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Posts in Songwriting
Isaiah’s Prediction of Singers from the East
 

By Samuel Whitefield

Isaiah 24 contains a stunning prediction: God is going to use singers to sustain His people and proclaim his glory in the most difficult hour of history. Furthermore, this prophecy gives significant insight into what God is doing in Southeast Asia.

There are three main themes in Isaiah 24 we need to be familiar with:

  1. The prediction of end-time songs

  2. The subject of end-time songs

  3. The mission of end-time songs

The Prediction of End-Time Songs

Isaiah predicted the earth would pass through an incredibly difficult period of time before the return of Jesus:

"The earth mourns and withers; the world languishes and withers; the highest people of the earth languish… The mirth of the tambourines is stilled, the noise of the jubilant has ceased, the mirth of the lyre is stilled. No more do they drink wine with singing; strong drink is bitter to those who drink it." (Isaiah 24:4, 8–9 ESV)

Isaiah’s prediction of this period of time was poetic but solemn. He said the earth would “languish.” The trouble will be so severe singing and celebration will stop. Even the “highest people”—the most powerful people—will be unable to escape this trouble. This period of time will feel like the crushing of olives during the olive harvest:

"For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth among the nations, as when an olive tree is beaten, as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is done." (Isaiah 24:13 ESV)

The first thirteen verses of Isaiah’s prophecy are filled with trouble and despair. However, the prophecy makes a sudden and surprising shift in verse 14:

"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One…" (Isaiah 24:14-16 ESV)

Isaiah revealed there will be a company of singers releasing songs when all other songs have failed. This is not just a single worship ministry—this is the end-time church singing of the beauty of God in a time when all other songs have failed.

There will be a number of ways the end-time church gives a witness to the gospel but Isaiah specifically predicted songs.

The Subject of End-Time Songs

Isaiah also described the subject of these songs:

"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy…" (Isaiah 24:14 ESV)

The church is going to lift up their voices—which means sing loudly—because of joy. When the earth passes through the darkest hour of history there will be a people who will sing for joy in anticipation of God’s glorious deliverance.

They will be unable to restrain their songs about the majesty of the Lord:

"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the LORD they shout from the west." (Isaiah 24:14 ESV)

This is a profound promise. The end-time church is going to experience the majesty of the Lord to such a degree it cannot be silent even though circumstances will seem dark. This is also a profound instruction. It reveals the content of end-time songs which gives direction to our song writing. End-time songs will be about the majesty of the Lord.

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The Mission of End-Time Songs

When we think of missions we tend to think of many things, but Isaiah included songs as part of the mission of the church. When we compare verse 14, which we just looked at, to verse 15 we see a profound shift:

"They lift up their voices, they sing for joy; over the majesty of the Lord they shout from the west. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; in the coastlands of the sea, give glory to the name of the Lord, the God of Israel." (Isaiah 24:14–15 ESV)

Isaiah shifted his language from a prediction to a command. Isaiah not only predicted there would be end-time songs (verse 14) he commanded us to begin to sing those songs (verse 15). We are used to reading prophecy in a passive way as a record of predictions, but we should seek to obey Isaiah’s command just as we obey the Great Commission or any other biblical command.

Isaiah’s command means singers are a missional objective for the church. 

Because these songs are so important, Isaiah specifically commanded the east to sing which raises a question: where in the east was he speaking to?

"Therefore in the east give glory to the LORD…" (Isaiah 24:15 ESV)

The answer is found in verse 16: “From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One…" (Isaiah 24:15-16 ESV)

Isaiah heard the songs of the east coming from the “ends of the earth.” That phrase means as far away as you can imagine. Isaiah was a prophet of Israel which means east Asia was as far to the east as Isaiah could imagine. Not only did Isaiah predict these songs, he said he heard songs coming from the very ends of the earth. These end-time songs are so precious to the Lord He allowed Isaiah to hear them nearly 3,000 years ago. 

