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Christian Praise Songs: The God of Israel


The more I read the Bible, especially the Old Testament passages, I notice disparity between scriptural language and that of modern hymns and praise songs. Certainly the church replacement theme has continued through Protestant history, as I observed previously here in reference to one current praise song with the line “Speak O Lord, till your church is built, and the earth is filled with your glory.”

A recent choir praise song, “Great is the Lord Almighty,” is another that contrasts with the language of the Bible.  It’s a great upbeat tune, with great words of praise overall, though without the depth of thought of traditional hymns.  See the full lyrics here.

The verses for this song briefly reference stories of the Old Testament:  at the drowning of Pharoah and his army at the Red Sea, and Joshua and the people at Jericho.  In each case, the lyric tells us, after these great deliverances they were singing – the chorus line,

Great is the Lord Almighty, He is Lord He is God indeed
Great is the Lord Almighty, He is God supreme

From my continual Bible reading, though, I observe that throughout the OT, the Israelites when they praised the Lord, used the phrase “the God of Israel,” with frequent reference to Him as the covenant keeping God of Israel.  A song with the above lines might be good enough for Gentiles in our modern times of songs lacking serious teaching, but to associate such simple lyrics with the Old Testament age is to betray vast ignorance of the strength and depth of their actual faith.

Indeed, a search in my Bible software (“The Word”) for the exact words “God of Israel” finds 201 references, mostly throughout the Old Testament.  Only two references occur in the New Testament, both in the gospel accounts (Matthew 15:31, Luke 1:68).  I also remember an old praise song, “The God of Israel is Mighty,” with other words of a more OT Israel style.

The New Testament, with a focus on bringing the Gentiles in, does not use that phrase, but several texts speak of the people of Israel, such as “the house of Israel” and “the Israel of God.”  Then Revelation 15:3 mentions the Song of Moses, and the words proclaimed by those saints who sing “the Song of Moses and the Lamb.”  Here the full purpose of God finds expression as God is praised as the “King of the nations,” the one that “All nations will come and worship.”  This is the God we worship, the God of Israel and the nations, the covenant keeping God — and we use words that convey these attributes of God instead of just simple lyrics about how great God is, yet without mention of the ways in which He is great.

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