“Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: ‘Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O God, you have spoken about the future of the house of your servant. You have looked on me as though I were the most exalted of men, O Lord God.’” (1 Chronicles 17:16-17).
He was a composer of music. A poet of lyrics. A singer of songs. A man in pursuit of his Maker. His name was David, and he was God’s beloved. He talked to God in the way that I want to talk to God. With real words. With truthful intent. With raw, unedited emotion that trusts the process…that believes that the One who is on the receiving end will receive my words with grace…with mercy…with love.
David’s life was meant for a song, for indeed, he had known the grace and mercy and far-reaching love of his God. David knew what it was to be exalted among men. Greater still, he lived his journey knowing the exultation of his Father, and in the end, we benefit from the remnants of such a gracious knowing. We are left to the great examination of David’s life by studying the song he left behind—his walk of grace as sung to us through the words of scripture.
Many of his melodies are recorded in the Psalms—a book of songs that lead a heart on pilgrimage. They are meditations for the soul that harmonize with our emotions to orchestrate a tune of perfect pitch. We cannot help but be moved by their effecting power. No matter the season of our current living, we find our story within the Psalms and take our place alongside our spiritual ancestors to chorus its truth.
This generation boasts some modern-day Psalmists—poets who pen God’s truth with the same raw emotion of King David. Psalmists who create songs that span the spectrum of human preference and personal taste, but who remain unified in their purpose to move our emotions and our wills to a higher place of worship…of acknowledging the Song-Giver.
I asked my Bible study friends regarding their preferences for worship…for songs that quickly move them into the presence of our Father. Some preferred contemporary songs, while others chose the hymns of their youth. Songs like…
I Can Only Imagine. This is the Day. You Raise Me Up. Shackles. His Eye is on the Sparrow. I Know My Redeemer Lives. He Lives. It is Well. How Great Thou Art. Great is Thy Faithfulness. Believe. Open the Eyes of my Heart. Awesome God. Beyond the Sunset. Praise You in the Storm. The Anchor Holds.
These are just a few of the pilgrimage songs that mean so much to the women in my life. But there was one song that received more press than the others. A top vote-getter. A song well familiar to pilgrims for nearly three centuries.
It was penned by the heart of a psalmist named John Newton. John grew up in England during the 1700’s where he was groomed for a life at sea. John worked as a crewman on fishing vessels and would later stand at the helm of many slave-trading ships. His conversion to Christ came through the hardships that he experienced while at sea. Tempestuous storms and fevered sickness carried John on pilgrimage to Jesus, and once he arrived at grace, his heart turned to the pursuit of the grace-Giver.
John would spend the rest of his years preaching about this God—this water-Walker who met him in the storms of life and who offered him such an amazing grace. It was a sweet-sounding grace that permeated his wretched condition and brought him home to his Father. In 1772, as John was preparing for an upcoming New Year’s Day sermon, he pondered the thoughts of King David as found in 1 Chronicles 17:16-17:
“… ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?’ … ”
John’s heart echoed with the similar sentiment of King David, as he penned his thoughts to write what would become one of the most cherished pilgrim songs of today. Amazing Grace. Grace Amazing. A favorite song…psalm…scripted by the hands of a man who had experienced the fullness of such a sacred bounty.
I, too, have known such a portion. God’s amazing grace began its work on my behalf long before I had the heart and the will to receive its effecting power. But there came a day when I did perceive it and, thus, received it and began my pilgrimage home to my Father.
I may not be able to write a tune like King David or John Newton, but the Song of their hearts persists deep within me. He scripts my days and pens my purpose. He punctuates my life with meaning. He is the melody of his Father’s love. His name is Jesus, and, indeed, his grace is amazing.
Today, I sing because of it. Not out of requirement, but because this listless and stammering tongue can think of nothing or no one more worthy of my praise. I want to be a psalmist like David…like John. And so I pray…
Father, take my words…my raw, unedited emotions…and script them for your eternal purposes. Let me not be afraid of my voice. Instead, let my voice be the instrument that you use to sing your peace, your grace, and your love to world that longs to hear a better Song. A world that needs to sing a better Song. You are that Song, Lord. You have written your melody upon my heart. Today, I release my voice to sing its grace. Amen.
And now…sing with Chris Tomlin—one of God’s most anointed psalmists of our day—this familiar song of old.
peace for the journey~elaine