There is a catch phrase going around the evangelical world amongst those who are critical of contemporary Christian music; they call it “7-11 music” … meaning by that, that the same seven words get repeated 11 times.
I guess this is supposed to come off as damningly cute. I guess the repeating of the same little ditty that is a chorus tacked on to many hymns is categorically different. Or, as I’ve answered these critics about contemporary repetition, “You mean like ‘Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me’?”
Before I lose the traditionalists or give the contemporarians a false sense of unbridled support, let me say two things …
First, I’m not against traditional music and hymns. I wish honestly the evangelical world had not changed. In almost every crowd of traditionalists pining the loss of hymnody, I’m the one person standing there with a classical music degree who had the most to lose. It certainly did not help my plans for a sacred music career to see choirs and orchestras and classical constructions get relegated to the dark recesses of the corner cabinets in the kitchen.
But music genres in the evangelical church did change. And the point is this: What they changed from is neither more right or wrong or better or worse than what they changed to. That tide goes the other direction as well.
And secondly, neither side can throw at the other such castigations as “7-11 music” or “silly hymn repetition” and do so from any spiritual high ground. Not without trashing Psalm 136 – our devotional for today. In this divinely inspired song of the Scriptures (which, by the way means it trumps both Isaac Watts and Michael W. Smith equally), the same four words repeat 26 times … if you miss the literary device, the words are “His love endures forever.”
I am guessing the writer (under inspiration of the Holy Spirit) wanted the main idea of God’s enduring love to be emphasized and remembered! Indeed! It is at the heart of the message about the relationship between God and Israel … and about God and His redeemed and chosen people of all time – that his covenant love (on a promise purchased and sealed with blood) is dependable for all time.
Among the themes in Psalm 136 which give testimony to God’s enduring love are these: He is the God above all Gods, he is the creator, he is the sustainer. He struck down the Egyptian oppressors of Israel and delivered his people through the Red Sea. God then sustained them through the wilderness while making them victors over powerful kings – giving those lands to his people as an inheritance. And beyond that, God remembers our “low estate” … that we are but flesh and blood, and He sustains his people as they trust in Him.
Wow! His love endures forever … indeed!
As we leave the Praise Psalms after today (though we will see praise in many others we study this summer), let me make an additional word about praise and worship.
We are to be people of worship by our praise and adoration of God day in and day out of our lives in our personal relationship with him. But when we come together with others of the faith, we have an opportunity to kick that worship up a notch and do it together in a way you just can’t do it by yourself! Bam!
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights—His love endures forever.
8 the sun to govern the day, His love endures forever.
9 the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them, His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.
13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunder, His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it, His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness; His love endures forever.
17 to him who struck down great kings, His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings—His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites, His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan—His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance, His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel. His love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our low estate, His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies. His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.