Imagine how Isaiah heard the songs of Singapore in Chinese, Malay, English, Tamil, and other languages.

Isaiah’s stunning prophecy helps us better grasp the significance of the assignment the Lord has given to us. We live in the most musical generation in history and for the first time in history singers are taking their place across Asia to release these songs.

The Lord is preparing the way for the prophecy to be fulfilled because it is time for the singers in the east to “lift up their voices” and “sing for joy.”

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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?

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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.

 
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Detours & Destiny
 
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By Caleb Kay

27 November 2017: I attended the graduation for Awaken Generation’s Class of 2017 alone as a guest. I was friends with a few members of the staff, had played the drums once or twice with them, but that was it.

I had just landed a new business development job, with hopes of saving up to head to Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry this year in August. It felt like God was opening all these doors; I had all these plans and dreams in my head.

I thought I was stepping into my destiny.

26 January 2018: everything derailed. Towards the end of my 3-month probation, I was unexpectedly let go, and given just three days’ notice of my termination. I was devastated. The entire weekend, I wrestled with my identity and self-worth: “was I really not good enough?”

I wrestled with God: "why did You open doors only to shut them in my face?"

Unbeknownst to me, God was setting things in motion. Just the week before my termination, I had arranged for a lunch with Ian and Calvin, just to catch up, and it was at that lunch that I was offered a short-term position at Awaken Generation.

One year on, as I witnessed our Class of 2018 graduating - now as a full-time staff in Awaken Generation - and thinking about where I was a year ago, I’m truly lost for words at God’s goodness.

Here are three things I’ve learnt on this journey:

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Detours Are For Growth

I remember how I felt when I got the news that I was going to be terminated. I remember my mind going into overdrive, planning how to update my resume and who to send it to.

In the midst of swinging between self-deprecating thoughts and psyching myself up to blast my CV to potential new employers, I suddenly felt a prompting upon my heart to stop and worship. It was so tough and I remember barely getting past a verse and a chorus before choking up.

But then there was a peace - in the midst of all that chaos and turmoil.

I’d like to think that I grew more in the heart of a worshiper in that moment. It was in that eye-of-the-storm moment that I realised what it was like to worship through the pain and to be given a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness.

Detours Are For His Glory

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

For a way to appear in the wilderness, and rivers to flow in the desert, we must first take a detour into the wilderness and the desert.

An impossible circumstance is a prerequisite for a miracle to take place.

It was because of this sudden interruption to my life that I could see God’s providence, with a position in Awaken Generation offered to me just a day after my termination.

It’s in the detours that our faith is tested and strengthened; it’s in the detours that our character is refined and purified; it’s in the detours that we are brought to a place of complete, total reliance, so that God can come through for us, and so that we can get through only because of God.

Distraction & Deception

Oftentimes, with detours come distracting, deceptive, and destructive thoughts. I constantly found myself wondering if I could’ve done more to retain my job. I doubted the abilities God had given me and the fact that when God created me, He said, “this one is fearfully and wonderfully made!”

Even joining the AG staff team felt like a detour to my Bethel dream, and there were real doubt and fear: would God be able to provide? Was this the right path?

I’ve since realised that fear is a tool of the enemy, and that fear is not our own; when we step out in obedience, the enemy projects his fear onto us. Our obedience makes the enemy afraid, because it advances God’s kingdom and His purpose in our lives.

In Joshua 1, God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous; it’s not merely an encouragement, but a command, to be obeyed.

Take detours in your stride! Step out with confidence and courage, eyes firmly on the Lord, our God, who is ever with us.

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Detours: The Route Towards Destiny

David was anointed to become king when he was merely a teenager. Little did he know that the path to his eventual destiny as king would be riddled with detours, discouragements, and even danger!

Psalm 27 is one of the most-quoted passages on worship; the entire psalm is penned by David as a declaration of courage, with his security rooted in his desire to seek God and God alone. David was unshakeable in his obedience because he kept an unwavering gaze upon an unchanging God.

