Monthly Archives: January 2006

Psalms and Hymns.com is Live

Well, I suppose the title tells you everything that this post could. I’ve updated everything on the website so that the newest content should be live for any visitor to the site.

I’ll be updating the site fairly regularly over the next few weeks (hopefully) and smoothing out all of the wrinkles.

First Post

Let’s see if this works.

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Site Launch and Greek Verbs

Slowly but surely the site is coming together. In the next few days and weeks lead sheets will be added, content will be uploaded and the whole thing will generally get going. The site won’t be launching all at once, instead we’ll steadily keep adding content. In that respect, it’ll be very much like the perfect tense of Greek verbs.

In my first semester of Biblical Greek, Dr. Mawhinney described the perfect tense as the “present result of a past action”. For example, in [bible]1 John 1[/bible], where the Apostle John writes: [bibleblock]1 John 1:1[/bibleblock] Dr. Mawhinney said that it could be translated as “which we have heard (and our ears are still ringing), which we have seen (and still see with our mind’s eye)” to reflect the perfect tense.

I’ve always wanted to use that idea in a lyric but have never figured out a way to make the rest of the lyrics sound as good as what Dr. Mawhinney gave me.

From Depths of Woe

From trouble deep I cry to thee,
Lord God, hear thou my crying;
Thy gracious ear, oh, turn to me,
Open it to my sighing.
For if thou mean’st to look upon
The wrong and evil that is done,
Who, Lord, can stand before thee?

Martin Luther (after [bible]Psalm 130[/bible])
Translation by George MacDonald

There’s no reason to think that what was true for the Psalmist, true for the people of Israel ascending to Jerusalem annually, true for the Prophets, true for the Apostles, true for the martyrs of the early church, and true for Martin Luther won’t be true for us today. Crying from “out of the depths” means that the one who cries is actually in the depths. That may sound rather simplistic but it’s a key part of the Psalm. These aren’t imaginary depths, pretend floods, phantom boogeymen or fantasy villains; they are real, they are deep and they are hard. Think of the picture used in [bible]Psalm 69[/bible]: being overcome by deep waters, gasping for breath, going under, drowning. The singer is pleading for mercy out of a very real sense of impending doom.

If a singer doesn’t cry out from the depths, the rescue seems a bit tarnished. If a friend picks me up from the airport in Houston, it’s not really a rescue in the truest sense of the word; I wasn’t really in severe need. On the other hand, if I am hiding in an airport locker in Baghdad or Beirut, whoever rescues me from that situation deserves great praise! The Psalm and Luther’s hymn after it are a confession of faith in and trust for deliverance from the Lord. Not just deliverance from oppression from outside of ourselves – we sing for deliverance from the world, the devil and the flesh. We sing out of hope not only for temporal deliverance, but also for final and ultimate deliverance from sin. The hope is great because the need is great. Even in the depths of woe, we wait and hope for the Lord (as the Psalm says twice so we won’t forget), “more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”

Johann Sebastian Bach is not just one of the most brilliant and talented men to ever compose music, he was also a faithful Christian and devoted Church musician. His St. Matthew Passion serves not only as a masterful setting of the account of Matthew’s Gospel but also as a theological commentary on sin and our need for a savior. In his compositions of church music, Bach frequently used Lutheran chorales as the basis for cantatas. “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir” (BWV 38) is one of these. Not only did Bach use Luther’s Psalm 130 setting and melody as the basis for his cantata but he chose complimentary texts to further illumine the hymn for his listeners. Sandwiched in between choral and small ensemble cries for help and confessions of hope, Bach includes this aria for tenor:

I hear, in the midst of my sorrows,
a word of comfort spoken by my Jesus.

Therefore, o troubled conscience,
Trust in Your God’s goodness,
His word lasts and does not fail,
His comfort will never depart from you!

That’s why we can sing with Luther and the Psalmist and generations of believers who have gone before us:

“His promised mercy is my fort,
My comfort and my sweet support;
I wait for it with patience.

Our Shepherd, good and true is he,
Who will at last his Israel free
From all their sin and sorrow.”