One of the great benefits of living at this time in history is the wealth of resources and encouragement that believers who lived before us have left behind. Among those treasures are the hymns and songs. Some of the people from the past who loved Jesus also loved to write down Bible truths in eloquent poetry. Those gems set to music still carry the Bible’s comfort, encouragement, and hope to the hearts of people generations later.
I’d like to share a few of my favorites. I hope they encourage you today too.
I’ll start with an oldie but a goodie: “If God Himself Be for Me” based on Romans 8 by Paul Gerhardt. The link takes you to a melody written for this hymn by my friend, Joey Schumann. Part of what intrigues me about this hymn and many others by Gerhardt is knowing some of the tragic details of his personal life. He was a pastor in Europe in the 1600s. His mom and dad died less than two years apart by the time he was 14. He witnessed firsthand the atrocities of the Thirty Years’ War. Four of his five children died before reaching adulthood, and his wife passed away at a young age too. Yet for all the trials he faced, his hymns are filled with the most comforting Scripture-based joy, focusing on Christ and the heaven we’ll inherit through faith in him.
Or take the epic “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by reformer Martin Luther. Luther used Psalm 46 as the inspiration for the lyrics. In the midst of turbulence and uncertainty when it seems like the mountains are falling into the sea, God is still our mighty fortress, an ever-present help in trouble. That wasn’t just true for Luther, a man whose own life was in danger for standing up for the truth of God’s Word. God is our refuge and strength today—his kingdom is forever!
And it’s not only old hymns. There are some solid songs being composed by the church today. Take, for example, the ubiquitous “In Christ Alone” from Getty and Townend. The song’s progression leads us to sing through the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus while contemplating the personal spiritual ramifications of these events. If the wrath of God I deserved was satisfied in Christ and I am his and he is mine, then there’s no guilt in life or fear in death—all because of Christ alone. Songs that have so many ties to different Bible passages and that focus on our being saved by Jesus serve as choice selections for numerous settings in the church and home.
Finally, I’d direct you to the driving “My Feet Are on the Rock” by I AM THEY. With allusions to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7, this is one to turn way up and sign along with in the car. (My kids beg that we turn it louder and love to sing the “ooo-ooo!” parts.) Art (including music) often reflects the issues and cultural emphases of the time in which it was composed. For present generations that are leaving postmodernism behind and facing the rapidly changing tides of a world that is desperate for something real, songs like this direct us to the eternal Rock upon which our feet can stand. And when we’re built on Jesus, he won’t let us fall. Plus, this song really rocks and leads us to sing with triumphant (almost defiant) confidence! Sometimes I need a little more of that kind of Christ-centered confidence.
So, there’s a glimpse into my heart’s playlist. The apostle Paul tells us: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16). The church has been composing and singing for a long time. And some of the outcomes are so good!
I’d like to keep adding to my playlist. Which psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit (both oldies and newbies) are on your heart’s playlist?