I always feel bad for singers who botch the National Anthem.
In May, 2013, folk and jazz singer Alexis Normand, a Canadian from Saskatoon, said she only had a few hours to learn America’s National Anthem before she sang at a hockey game. A headline dubbed her butchered rendition the “Star-Mangled Banner.”
But she’s Canadian. Easy to forgive. (The crowd even tried to help her, singing along.)
It’s a tough song to sing with its wide vocal range and potential for a squeaky “land of the fre-e-e-e-e-e-e” at the highest note.
Country musician Luke Bryan was criticized when he read the words to the anthem off his hand at a MLB All-Star game (July, 2012). But Superstar Michael Bolton also had crib notes.
National Anthem word blunders include Cyndi Lauper’s “…as our flag was still streaming;” Christiana Aguilera’s “What so proudly we hailed” (instead of “…we watched”); and Scotty McCreery’s “no Jose can you see.”
If some of these singers weren’t so young, I’d chalk it up to age. (A funny card describes aging as: “Remembering the words to every song from the ‘ 80s, but forgetting why you walked into the next room.”)
While heading in my car toward a lunch engagement, I decided to sing some old hymns of the faith.
It started well with “How Great Thou Art,” but then I forgot the lyrics of other songs.
The sweet “Fairest Lord Jesus” became “Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature, O thou of God ….mmmmmmmmmmmm… Thee will I cherish, thee will I honor …mmmmmmmm.”
I tried another and destroyed those lyrics too: “Come thou fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace…… mmmmmmmmmmm.” (I knew the words “melodious sonnet” and “I raise my Ebinezer” were somewhere in there. Distracted, I paused to ask, “What’s an Ebinezer?”)
Song after song, words escaped me.
What’s wrong with me? I asked in frustration. I can’t remember all these songs I loved. (The same thing is happening, by the way, with scripture verses I memorized. What we don’t use, we lose!)
Still driving, I started thinking about music in heaven. I knew that singing began in eternity past when the “morning stars” (angels) sang (Job 38:7); and the book of Revelation says there will be singing in heaven.
I wondered, will we all sing the songs of our generations for Jesus? Think about it …
Israel often worshiped God in song (the Songs of Moses and Miriam in Exodus 15:1-21, the Song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5). The Old Testament saints often sang from their Hebrew Hymnal, the psalms. Will they lead us in these songs? Revelation 15:1-4 tells us the saints of heaven will “sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.”
What is the song of the Lamb? What did the New Testament church sing? Remember faithful Paul and Silas singing in prison (Acts 16:25)? The early Christians considered singing an integral part of their worship (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16). Will they teach us those songs from the infancy of the church?
I thought about the music of believers through many centuries. Are there songs from the years of persecution? How about the sturdy hymns of Reformation saints?
What about the songs I’ve sung all my life? Will I sing stirring revival hymns in heaven? Gospel tunes? “Bus songs”? Or are all these songs simply for a specific time and place?
As I contemplated the music of heaven, I remembered a scripture verse that begins …
“And they sang a new song….”
Later, I looked up that scripture. It’s part of the Revelation 5 account of the Lamb of God opening a scroll (an official document), acknowledging His Lordship over the entire earth – His right to judge and reign.
Verses 9-10 describe the scene: “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
I’m not sure those are the actual words of the song we’ll sing in heaven. Maybe it’s more the reason for the song.
And what a song that will be! A song of redemption. A testimony of God’s grace. The context of heaven’s powerful songs is worship.
Heaven will resonate with God-centered praises.
God has designed each of us with the capacity to worship. We all worship something or someone.
As I reflect on the songs that most stir my heart to worship God, I long for more songs that are packed with biblical truth (such as the Gettys’ “In Christ Alone”).
David said God put a “new song” in his heart – a song reflecting God’s goodness and grace in rescuing him (see Psalm 40:1-3). Because of the song, he said, “Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” As we lift up our praises to God – proclaiming what He has done for us in Christ, using the truth of scripture in our songs, and worshiping Him in the beauty of holiness (Psalm 96:9a) – I believe the Spirit of God may draw people to Himself and prepare them to hear the Gospel.
As you meditate on these scriptures, understand that our “new song” of salvation blesses God and invites all of creation to join us in worship.
“Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth” (Isaiah 42:10a).
“Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day” (1 Chronicles 16:23).
“Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day (Psalm 96:1-2).
“Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works” (Psalm 105:2).
These are the songs we love, and the songs we will never forget.