Sometimes walking into our destiny may require us to take what might seem to us like a detour.

My season with my previous employer, along with the dramatic and sudden termination, felt like a huge detour (a derailing, even) but what gave me perspective was a realignment of my gaze to Christ.

Perhaps you may be considering taking a year to join Awaken Generation’s year-long programme. Perhaps you’re counting the cost and it may seem like a detour.

But I know that God wastes nothing. He is never too early or late; His timing is always perfect, and even when we think we are too far out on a detour, God still uses those detours to direct us towards our destiny. What keeps us walking steadily is a steady gaze on the Lord.

Whatever battles you are facing, step out with boldness and courage, for the Lord, your God, is with you!

 
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Meditating on the Word
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Interview with Josh Yeoh

What does it mean to meditate on God’s word?

It means to slow down the reading pace, to prayerfully contemplate every word and every phrase, looking for deeper and fuller meanings. Meditation is the art of digging out the most that we can from each and every word.

So often we read the Word as if we’re doing a workout – reading plans, checklists, and such. The art of meditation is what really unlocks the riches of the Word. It means to not take things at face value, but dialoguing with the Lord about it. Each verse or passage is a doorway into encounter with God; it’s an expression of Who God is.

Meditation on the Word is the key to the often-asked question: How do I hear God? The same way He has been speaking since we’ve had the Word of God! It causes us to know Him more and hear Him better. How far or deep should we go?

Why is meditating on and studying the word important in our spiritual walk? Does it practically benefit us?

Joshua 1:8 says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For thenyou will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Every tool for succeeding in life is within His Word.

The Written Word of God is revealed by the Living Word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” The source of illumination is the mouth of God. Meditation made me feel like Aladdin entering the cave of wonders; there’s so much more! There’s a difference between looking at a photo of Niagara Falls and actually standing before the roaring waterfall – that’s how it is to read a book that God wrote and commune with the Holy Spirit that inspired it.

There is a cry across the body for intimacy. There can be no intimacy without conversation and communion. If we truly love God, we will love who He is, not who we think He is. If we only love the idea of a God that we create in our minds, it’s at best, fantasy, and at worst, idolatry! Meditating and studying the Word is a way of conversing with God - with the ultimate goal of knowing God - is the doorway into such intimacy.

Luke 6:45 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Meditating on the Word is how we slowly transform our ‘inner well’, so that we are depositing ‘good treasure’; so that what comes out in our speech, thoughts, and behaviour is Christ-like.

Proverbs 16:26 says, “A worker's appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.” We labour because of hunger. Similarly, as we meditate more and go deeper, we get addicted; hungry for more revelation!

How should we do it? Are there any action steps we can use?

Have a sheet of paper or journal where you write your meditations. Also, have a column or separate piece of paper. Your mind will likely wander to other things, such as to-do’s. This separate section is where you pen down all your stray thoughts, so that you can push it out of your mind for the moment without the additional thought-traffic. You can then proceed with a clear mind.

You may combine pray-reading the Word with meditating on the word. Theology must lead to doxology. The study of God must lead to the worship of God. Here are some practical handles you may find useful:

  • Write down one or two verses that you will be focusing on.

  • Slow the pace way down. As you read, meditate on each word or phrase. For example, in ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!’ (Psalm 84:1), take time to meditate on ‘how lovely’. Why ‘lovely’, not ‘awesome’? God is intentional with His word choices. There are so many layers of what He wants to reveal. Where is His ‘dwelling place’? How do we get there? Think of it as sitting down with your favourite author over a coffee, and asking them about their inspiration for this or that character, or idea.

  • Study the word / phrase:

    • Context: verses that precede and follow. David Pawson said: “A text out of context is a pretext.” We sometimes apply a verse out of context and it becomes false or inaccurate. Look for what’s before and after, in that book.

