I like to write songs to punctuate sermons. I feel like if I can say the same thing the preacher and scripture are saying, but in a poetic and musical language, it helps more people connect with the ideas. Music can add a sense of gravity to a concept, and when we’re resistant or afraid it can also sneak in the side door, around our defense mechanisms, and address our hearts one on one.
This is the first song I ever wrote for a sermon at Maple Grove. The subject was the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to bow down to the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had made, knowing he would sentence them to death. They could have chosen to bow down to the statue but have justified it to themselves saying, “It’s just a carved rock. I know it’s not a god. Who cares? It doesn’t matter!” Or they could have bowed down but prayed to God instead of praying to the statue. Many things come to mind when I ask what I would do in the same situation. But they took a stand, no pun intended, and refused to kneel at all, violating a law that if it existed today might be called “treason without right to trial, and with the penalty of immediate torture and death.”
Give it a Listen
Imagine if a non-citizen from one of our least respected socio-economic groups defied one of our current political candidates that way. Now take the hubris of a typical political candidate in our era and remove any checks and balances from the government that would keep them in their place. Instead insert a “might makes right” attitude that worked extremely successfully for them as they laid waste to the countries on all their borders because those countries refused to pay them protection money. Maybe it would be like China hacking the US government, cutting our power, seizing control of our military, forcing our government officials to live under house arrest, and saying, “Raise taxes by 50% and give all of it to China or we will decimate your crops with infertile GMOs and fill your lakes with anthrax.”
We’re talking about people who didn’t have to pass laws. They just said stuff, sometimes on a whim, sometimes while drunk, and people instantly conformed or died. On occasion genocides were planned this way, such as in the book of Esther when King Xerxes’ assistant approached him one day and said something like, “This certain ethnic group is bad news for the country. Can I kill every one of them? I’ll donate a bunch of money to your campaign if you approve.” Here is Xerxes’ reply to such a monumental request.
“‘Keep the money,’ the king said to Haman, ‘and do with the people as you please.’” (Esther 3:11).
Xerxes, as far as we know, wasn’t even bothered to look into the matter. If he had he might have realized he just accidentally sentenced his favorite wife to death. It was as if he were talking about an outdated video game console he didn’t play anymore. “Sure. Just trash it. Who cares? It’s just a Playstation 2. I mean the Jews.” That’s the megalomaniac our youths were addressing in the book of Daniel when the king asked them why they wouldn’t bow down to his statue:
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:16-18)
Wow. As I wrote the song I was trying to imagine what they were thinking. I pictured them not as the fiery, fearless William Wallace from Braveheart, but as the 15-20 year old kids the text suggests they were. In our day that would equate to young men just starting college or even just kids from a middle school youth group. How mature are the boys in your middle school youth group? Imagine them facing down Kim Jong-Un from one of his prisons in North Korea while soldiers aimed machine guns at them.
On top of that, remember Nebuchadnezzar had kidnapped these kids and it wasn't because they were tough guys with scholarships to West Point. He kidnapped them because they were rich people’s hot, smart kids, kind of the “geek chic” of the 1%. (Geek Sheiks?) Sounds less and less like Braveheart doesn’t it? (Daniel 1:3-4)
With all that in mind, I laid out the feel and tempo of the song and the words eventually took shape. It’s not a perfect song and I didn’t even have time for a sweet bridge, but I like how it aims to capture Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s awareness of two seemingly opposing characteristics of God:
“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” (Hebrews 10:31)
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. You are truly loved, enjoyed, valued.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
People tend to think of God as one or the other, either terrifying or loving, but he is both! But that’s the topic of another blog….
Thanks for taking a peek into the songwriting process and for checking out the results. See you next month with another song.