A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me; thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 23. It’s one of the most beloved passages in history. It’s also one of the first passages of scripture that I was taught as a kid. Have you ever noticed the change in perspective, though? In all my years of hearing and even memorizing this great Psalm, no one pointed this perspective shift out to me until recently. For all you grammar gurus out there (of which I am not one), David starts out, “The Lord is my Shepherd” (referring to the Lord in the 3rd person perspective). Then, in verse 4, he makes a hard switch to 2nd person perspective, “…for thou art with me;…”
It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but this seemingly small perspective shift has forever changed my perspective as a worship leader. David didn’t say, “For God is with me.” David said, “For thou art with me.” In other words, David stops talking about God and begins talking directly to God. All of a sudden, he is speaking directly to the One that his heart is after. Y’all, the more I look at this familiar old passage, the more beautiful it is to me. It’s almost as if David is overcome with a heart of worship. We’ll never know how many choruses it took, but when David’s song reaches the part about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, it’s like all bets are off. David isn’t satisfied with just singing about God anymore, David launches into musical prayer, directly addressing God Himself!
”…for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou anointest my head with oil…”
Remember, David was a musician, and this is arguably one of his greatest works. But somewhere along the way, David’s song became a conversation. David’s song became a prayer. Why would David do this?
What happens when our songs become prayers? What happens when our songs become a conversation?
Faith happens! Our song becomes a declaration of faith! In verse 4, David is suddenly speaking over his life the faithfulness of his God. If you are a worshipper of Christ, this is key. David is giving us a glimpse inside of his heart, and what beats there is lion taming, giant slaying faith- as fierce as it is passionate!
In contrast to David’s fierce passion, a weird memory comes to mind. If you were raised like me, basically on a church pew, then you remember hymns. I still sing some of them in my church today. I still love them. They’re thought provoking and often rich in theology. Oddly enough though, I have these memories as a kid where people seemed bored while singing these songs. I’m almost half a lifetime removed from that time in my life now and in another era of worship altogether, but it seems so odd to look back on it in hindsight… to think that anyone touched and changed by grace could ever sing, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” like they were bored out of their mind?! Anyway, verse 4 of David’s song has finally shed some light on this for me—some needed clarity. You see, I think the reason certain folks had no passion for hymns back in the day is the same reason that many folks sing with such little passion today… because unlike David, they have not entered into the conversation of praise. Their song is not yet a prayer. They have yet to mingle their faith with their song. This has changed everything for me.
I even believe this is why praise music is different from all the other music of the world.
Have you ever wondered about that? What is the difference? We all use the same formula; the same keys, the same notes on the musical scale. What makes God’s music any different? I believe this is it! I believe this is why!
Take a quick journey with me on the Forge today. Because somewhere between the music and lyrics, that is exactly what happens for the worshipper— a crazy, ordained journey:
Imagine with me and listen as the music calls to us from our instruments in that universal language we all understand… beauty. But for all of music’s remarkable beauty, it is not the key. Notes crescendo and the music carries the rhyme and rhythm of words wrapped inside of its melody. But even words, as passionate and powerful as they are, they are not the key! Glory is due and the God of heaven is listening. The Holy Spirit draws near, engaging the heart of man and woman, and this my friends, is where the singer and song are transformed. And just like David, we launch into the mystery of verse 4!
This is the moment a song becomes a prayer and prayer a declaration of faith! And there, in that sacred place where God, faith, beauty, and words meet, music becomes a conversation of praise! Suddenly, we are no longer just singing a song about God in a building called church, we’re standing before His throne in direct communion! We’re standing before the God that Psalm 22:3 says is enthroned in the praises of His people!
Great is thy faithfulness
Great is thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed thy hand hath provided
Great is thy faithfulness
Lord unto me
I invite you to shift your perspective today. Young or old, it doesn’t matter. Let faith rise as we set our sights higher. Let’s join David and make our song a throne-room journey of prayer, throw our heads back, and step into the conversation of praise!