Writing Songs for the Nation
Zephaniah 3:17 tells us that the Lord quiets us with His love and rejoices over us with singing. When we lean into Him and listen closely, we can catch echoes and reverberations of His infinite love for us individually - do we believe that God’s heart beats in the same way for the Nations of the World, too?
Most of us appreciate that in some broad way, God is Omnipresent and Sovereign over all the nations. But does He really have anything to say about what happens daily on a national level? Does He really care?
The (National) Anthem in God’s Heart
In Deuteronomy 31, God tells Moses to write a song for the nation of Israel, and to teach it to them so that it may be passed down from generation to generation:
“…write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that… it may be a witness for me against the people of Israel.”
As the story goes, the people of Israel had already forgotten how the Lord had rescued them from slavery, provided for and protected them as they journeyed towards the Promised Land. God wanted a song written so that it would bear testimony against them of their unfaithfulness towards Him as He anticipated their going astray - “This song will be there with them as a witness as to who they are and what went wrong”.
It may initially seem harsh - the song functions like a witness testifying against them in God’s Court. It hardly seems like the kind of tune that any modern day songwriter would be ‘inspired’ to write. If we look closer, however, we will find that the song was merely a medium and a way for God to reveal His heart towards the entire Nation. He cared about what He was seeing. He perceived whatever was taking place daily in the Nation and He had something to say about it. In Deuteronomy, God chose Moses to listen and to write the song on His (God’s) heart. What if He’s choosing us to do the same today? Are we tuning in to listen?
Co-writing Nation Songs with the Lord
The commission of Moses in Deuteronomy isn’t just for the songwriters – it is for all the children of God. As Jesus told us:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
As children and lovers of God, our commission is to make disciples of all Nations. Songs are a powerful tool for discipleship - taking place on an individual level, but also on a national scale as in Deuteronomy.
Songwriters have a special role in this endeavour because we are armed and equipped with a very specific skill-set: crafting lyrical and melodic hooks to retain attention, understanding the power of a song idea that will renew minds, appreciating the structure of songs and how best to order words with melody, so that we can truly take our songs to the paradigm that God is on. As we do so, our songs become a platform on which God reveals His heart to an entire Nation, even to disciple them.
In this process, we learn to become His faithful scribes (Psalm 45:1) - people who listen to Him, know His heart and express it faithfully. We become co-writers with God to pen the song on His heart. We listen in closely, asking Him as often as we perceive the happenings around us in the Nation: “Lord, what do You see? What do You think? How do You feel about this?” Imagine the impact we could bring to the communities around us and the Nations of the World if we care about what He truly cares about, and if we speak what He would say: “Lord, what are you thinking of when you look into our Churches, the marketplace and on the streets? Father, how Your heart cry out when we see the way we strive in this Nation for what doesn’t fully satisfy us? Lord, what is on Your heart right now for this Nation? How are You moving, and how do You desire to 'heal our land'?"
Make no mistake - God does have something to say. The question is: do we want to know? Will we seek His heart in prayer and keenly study His word to discern His voice and find out? When we do, we must come ready to scribe and pen down what we hear from Him. In that place, we will find that He always faithfully responds and reveals His heart if only we seek Him.
Every Nation has its own spiritual climate and journey - one which God Himself in continually writing. I am reminded of that powerful Singapore National Day Parade (NDP) song which goes:
“There was a time when people said
That Singapore won't make it, but we did
There was a time when troubles seemed too much
For us to take, but we did
We built a nation, strong and free, reaching out together
For peace and harmony
Singapore our homeland, it's here that we belong
All of us united, one people marching on
We've come so far together, our common destiny
Singapore forever, a nation strong and free”
Just think about the incredible influence that a song like this can have in mobilising an entire Nation into greater purpose, if only we were to re-imagine it for present times and begin to pen our God-song with intimacy and sensitivity to His Spirit.
Ultimately, writing songs for the Nation isn’t just about song-writing itself – it is about having such an intimate walk with the Lord that we begin to feel what He feels, think how He thinks, and have on our hearts whatever He has on His for the Nations of the World.