42. Something Beyond Song
There is a notion widely held among Christians that song is the highest possible expression of the joy of the Lord in the soul of a man.
That idea is so near to being true that it may seem spiritually rude to challenge it. I have no wish to pick theological lint nor to pluck the wings off religious flies for the thrill such a sadistic act might afford. There are probably hundreds of wrong notions in all of our heads, notions that, while they are wrong, are still too insignificant to deserve attention. They are like the minor physical blemishes which we all have, harmless if not beautiful, and altogether too trivial to rate mention by serious-minded persons.
The idea, however that song is the supreme expression of all and any possible spiritual experience is not small; it is large and meaningful and needs to be brought to the test of the Scriptures and Christian testimony.
Both the Bible and the testimony of a thousand saints show that there is experience beyond song.
There are delights which the heart may enjoy in the awesome presence of God which cannot find expression in language; they belong to the unutterable element in Christian experience. Not many enjoy them because not many know that they can. The whole concept of ineffable worship has been lost to this generation of Christians. Our level of life is so low that no one expects to know the deep things of the soul until the Lord returns. So we are content to wait, and while we wait we are accustomed to cheer our hearts sometimes by breaking into song.
Far be it from us to discourage the art of singing. Creation itself took its rise in a burst of song; Christ rose from the dead and sang among His brethren, and we are promised that they who dwell in dust will rise and sing at the resurrection. The Bible is a musical book and, next to the Scriptures themselves, the best book to own is a good hymnbook. But still there is something beyond song. The Bible and Christian biography make a great deal of silence, but we of today make of it exactly nothing. The average service in gospel circles these days is kept alive by noise. By making a lot of religious din we assure our faltering hearts that everything is well and, conversely, we suspect silence and regard it as a proof that the meeting is "dead." Even the most devout seem to think they must storm heaven with loud outcries and mighty bellowings or their prayers are of no avail. Not all silence is spiritual. Some Christians are silent because they have nothing to say; others because what they have to say cannot be uttered by mortal tongue. Of the first we do not speak at the moment but confine our remarks to the latter.
Where the Holy Spirit is permitted to exercise His full sway in a redeemed heart the progression is likely to be as follows: First, voluble praise, in prose speech or prayer or witness; then, when the crescendo rises beyond the ability of studied speech to express, comes song; when song breaks down under the weight of glory, then comes silence where the soul, held in deep fascination, feels itself blessed with an unutterable beatitude. At the risk of being written off as an extremist or a borderline fanatic we offer it as our mature opinion that more spiritual progress can be made in one short moment of speechless silence in the awesome presence of God than in years of mere study. While our mental powers are in command there is always the veil of nature between us and the face of God. It is only when our vaunted wisdom has been met and defeated in a breathless encounter with Omniscience that we are permitted really to know, when prostrate and wordless the soul receives divine knowledge like a flash of light on a sensitized plate. The exposure may be brief, but the results are permanent.
From The Root of the Righteous by A. W. Tozer. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Reach for the Calling Creator
Root of the Righteous - A.W. Tozer
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your calling be the best.