I will never forget the first time I heard my favorite hymn. My husband and I were new students to the Bear Valley Bible Institute, and the congregation there in Denver, where we had moved with our three children ages 4, 2, and 3 months. One morning during the assembly, before the men began serving the Lord’s Supper, I had to run to the nursery to feed baby Joshua. The song leader announced number 349, “Ten Thousand Angels.” Coming from a small Iowa congregation of about 30 people, I had never heard this song before, so I started nursing the baby and listened. There were several beautiful alto and soprano singers there in the room, and I was so encouraged by their voices and the words of this song! Tears filled my eyes, and it has been my favorite ever since. Thank you dear sisters in Christ for singing out-even in the nursery! That was over 20 years ago, and the song still moves me.
Songs do that to us. God knew they would work this way on us, too. It should not surprise us–especially after seeing a whole book-Psalms–with 150 chapters that are devoted to song! When we see this word, “psalm,” in the New Testament (Colossians 3:16, for example), it is from the Greek word PSALLO which means, “I sing, make music.” It usually denotes a religious song. Most of the psalms are praise to God, or prayers to Him for strength and protection in times of trouble. Let’s go to Psalm 59:16-17: “But as for me, I shall sing of Thy strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Thy lovingkindness in the morning, for Thou hast been my stronghold, and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing praises to Thee; for God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.” As you read through the book of Psalms, it is amazing just how many of them have been put to music in our current songbooks. When reading the Bible also, it is amazing to me that if I have learned the words by singing them, it is hard for me to simply “say” them without breaking out in song!
“Ten Thousand Angels” is taken from the verse, “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). The Lord has been confronted in the garden of Gethsemane by Judas, the Roman cohort, and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees. All of the gospels tell the story of the betrayal in the garden, but I especially love the way that John, through inspiration, states it. “They answered Him, ‘Jesus, the Nazarene.’ He said to them, ‘I am He.’ And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. When therefore He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back, and fell to the ground.” (John 18:5-6) It is almost like God is giving us a preview as to what will happen on the last day. “For it is written, as I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to God. So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:11-12). Our Lord offered Himself as the Lamb of God that night by giving up His will to do God’s will. These verses, and this song, make it clear to us that at any moment, the entire event could have been halted, but it wasn’t. I don’t know about you, but this is a heavy concept to “wrap our heads around!” The level of love that He has for us is incredible!
If you are a mother, the third verse of the song is a tough one. Can you imagine standing at the foot of a large, wooden cross where your firstborn is hanging to die? The verse says, “When they nailed Him to the cross, His mother stood nearby. He said, ‘Woman, behold thy Son.’” This is when I choke up. She had seen Him take His first breaths of life; now she would watch Him breathe His last. She was there at the cross with John, her sister, and other women (John 19:25-26). I have heard Bible scholars say that Joseph, her husband, had probably already died by this time. That would account for why Jesus gave John charge of His mother. Even in His agonizing pain and suffering, Jesus is thinking of His mother and making sure that she is cared for.
As we enter the month of February, and everyone gears up for a day to remember love, Valentine’s Day, stop and take time to remember the greatest gift of love ever given! Not only did He love us so much that He died for us, He did it while we were helpless sinners. “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us; in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8). He was a perfect sacrifice at the perfect time. It brings to my mind another beautiful hymn called, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain.” The chorus to this song says, “Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” This love could seem overwhelming to us, or too much to comprehend, but we need to look at it for what it truly is-a gift from God. No one can force it on you, or make you accept it. We have to humble ourselves before our Creator and accept this great gift. 1 Peter 5:6 (another Scripture song!) says not to let your pride stand in the way of choosing to walk with God.
The last line of the song says, “He gave Himself to die, salvation’s wondrous plan was done.” Jesus gave up His will, and submitted to the will of the Father. The plan for salvation was put into place. Where do we go from here? I don’t just think of this song simply as touching words with a beautiful melody– it also reminds me that just as the Lord gave up His will and took up the cross, I need to do the same (Matthew 10:38). Don’t let His death be in vain. I try to take the words to this song personally–this is what He has done for me, sinful me. I understand that God’s grace is a gift, and salvation cannot be earned (Romans 6:23), but I need to stop and re-focus every once in a while and give of myself to the One who so freely gave it all for me.
Colossians 3:16-17 sums things up in such a beautiful way: “Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
By Robin Martin
Robin Martin and her husband Randy are members at the South Twin Cities Church of Christ in Rosemount, MN, where Randy ministers as an elder. They just celebrated their 30 year wedding anniversary! They have seven children together, four of whom have married Christian spouses, giving them eight grandchildren! Robin enjoys running her in-home licensed daycare, teaching the baby and toddler classes for the church, leading ladies’ devotionals, and has had the privilege of speaking at Ladies Days in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Iowa. She loves to sew, quilt, cook, host events, and spend time with her family and friends!