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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Icky Song: Better is One Day


Perhaps this is a bad idea…but I am going to try it and see how it goes. After a couple recent conversations, I have decided that many of our classic worship songs have some theological holes. What I am going to begin to do, with this post, is look at a few modern worship songs and dissect their theology. Perhaps a better way to put it is, I am going to talk about why I feel icky when I sing this song.

I am going to begin with a song straight form the book of Psalms. Who am I to critique the theology of David (or whoever authored this psalm)? Good point…maybe I won’t. Let me just explain why this song makes me feel icky.


How lovely is
Your dwelling place
Oh Lord Almighty,
For my soul longs
And even faints
For You
Oh, here my heart
Is satisfied (is satisfied)
Within Your presence
I see beneath
The shadow of
Your wings

To be honest with you, the first verse is just fine. While there is some verbage that could be nitpicked (satisfied, shadow)…my soul does long for God...and at this point in the song I am hoping that God’s dwelling place is referring to more than God’s courts. Which takes us to the chorus…

Better is one day in Your courts
Better is one day in Your house
Better is one day in Your courts
Than thousands elsewhere

This chorus makes me angry. In scripture, the author is writing this Psalm, speaking of the temple or a tabernacle. The author is talking about the pre-Jesus location where God was said to dwell. At a tabernacle there were altars, incense, sacrifices, etc. It was here where God was worshiped and where God was said to respond. In the midst of war, trial, and disease they went to the temple to escape the chaos of their world. It was here that people had an encounter with God. When I look back at the Old Testament days, I think, “Ya, I would definitely have wanted to be in the temple for one day rather than be out at war getting stonned and stabbed.” Tabernacles, “God’s courts”, were a vital place for the OT people of God. But today things are different. Today we are in a POST-Jesus age and it feels weird to sing those words. If we believe in the incarnation, that Jesus came to earth, and if we believe in the Pentecost, that the spirit of God was left here with his people…then we should not be singing about an escape to the courts of God. God is among us. God is in nature. God is in you. God is in me. Soooo…why in the world would we refer to an “elsewhere”? Is not all of earth God’s courts?

One thing I ask,
And I would seek,
To see Your beauty
To find You in
The place Your glory dwells

This verse makes me cry. Now again, perhaps I just feel icky because I feel like this song was written for pre-incarnation/pre-pentecost times, but why in the world are we asking to see God’s beauty. OPEN YOUR EYES! Come up to my roof top on a clear day here in Seattle…watch the sunset over the sound and marvel at the six or seven different colors that show themselves. There is beauty everywhere. God dwells everywhere. Around every corner, in every tree, in every mountain, in every rain drop (imagine that seatlites!).

So there. That is why singing this song makes me feel icky. I am not trying to communicate that the song is evil, or that those who program it should go to seminary (I programmed the hell out of this song at HC3), I am simply saying that this song does not use language that I would use to communicate with the God of the universe that I encounter daily.

Any suggestions for the next “why singing this song makes me feel icky?"

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