@gmail.com.