Most of us have our own stories—stories of how deaf we were to lectures and arguments, no matter how true or logical—and how love managed to throw us a lifeline floating on the wings of a song or poem, painting or story that bypassed all steeltrap excuses and went straight to the wound in the soul.
It was the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton who put in the voice of the Cardinal— a character in his 1839 play Richelieu: Or, the Conspiracy—these words:
Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanter’s wand! — itself is nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Caesars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword.
Ah! The power of words over the machinery of war! This quote brings to mind a sentence burned deep into a piece of barn wood on our entry gate that has been attributed to Plato and others: “Let me write the songs of a nation; I care not who writes its laws.”
It occurs to me that the list of life lessons (Proverbs) and the love poem (Song of Solomon) of the wise Solomon and the songs of David (the Psalms) have outlasted most constitutions and articles of government. The Psalms continue to sing their way into the lives of our children and our children’s children, and most of us have laid our old folks to rest reciting and singing their eternal truths.
When Bill and I taught high-school English, we loved to have the students learn the poem of Longfellow entitled “The Arrow and the Song,” comparing the speed and accuracy of an arrow to that of a song. The poem ends with this stanza:
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song from beginning to end
I found again in the heart of a friend.
How effective and long lasting is the marriage of a great message and the perfect music when they are both beautiful and true.
Some historians and anthropologists theorize that music evolved rather late. This has to be the case if they also believe that human beings evolved from primitive life forms that could only grunt and groan to communicate their basic needs. But philosophers and thinkers like J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings) and C.S. Lewis (Narnia, Mere Christianity, The Four Loves, Screwtape Letters) believe that not only did music come first, but that it was His song sung into the void that created the earth and everything in it. Many physicists are now finding evidence that the basest form of matter is the vibrating sound wave and that the Big Bang had to be a sound. Could it possibly have been with a song God sang all things into existence? Could it be that it was the song that departed when man decided to play God and God wrote “Ichabod” over the doorpost of mankind? Was it the absence of the song that confused communication after the Tower of Babel? And was it to return the song to our lives that Jesus came and the angels sang?
When we see what is happening to our ability to communicate with each other on a deep and meaningful level, we might be concerned that what started with music and the Song of God (the Word) might end up with grunts and groans.
Church, we must keep singing! We must sing the deep, pure, clear song of Jesus and sing it with great joy! Perhaps Bob Benson best explained why in this beautiful piece:
There are too many dark nights,
Too many troublesome days,
Too many wearisome miles,
There has to be a song —
To make our burdens bearable,
To make our hopes believable,
To release the chains of past defeats,
Somewhere — down deep in a forgotten corner
of each one’s heart —
There has to be a song —
Like a cool, clear drink of water
Like the gentle warmth of sunshine,
Like the tender love of a child,
There has to be a song.