    • Look up word meanings; translations; lexicons at BibleHub.com or apps such as Blue Letter Bible. There are sometimes layers we miss.

    • Cross-reference it with word studies online.

    • Where there’s repetition, ask: What is its meaning? Why is it there?

    • Symbolism: What do they represent? Any deeper spiritual meanings?

    • Speak, pray, and sing the scriptures back to the Lord.

    • Do it in the context of Worship.

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Meditating on the Word

Interview with Josh Yeoh

What does it mean to meditate on God’s word?

It means to slow down the reading pace, to prayerfully contemplate every word and every phrase, looking for deeper and fuller meanings. Meditation is the art of digging out the most that we can from each and every word.

So often we read the Word as if we’re doing a workout – reading plans, checklists, and such. The art of meditation is what really unlocks the riches of the Word. It means to not take things at face value, but dialoguing with the Lord about it. Each verse or passage is a doorway into encounter with God; it’s an expression of Who God is.

Meditation on the Word is the key to the often-asked question: How do I hear God? The same way He has been speaking since we’ve had the Word of God! It causes us to know Him more and hear Him better. How far or deep should we go?

 

Why is meditating on and studying the word important in our spiritual walk? Does it practically benefit us?

Joshua 1:8 says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Every tool for succeeding in life is within His Word.

The Written Word of God is revealed by the Living Word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit of God. Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” The source of illumination is the mouth of God. Meditation made me feel like Aladdin entering the cave of wonders; there’s so much more! There’s a difference between looking at a photo of Niagara Falls and actually standing before the roaring waterfall – that’s how it is to read a book that God wrote and commune with the Holy Spirit that inspired it.

There is a cry across the body for intimacy. There can be no intimacy without conversation and communion. If we truly love God, we will love who He is, not who we think He is. If we only love the idea of a God that we create in our minds, it’s at best, fantasy, and at worst, idolatry! Meditating and studying the Word is a way of conversing with God - with the ultimate goal of knowing God - is the doorway into such intimacy.

Luke 6:45 says, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Meditating on the Word is how we slowly transform our ‘inner well’, so that we are depositing ‘good treasure’; so that what comes out in our speech, thoughts, and behaviour is Christ-like.

Proverbs 16:26 says, “A worker's appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.” We labour because of hunger. Similarly, as we meditate more and go deeper, we get addicted; hungry for more revelation!

 

How should we do it? Are there any action steps we can use?

Have a sheet of paper or journal where you write your meditations. Also, have a column or separate piece of paper. Your mind will likely wander to other things, such as to-do’s. This separate section is where you pen down all your stray thoughts, so that you can push it out of your mind for the moment without the additional thought-traffic. You can then proceed with a clear mind.

You may combine pray-reading the Word with meditating on the word. Theology must lead to doxology. The study of God must lead to the worship of God. Here are some practical handles you may find useful:

  • Write down one or two verses that you will be focusing on.
  • Slow the pace way down. As you read, meditate on each word or phrase. For example, in ‘How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!’ (Psalm 84:1), take time to meditate on ‘how lovely’. Why ‘lovely’, not ‘awesome’? God is intentional with His word choices. There are so many layers of what He wants to reveal. Where is His ‘dwelling place’? How do we get there? Think of it as sitting down with your favourite author over a coffee, and asking them about their inspiration for this or that character, or idea.
  • Study the word / phrase:
    • Context: verses that precede and follow. David Pawson said: “A text out of context is a pretext.” We sometimes apply a verse out of context and it becomes false or inaccurate. Look for what’s before and after, in that book.
    • Look up word meanings; translations; lexicons at BibleHub.com or apps such as Blue Letter Bible. There are sometimes layers we miss.
    • Cross-reference it with word studies online.
    • Where there’s repetition, ask: What is its meaning? Why is it there?
    • Symbolism: What do they represent? Any deeper spiritual meanings?
  • Speak, pray, and sing the scriptures back to the Lord.
  • Do it in the context of Worship.
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