In my quest for new worship songs - new to our church, that is - I found a list of the most popular songs in the country. Topping this list are songs like "How Great is Our God", "Here I Am to Worship" and "Open the Eyes of My Heart". There is, however, one song on this list that I am disturbed by: "Blessed be the Name of the Lord".
By title, most would wonder what my issue is with such a heartfelt and biblical statement. It is not the title of the song I am disturbed with, nor the majority of the song in fact. What disturbs me is one simple line that most people pay very little attention to: "You give and take away, You give and take away".
I myself have been swept up in the moment and the glory of this song, seen congregation unashamedly lifting their hands in worship crying out, "you give and take away, you give and take away". Wait a minute here... Didn't we just sing "Open the Eyes of My Heart"? My eyes were opened. I don't know about you, but I serve a God who gives life and life abundantly at that (John 10:10). If I recall the verse correctly, it is the devil who has come to kill, steal and destroy. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't it a contradiction for God to say at one time that He gives abundant life and in the next breath say He takes away?
"But it's biblical!". I've heard this argument more times than I care to admit. Let's do a little research before we open our big mouths, here. Job 1:21 says, "...the LORD gave and the LORD has taken away..." Yes! This is in the Bible, surely it is something we can sing about! You can sing about whatever you want to, but I refuse in a time of worship to tell my loving, giving, nuturing God that he has taken away from me!
In four years of Bible school attendance (perfect attendance might I brag!) I learned many things, one of which is to look at the context in which things are said before we make it gospel truth. (Yes, yes, I know that the whole of the Bible is Gospel Truth, but hear me out.) Let's take a look at what's been going on in Jobs life up to this point:
- all but one of Job's servants in a field were slain by the Sabeans, who also took all his oxen and donkeys
- again, all but one of the servants in another field were burned up along with all his sheep
- yet again, all but one of the servants were killed by the Chaldeans who also took all the camels
- once more, all but one of the servants were killed when a strong wind came causing the house to collapse. All his children were killed as well.
So in a matter of minutes it seems, Job has lost everything he had in the world. It is at this point where he shaves his head, tears his robe and cried out, "...the LORD gave and the LORD has taken away..." The next verse says, "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing." Here is where most people would say that they have made their argument and rest their case.
Let's back the Mack truck up. In Job 1:6 Satan comes along to have a chat with God. Job's name comes into the conversation. God tells Satan how loyal Job is. Satan asks God to strike everything Job has. Satan's goal: to get Job to curse God. God gives in and tells Satan that everything Job has is in his (Satan's) hands, but he cannot lay a finger on Job. Satan then takes his leave of God's presence.
It is after this conversation that Job loses everything he has. Hmm... coincidence? I think not. God allowed Satan to do his thing to make a point. (Let's remember that when Adam sinned in the garden that Satan was given dominion on the earth, he does have the rite if we let him...) It was Satan who took the cattle and killed the servants and children. Job cried out in his anguish.
So here is what we know. It was a mere man who spoke the words, "the LORD gave and the LORD has taken away", this man had just lost everything he owned and God and Satan had already had a discussion about Job's earthly belongings. It was God who gave, but not God who had taken away.
All of this just to explain my beef with a song. I cannot justify raising my hands while crying out the lyrics "you give and take away, you give and take away". The God I worship is a God who provides, the God of complete wholeness, the God who is more than enough. God is love and wants us to love Him. What kind of person, when seeking the love of others, takes something from them?
Sing what you want, but remember to take the time and think about the words that leave your lips. Who are you praising and why? Do your words reflect the one you worship?
Stay tuned for another beef with another commonly misquoted verse...