Monday, November 10, 2014

ALAS! AND DID MY SAVIOR BLEED? Should we sing about our sin nature?

(Is Our Sin Nature Something To Sing About)
About thirty years ago when my friend, Phil, got saved, he began reading through his Bible starting with Genesis.  One day while we were discussing his thoughts about his reading, he observed that – “all those guys (the patriarchs) were dirty rotten low-life scumbags just like me.” I thought that was pretty insightful.  It was revelatory for him.  If God could save them, He certainly could save Phil.

People were no different then, than we are today.  We all have the same problem.  It is our sin nature. It is universal. We are all dirty. We are all disgusting. The reformers called it Depravity.

So for our song service in church this Sunday, I was looking for hymns that addressed that problem.  In the past, there were hymn writers who dealt explicitly about our sinfulness and its consequences.  But songs on those themes are rare today.

Our contemporary culture with its fixation on positive self-esteem, likes to  obscure the reality of sin in more palatable terms like “missing the mark,” “shortcomings,” “failures,” or “errors.”   But sin is not an error.  An error is like when you forget to carry a digit when you add a column of numbers.

Do we really want to sing about the darkness of our sinfulness?   I know that it seems strange but, when contrasted with the sinless perfection of our Savior, our redemption shines even brighter and those songs become much more meaningful.  We can never fully appreciate all that God has done to save us until we get a clear picture of what we really are outside of Christ.

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed? is a song that was written by Isaac Watts.  In spite of the fact that many modern editors have changed the last line of the first verse of This hymn to “For sinners such as I”  (or even worse, “for such a one as I”) Isaac Watts was purposefully deliberate in crafting the phrase the way, “for such a worm as I.”

And he was certainly biblical in that description.  In the book of Job, Bildad raised the question: How then can man be righteous before God?”  “Man…is a maggot, and…a worm.”  

And in Psalm 22, David (speaking prophetically, the words of Christ) cried out to God saying, “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people.”  In Isa. is a strange Word of encouragement from God to Israel, “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you,’ says the LORD and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel”

Isaac Watts drew his inspiration from Psalm 51 when he wrote these words in another hymn:
         “Lord, I am vile, conceived in sin,

                  And born unholy and unclean;
         Sprung from the man whose guilty fall

                  Corrupts the race, and taints us all.”

That is sound, biblical theology.  Apart from the intervention of God’s sovereign grace, we are utterly helpless and hopeless.  And it’s in that context that we should sing reverently and soberly:
         “Was it for crimes that I had done

                  He groaned upon the tree?
         Amazing pity! Grace unknown! 

                  And love beyond degree!”

But it’s also in that context of God’s grace in our salvation, that we can sing, with great joy and thanksgiving, words like these from the great hymn, “It Is Well” by Horatio Spafford:
    “My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
            My sin, not in part but the whole,

    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
            Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”



1 comment:

Grace to You said...

Some of my favorite hymns that deal with the subject at hand:

Great God of Wonders

Great God of wonders! all Thy ways
Display Thine attributes divine;
But the bright glories of Thy grace
Above Thine other wonders shine:

Such deep transgressions to forgive!
Such guilty sinners thus to spare!
This is Thy grand prerogative
And in this honor none shall share:

Pardon, from an offended God!
Pardon, for sins of deepest dye!
Pardon, bestowed through Jesus' blood!
Pardon, that brings the rebel nigh!

Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?

My Redeemer

My Redeemer, oh what beauties
in that lovely name appear;
None but Jesus in His glories
Shall the honored title wear.
My Redeemer, my Redeemer,
Thou hast my salvation wrought.

Sunk in ruin, sin, and misery,
Bound by Satan's captive chain,
Guided by his artful treachr'y,
Hurrying on to endless pain.
My Redeemer, my Redeemer,
Plucked me as a brand from hell.

Mine by cov'nant, mine forever,
Mine by oath and mine by blood;
Mine-nor time the bond shall sever,
Mine as an unchanging God.
My Redeemer, my Redeemer,
Oh, how sweet to call Thee mine!

When in heav'n I see Thy glory,
When before Thy throne I bow,
Perfected I shall be like Thee,
Fully Thy redemption know.
My Redeemer, my Redeemer,
Then shall hear me shout His praise.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

"Man of Sorrows," what a name
For the Son of God Who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood;
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
"Full atonement!" can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die,
"It is finished," was His cry;
Now in heav'n exalted high;
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we'll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

We sing hymns like this every Sunday - you're right, it is helpful to remember why we needed a Savior in the first place.